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International travelers from and to the United States may increasingly encounter an inspection of personal electronic devices conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officers. The selection may be for a variety of reasons, which may include that the traveler does not have the proper travel document or visa; the person has previously violated U.S. laws; or the person might be selected randomly for a search.

Over the past six months, as Chair of the American Bar Association, Section of International Law, I’ve traveled to destinations from Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and Ottawa to Istanbul, Rome, Tokyo, London, Budapest, Bogota, and Munich. My experience has been a constant and vibrant engagement with the international legal community on a wide variety of matters. I have had a front row seat to history being made at the conclusion of Colombian peace talks, listened to the personal account of a North Korean dissident, learned about the differences between other legal systems and our own, discussed the changes and challenges occurring in the practice of law, and grappled with impediments to fair and accessible legal systems for all. The Section has proved to be an amazing platform – both from which to support those seeking justice and to work toward a healthy and fair legal system for future generations.

With news of the resumption of commercial aviation flights to Cuba, and other changes in the Cuba embargo accomplished through Presidential executive order, it would appear at first blush that the time is ripe to travel to Cuba to investigate commercial opportunities there. But appearances can be deceiving, and we wanted to report on the reality of Cuba travel and the opportunities there:

Because this is an “International” blog, we need to talk about one of the most important aspects of international business –  travel.

And as you know, we are in the thick of the travel season. So it only makes sense to A) take stock of the best way to navigate the unpleasantness of flying, and B) to learn from the mistakes of others (me).

It may be surprising, but moving to the U.S. with your foreign-citizen spouse is not as simple as you might imagine.  If you are a U.S. citizen working abroad and considering moving back to the U.S. with your foreign-citizen spouse and/or children, it is never too early to begin planning for return to the U.S.

If you are living outside the U.S. and have a foreign-born spouse and/or children, it may have been quick and easy for them to travel to the U.S. on holiday.  But moving back to the U.S. is an entirely different story, requiring government filings and significant lead time of as much as a year or even more.

This article was first published on the firm's Cannabis Business Blog.

Seattle, Washington, where we practice, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S. Its natural beauty and cosmopolitan vibe are two of its biggest attractions. But increasingly, Cannabis Tourism has been a draw. That’s because Washington State, like Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, has legalized cannabis – also known as marijuana, for sale and personal use in the state.

But people who are not U.S. citizens[1] need to understand that these state laws do not protect them from extreme danger. The federal government still considers cannabis to be a “controlled substance,” and the purchase, possession and/or use of cannabis is still a federal crime that could result in denied admission, deportation, and/or being barred from return – even if state law says it is perfectly legal.

As many of you probably have in these past few weeks, I’ve been enjoying the NBA playoffs. Perhaps not as many of you have been wondering what I have been contemplating: how is it that NBA players with criminal pasts are admitted entry into Canada to play against the Toronto Raptors NBA team? As a Washington resident, I’m aware, due solely to proximity, not experience, that U.S. citizens with criminal pasts have found trouble entering Canada. Specifically, I’ve heard stories of U.S. citizens being barred entry thanks to decades-old driving under the influence convictions. So how is it that I’ve never heard of a famous athlete being barred entry? Did I miss it?

A big part of international business centers on logistics. Shipping and transport are certainly important, but I’m talking about logistics of a more prosaic bent, personal travel. Specifically, the ways we get businesspeople from Country A to Country B. And as it so happens, a critical piece in how Americans travel abroad has been in the news quite a bit—the passport.

From news involving passports in terrorist activities, to marking passports of those individuals convicted of certain crimes, to passports with unflattering pictures of NBA players, passports are newsworthy. And as The New York Times recently explained, 2016 is expected to be a banner year for United States passport renewals. This is partly due to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative taking effect in 2007. This Initiative was the first time passports were required for Americans traveling by air from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. It’s now almost ten years later, which means that passports issued the year before the Initiative started, are expiring.

With that background in mind, it seemed useful to provide some basic information on U.S. passports and associated requirements.

    • It takes approximately six weeks to get a passport on a routine basis. One can arrange for expedited processing in three weeks, or eight business days at an agency (when need can be shown and certain restrictions don’t apply). If you have questions about the process, click here.
    • The U.S. permits dual citizenship (and therefore dual passports), but some other countries do not. Because citizenship can affect your rights and obligations, please be sure to consider any change in citizenship carefully.
    • The passport originally served primarily as a way of introducing the bearer aboard. Before World War II, the U.S. federal government required passports only during a few periods of war: around the times of the American Civil War and World War I.
    • During the 20th century, world governments worked to standardize the passport form. This work culminated in 1980 and resulted in the booklet used today.
    • Although it is unlawful for U.S. citizens to enter or exit the U.S. without a valid U.S. passport, U.S. border control will not deny U.S. citizens re-entry. That said, re-entry for U.S. citizens without a passport is unlawful and re-entry without a passport likely is not a gentle or quick process.

In a future installment we will introduce basic information about enhanced traveler programs for U.S. citizens.

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About Us
Foster Garvey’s International practice group comprises a cross-disciplinary group of attorneys practicing in areas ranging from business transactions, immigration, maritime, government regulatory work, transportation and logistics and estate planning. The group members include bilingual and multicultural attorneys who are well-versed in handling these subject matters in a cross-border context. A number of attorneys have been actively practicing in the international arena since the early 1970s.
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