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Do I Have To Provide A Password Or Unlock My Phone Or Laptop If Asked By CBP?

Do I Have to Provide a Password or Unlock my Phone or Laptop if Asked by CBP?

In a previous article (“What Are Your Rights in U.S. Airports and Ports of Entry?”) we discussed that as part of the inspection process, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) officers may search your bags and personal belongings without your permission. In a subsequent article (“CBP’s Authority to Search Phones and Laptops in U.S. Airports and Ports of Entry”), we advised that based on the foregoing search authority, CBP  has taken the position that it has the ability to examine your computers, mobile phones, cameras and other digital devices, without a warrant.

Do I have to provide a password to unlock my phone or laptop?

CBP can ask for your password or request you unlock your electronic device. Your decision to refuse or comply may rely squarely on your legal status in the U.S.:

U.S. Citizens:

You can’t be denied entry into the country if you refuse to comply with a request to unlock your device or to provide a password. But you might be detained for longer or have your device seized and not returned to you for weeks or months. The data on the device can also be copied.

Legal Permanent Residents:

The same should be true for lawful permanent residents who have maintained their status. Your green card can’t be revoked without a hearing before an immigration judge.

Visa holders and tourists from visa waiver countries:

You run the risk of being denied entry if you refuse to provide a password, and you should consider that risk before deciding how to proceed.

For more information about electronic device searches at the border, or any other immigration matter, contact the Law Offices of Azita M. Mojarad, P.C. by e-mailing or calling (312) 641-0771.


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