What Is a Port of Entry?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 January 2020
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A port of entry is a location designated as an authorized entry point somewhere along the borders of a country. These types of entry points may be airports, docks along the shoreline adjoining an ocean or other body of water, or roadways that cross the border between two nations. Typically, countries utilize some system of border control that aids in managing the entry of people into the nation, making sure that no illegal items are admitted and that each person attempting to cross the border has sufficient documents to establish identity and prove that he or she can legally enter that country.

The process for designating and managing a port of entry varies from one country to another. Typically, specific locations are designated based on the availability of resources to effectively manage the port, as well as the likelihood that international visitors will choose to enter the country at specific points. This means that even though a nation may have multiple waterways, airports, and highways that could be the destination of international visitors, only specifically selected locations will receive the designation of a port of entry. When this is the case, travelers will often be routed through an official point of entry first, then allowed to continue the journey to their intended destination.


The management of a port of entry is sometimes considered the province of one or more arms of the nation’s military force. Entry and exit into the nation is overseen by a military border control and visitors must present passports and other essential documents to those personnel before being allowed to enter the country. The procedures followed by the assigned military personnel must follow the regulations and laws currently in place regarding the process of allow internationals to enter the borders of the nation. It is not unusual for nations sharing borders to develop policies and procedures that are very similar in nature, a strategy that makes it possible for the citizens of those adjoining nations to travel between the countries with relative ease.

A port of entry may also be managed by a specific department or division within a national government, such as an immigration or customs department. The process is very similar to that used by military personnel to manage the borders of the nation. Typically, immigration officers have the same powers and authority as law enforcement officials when it comes to dealing with attempts to enter a country illegally, or to transport contraband or illegal goods through the border checkpoints. Those powers include the ability to detain individuals who arouse suspicion, refuse entry into the country, and in some cases place individuals into custody until further information that clarifies the identity and intentions of the detainees is obtained.


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