From the fine textbook, Colonial America in an Atlantic World, by T.H. Breen and Timothy Hall. In the 18th Century:
arrival in an American port brought relief to passengers and excitement onshore. Crowds of prospective masters gathered to bid for immigrants ‘exposed for redemption sale.’ Fellow countryfolk already settled in America came on board to refresh expected relatives and friends with bread, fruit, and beer or to glean news and collect letters from home. Paying passengers settled accounts and gathered belongings, whereas those sailing on credit tried or arrange for payment or prepared themselves for terms of servitude. . . . Non British passengers then made their way to the courthouse, where English officials required them to take the oath of allegiance to the King and his successors, renounce any allegiance to the Pope, and abide by the laws of the colony where they were settling.