Heading off trouble at the Peace Bridge
October 6, 2009 10:57 AM   Subscribe

My I-94W visa waiver, given to me at the US border, was not collected when I crossed back into Canada. Will this be a problem if I want to come back?

I am a British citizen and permanent resident of Canada. On a weekend trip to northern New York state in early July, I was given an I-94W at the Buffalo/Fort Erie border, for which I had to pay $6. The US border official told me that I could keep the form in my passport if I wanted to make any more short trips in the following 90 days.

On the way back two days later, I was waved on through into Canada, and the I-94W was not removed from my passport.

I thought nothing more of this, but idly Googling around this morning, I saw this and it alarmed me.

The waiver expires in 48 hours, and understandably I don't want anybody at the US border next time I cross to conclude I stayed longer than 90 days when I only stayed a weekend. Am I worrying about nothing, or do I need to send them a bunch of proof to show I came back?
posted by randomination to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAL but this doesn't seem like an overly arduous thing to do, to be on the safe side. Presumably if you can do it fast, so that it's recorded as being mailed from Canada within the validity period of the waiver, this will make it even more obvious that you're telling the truth.

I suppose if you're near the border you could even go in and out again in the next 48 hours...?

As for whether you're worrying about nothing, the problem in my experience is that you will never get the immigration authorities, or an immigration lawyer, to tell you that you're worrying about nothing if you are, technically, in contravention of the rules, as you are in this case.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:23 AM on October 6, 2009

In theory, perhaps you should be concerned. In practice, what you describe has happened to me more than once and it's never caused me a problem on the next visit.
posted by galaksit at 11:23 AM on October 6, 2009

To clarify my last sentence: what I mean is, this might well turn out to be no big deal, but you'll never get anyone to tell you that, because their approach is that all regulations are absolutely compulsory in all cases.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:24 AM on October 6, 2009

My wife has had this happen to her and the next time she crossed they just said that the border people should have taken it out. There was no additional drama.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:26 AM on October 6, 2009

Last time I crossed into the US from Canada, I was waved over to secondary inspection for a stupid spurious reason. While waiting in line there, I am pretty sure I heard a pair of young women at the desk being chewed out for not returning their I-94's. Don't know if that was the reason they were in secondary or if it was something else.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:37 AM on October 6, 2009

The variance between officers at the different booths is incredible. Some (likely many) would wave this off just as some have noted anecdotally.

The other end of the spectrum has interrogated my then 15 year old brother with no parent allowed for 4 hours about the possible uses of his full size accordion, which they were convinced was a 'weapon'. Good thing they didn't let him play it - that would have convinced them for sure.

In any case - do it by the book, so when you do run into officer #2, everything is as it should be.
posted by csmason at 11:44 AM on October 6, 2009

Thanks everyone. I'll send the visa and the letter to Kentucky tomorrow so it's postmarked the day before expiry. (And I'm fairly sure that customs consider accordions to be hazardous materials.)
posted by randomination at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2009

Personal experience with the exact same situation, and it was a problem, so yes, send it back! Also agreed that immigration officers vary wildly in demeanor and reasonableness. Err on the side of caution.
posted by Joh at 1:14 PM on October 6, 2009

Seems like you're already doing the right thing, but don't forget to include the supplementary evidence such as copies of passport stamps, credit card receipts or other proof of your residence in Canada since July. For what it's worth, I successfully followed the same process a couple of years ago but did it many months (a year?) after the visa had expired (the airport checkin counters never take my I-94W slip when going to Mexico; worryingly, I always have to remind them). So, while mailing Kentucky before the expiry would presumably help your case, I wouldn't be keen on doing it at the expense of not including supporting documentation — be thorough and take your time if necessary.
posted by bunyip at 6:57 PM on October 6, 2009

My friend's father (Norwegian) flew back home to Norway with the 1-94W still stapled in his passport - within a few months, he was contacted, but he was able to remedy the situation fairly easily by stating that he was outside the country (and I think mailing back the waiver). It wasn't a big deal at all - I wouldn't worry too much, just explain the situation.
posted by R a c h e l at 8:48 PM on October 6, 2009

Thanks bunyip. I included a bank statement. It had lots of French on it from a trip to Montréal, so that will count for something in KY.
posted by randomination at 8:12 AM on October 7, 2009

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