Can I leave and re-enter Vancouver (to US) multiple times as a UK visitor without being denied re-entry? Help!
August 15, 2011 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Canada - US - Canada trip for a visiting UK national - problematic? Will they let me back in?! Specifics inside

I'm staying in Vancouver as a visitor, with my boyfriend who's got a temporary working visa. As a UK citizen I can stay for 6 months without a visa, so I flew in 2 days ago and am leaving in January. Coming in the officials were pretty stern, which I'd been warned about (asking about supporting myself, being slightly offensive etc). I was planning on meeting up with friends in Seattle, San Fransisco and LA, and maybe even going to Mexico for holidays with the boyfriend at some point. However one of his friends has said that leaving and re-entering Canada multiple times might be a problem for me or him (as in, they might just say no, and then we'd be up poo creek). Does anyone have any experience or advice on this? I just hadn't thought it could be a problem before, so long as I had proof of my return UK flight? I'm so used to travelling around Europe, where freedom of movement is a given, but this country can deny me entry at any time pretty much on a whim. Any help much appreciated, and thank you in advance.
posted by everydayanewday to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Hmm... I'm not sure about this for UK nationals. The only experience with this I had was that I used to have a long-distance girlfriend in Canada, and we'd frequently drive across the border to visit each other (I am a US citizen, she was, and likely still is, a Canadian citizen).

In my experience, the folks at Customs Canada were generally very friendly to me, and border crossing by car in that direction was easy. Getting back into my own country, however, was always a pain and the Homeland Security folks asked many probing questions, even when I had a Nexus Pass (that's like a trusted traveler card and you drive through special border lanes, but it's only available to US and Canadian citizens). My ex reported similar treatment (Canada - nice, US - irritating). We never had any problems getting across the border in either direction, though once I had my car trunk searched crossing back into the US.

I'm guessing if you had a difficult time getting into Canada it will be harder and more annoying for you to get into the US. US Customs / Homeland Security pestered me frequently and I'm a citizen here! I'd contact someone at DHS beforehand and discuss your situation so you have fewer problems crossing the border.
posted by tckma at 8:32 AM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hmm, I need to find out what the Canadian version of DHS is it seems...
posted by everydayanewday at 8:47 AM on August 15, 2011

Hmm, I need to find out what the Canadian version of DHS is it seems...

Canada Border Services Agency
posted by urbanlenny at 8:52 AM on August 15, 2011

Canadian Border Services Agency.
posted by lumiere at 8:52 AM on August 15, 2011

Heh. There are special rules in place for Canadians and Americans to cross the US-Canada border and--if I recall correctly--a different set for non-Canadians/Americans...
posted by lumiere at 8:54 AM on August 15, 2011

Bring lots of proof with you, lots and lots of proof that you are not just trying to do this to get around visa requirements. I haven't had any experience with Canadian immigration but as an Aussie visiting my husband in the USA a lot before we got married that was the advise given me.

Bring proof that you intend to return to the UK, proof of a job, proof you own a house there, proof of how much money you have so that you can show you are not coming to work illegally and can support yourself and have plenty of savings so bank statements etc help. Return ticket already booked and paid for and in your possession that shows a clear departure date and time that isn't cutting it too short for your allotted stay. Your boyfriend has the temporary visa so I can't see he'll have a problem. Look like you have money when you arrive and not like you are broke, nice clothes, suitcase etc these are all things they look at.

They are usually slightly offensive on purpose to see how you react, the idea is to make nervous liars more nervous so they'll show more signs they are lying. Be nothing but patient and friendly to whoever is talking to you. Also try and stand behind a people that are likely to be hard work, I got into the UK once with no return ticket or savings by standing behind 2 elderly and confused people in wheelchairs who must have taken 15 mins to finally realise they needed their passports etc out. So by the time I walked up with my friendly smile and passport open to the right page I just got waved through.

Just remember they are doing their jobs and really aren't "out to get you" so try and give them every reason to want to let you in.
posted by wwax at 8:55 AM on August 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

CIC is probably what you're after, as it determines the admissibility rules that CBSA follows.

I'm guessing if you had a difficult time getting into Canada it will be harder and more annoying for you to get into the US.

Not necessarily: a long weekend return flight is less red-flaggish than a multi-month stay.

As a citizen from a visa-exempt nation, every entry is going to be treated by Immigration Canada as a new visit, and they're likely to look at the entry stamps in your passport and question whether you're nipping south of the border to extend your stay. (People who need visas can apply for multiple-entry visas, which addresses this to some degree.) This potentially becomes more of an issue the more times you do it, and the closer you get to the end of the six months you've been permitted.

The pragmatic approach, I think, would be to combine some of those US trips, and avoid scheduling any foreign travel towards the end of your stay. I'd agree with wwax: whenever you travel outside of Canada, make sure that you have relevant documentation of your return flight to the UK, ties to the mother country, and your ability to support yourself. You might get increasingly greater scrutiny, but having a nice little folder prepped for the border agents will make everyone's lives easier.
posted by holgate at 9:00 AM on August 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

You should definitely check your country's travel advice page to find out what documentation is specifically needed for you, as a UK citizen, for each country:

Canada (specifics on entry requirements)
USA (specifics on entry requirements)
posted by urbanlenny at 9:01 AM on August 15, 2011

My husband was in this position several years ago when we moved from the UK to Canada. We are both British but I had a Canadian passport so the challenge applied only to him.

Authorities were clear with us that even though he had the requisite multiple entry visa to the US that the Canadians would not guarantee that he would be allowed back into Canada with his working visa. We did take a trip to Cuba and went "over the river" into the US near Niagara Falls a few times and never had a problem returning. We did however make sure that we traveled with a file of his tickets, our addresses and a pay stub from our places of employment. We always were asked a lot of questions when crossing back into Canada. Needless to say we were always very open about any item that we purchased whilst in the US and never bought alcohol - just not worth the hassle that we may have come up against.
posted by YukonQuirm at 9:51 AM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

For the Canadian side, get an invitation letter from your BF that demonstrates he has the means to support you. Their main concern is you working illegally.
posted by wutangclan at 11:16 AM on August 15, 2011

You other half need to look at his Visa details. It is the Visa that is tricky and usually has special conditions. Your traveling is not a big deal. Going from Visa to permanent resident, if that is a possibility, usually has a time in country requirement. Whatever you do make sure you have all the relevent and even irrelevant documentation you need.

As a Canadian in the UK I was completely unprepared for the need keep track of my movements in and out of the country. I am horrible with remembering dates. The last week is hard. The last month very hard. Four years? Agony. (in a pinch you can guesstimate based on passport stamps)

Cross by car or plane. Crossing by bus or by train results in far more scrutiny.

And remember - when crossing borders - you have absolutely no rights whatsoever and are completely at the mercy of the border officials.
posted by srboisvert at 3:04 PM on August 15, 2011

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