No Walls Expected on U.S. Northern Border

If you’ve been paying any attention to U.S. politics  and the forthcoming national election, you know that immigration, border control, vetting of who comes and goes into and out the U.S., and entry/exit visas have been a big part of the rhetoric.

Will that have any effect on Canadians wanting to spend a week or a few months in the sun this winter? We’ll give you a typically political answer: Yes and No.

Let’s expand on that.

If you are a Canadian citizen with a valid passport and you have not  overstayed you welcome in the U.S. on previous visits (no more than 6months–preferably calculated as a total of 180 days—in the past 12 months) you should have no problems crossing the border, or returning to Canada when your visit is over. That’s because the U.S. and Canada have a special relationship and though nationals of other countries are allowed only 90 days per visit without a special visa, Canadians are allowed 6 months over the course of the previous 12.

However, if you are a national of another country—albeit a legal permanent resident of Canada—and you travel on that third country’s passport, entry into the U.S. will be determined by U.S. rules in respect to that country.  So before you approach the border, make sure you have checked out the U.S. State Department’s website concerning the entry/exit requirements for resident or nationals of that country.

If you’re traveling as a routine visitor or tourist, make sure you have a passport valid well past the time you are due to leave the country.   In almost every other country (except the U.S.), a passport is among an individual’s most highly-guarded possessions. You don’t go anywhere without it. But until recently, Canadians and Americans have had a relaxed approach to passports—probably because travel between the two countries has been so easy and informal.

Well that’s the case no longer.

As we have been advising for the past  4 years, you must assume your entries and exits to and from the U.S. (and to and from Canada) are being recorded. There are many ways to do it: a passport stamp is just one of them.  And we have also warned you about U.S./Canadian government data-sharing processes at most and land crossing points and on all international flights.

Consequently, you must assume that if you overstay on any, you will have broken some rules and that can impair your freedom to return for another visit.  So pay attention to your time spent in the U.S. And when you tell a border agent how long you will be staying in the U.S. (or any other country you are visiting), keep to your word. Pay attention. But don’t panic.

Much of the overheated rhetoric about building walls and demanding extreme vetting of who are permitted into the U.S., and when they leave, is mostly political hot air.  But it’s not all meaningless.  Because the issue of tracking who comes into the country, what they do while here, and when they leave, is real.

But I also note that the first Congressional law mandating creation of an effective entry and exit process was first passed in 1996.  And it hasn’t been wholly achieved yet.

Nonetheless, the process has started, it is taking shape, and it will directly affect how easily—or not—one enters the U.S. in future.

For now, however, just play by the rules, have your documents in order, make your plans as you normally have, and  enjoy your stay.  We’ll advise you of any rule changes or cautions you’ll need to know.


Are you planning for sunnier shores in the winter? Do not forget your coverage.

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