US immigration in Canadian gateway cities

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by coolsideofthepillow, Jun 3, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. coolsideofthepillow

    coolsideofthepillow Active Member

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    Does anyone have insight into this, or is this a coincidence? I have repeatedly had an unpleasant time while processing US immigration in Canadian airports on the Canada side. What's the thing with the immigration officers that work posted in Canadian airports? Anyway what are they even doing there? CA-US is not a domestic route!

    I'm talking about things like snide comments, long waits, aggressive tone, selected for secondary screening that took 2 hours waiting in a line, yelled at for forgetting my printed itinerary, super-suspicious questionning. I travel to US at least 10+ times a year, I breeze through LAX or other cities. But transit through YYZ, YVR or YUL..? Miserable experience more often than not. Why is that?
     
  2. East_Yorker
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    East_Yorker Gold Member

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    In 30 years of travelling I've never had a significant problem at either YYZ or YUL.

    Last week I was not able to check in online, and got the dreaded S's on my boarding pass, but was through the secondary screening before Mrs E_Y was able to clear the regular line.

    I find being pleasant, but not funny and chatty, and being very clear answering questions helps.

    Last year we encountered a very stern looking female agent, very formal questions, then when she found out we were going to Sonoma, she gave us some inside tips on wineries to visit. So you can't tell by looks.

    Hope you get a better reception next time.
     
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  3. JasonH
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    JasonH Silver Member

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    I've only had one incident returning to the US from Canada. That was at YYZ, but even then it was minor compared to the headaches I endure everything I try to enter Canada. I don't think I've made it through YYZ without secondary CIC screening in over 2 years. All because the front line people don't care to understand NAFTA or read the certified letters from my company. Sadly the secondary CIC agents are usually even bigger PITAs :(.

    Coming back I guess I look tired enough (or maybe it's the bowtie) that the US customs people just smile and wave me through. Though I was grilled for a bit by one on good places to eat in Denver. I didn't mind that though :).
     
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  4. I've had the same experiences as Jason flying in and out of YYZ, I've gotten sent to secondary and or immigration every single time I visited, but never spent more than a few moments speaking with the official on the way back. :confused:
     
  5. canucklehead
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    canucklehead Gold Member

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    Are you a US or Cdn citizen and have you considered getting the Nexus card. I have spoken with a few of the agents during secondaries and found them generally nicer than Stateside. Often the motivation for US and Cdn customs officials is more on one countries citizens taking pay/jobs in the other country, so the questioning may be along these lines.

    Hope your future experiences improve as I do agree, it does suck to get the stink eye from the DHS folks.
     
  6. Exiled in Express
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    Exiled in Express Gold Member

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    I have found it to be a short and fast process (YVR and YOW). I don't think I even came to a full stop in Ottawa. Entering Canada by air for the first time was been one of the most time consuming and rigorous grillings I have ever received.
     
  7. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    My exact experience, breezed through coming back into the US. Going into Canada? I half expected to be arrested based on the grilling I got.
     
  8. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    The lines seem longer for me in Canada. I positively hate YYZ.
     
  9. Take.me.away

    Take.me.away Active Member

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    To follow up on the posts regarding getting sent to immigration upon entry to Canada for the paperwork proof of the business visit...I have been to Toronto, Montreal and Calgary this year. Toronto and Montreal were nothing to get through. At Montreal they did not even ask what I was doing there, just who I worked for, Calgary was different. Got sent to immigration, the agent did not like my letters and thankfully I had a copy of the job's engagement letter, which satisfied him, Calgary was not at all busy whereas the other two locales were, and in Montreal they were just basically herding the cattle through...

    Again in Calgary, upon processing to return to the States, I did for the first time have a customs agent ask me if I had ever found my lost/stolen passport... My current one is flagged and has a notice printed within that it is a replacement. The loss of it happened so long ago and since no one had asked ever, I had honestly forgotten it was even a replacement and stumbled a bit when he inquired! :oops:
     
  10. Aktchi
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    Aktchi Silver Member

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    I recently crossed the land border between Seattle and Vancouver, taking a shuttle bus from SEA airport to Vancouver downtown and back.

    The Canadian immigration person seemed only interested in knowing where I would be staying and waved me along after I named my hotel.

    On return, the US guy said something like, "You went all the way to Canada for four days by yourself?" I am sure he though was a deeply probing question (he wasn't joking), but I thought "all the way" sounded silly, considering that it wasn't HKG or Australia, but the country next door. However, having learned over the years that you answer all questions truthfully and in fewest possible words, I just said "Yes" and that was fine.

    Interestingly, neither side put any stamp in my passport.
    Another general lesson picked up from experience: When asked what I was or would be doing in a foreign city, I used to say "just visiting". For some reason, this often brought out the follow up question, "visiting whom?" and I had to clarify that I wasn't visiting a person, just the city. Now I avoid that extra exchange by saying "vacationing" or "sight-seeing". Seems to work better.
     
  11. BurBunny
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    BurBunny Silver Member

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    How odd. I've had nothing but pleasant experiences with Canadian immigration incoming, and US pre-screening returning. Haven't been that many, but I've flown through.

    Before I got Global Entry, used to get grilled more by US immigration who always seemed to doubt my travel was truly business.
     
  12. I cross the US/CAN border probably 12 times a year and never get over questioned or generally jacked around by them.
    Having global entry/nexus takes away almost all questioning when crossing the longest most open borders in the world.
     
  13. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Although limited to just a half dozen times crossing the border in the past few years, I have consistently found the us immigration agents in Canada to be some of the least friendly US passport inspectors.

    For what is considered a "friendly" border, and is indeed the longest friendly border in the world, the passport staff seems to have a dour view in my limited experiences.

    I've had much more pleasant experiences in BDA and SNN pre-clearing us customs.

    I wonder how the morale is for the Canadian-based staff? Are these requested postings, or do staff get assigned to these international posts (perhaps without their wishes being considered)? Do they live there, or is it fly-in, fly-out for a week at a time or something?
     
  14. JohnnieD
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    JohnnieD Silver Member

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    I live in the Buffalo area and have traveled to Toronto many, many times. Over the years, I have found that coming back from Canada to the US has always been a longer process.

    As far as YYZ, I have not had to deal with US Customs there. I use YYZ as my starting point for my *A award tickets since I can find better premium award availability. When I return, Canadian Immigration has been a mere formality. The last time we returned from an award trip, @ the Lewiston NY border crossing, the US Customs agent had me do something I have never been instructed to do. After handing him our passports, I was instructed to turn my engine off. Well, he scans them and hands them back to me and tells me thanks! My engine was off maybe 15 secs....

    No big deal since I have learned over the years that any complaints/wrong answers will mean a secondary inspection and loss of at least and hour if not two at the 'Secondary Inspection" area...........
     
  15. coolsideofthepillow

    coolsideofthepillow Active Member

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    Nope I am a Brit and both sides are nothing compared to how vicious British immigration can be. Brits always complain about US immigration procedures but sadly most of them have no idea how much more impolite UK immigration officers can be to visitors to these shores.

    I am going through YUL tomorrow to BOS, let's see what happens!! Although this time I am all visa-ed up, my first entry with the US residency sticker in my passport, so probably a whole new set of formalities.

    I agree with the suggestion not to bring people into your explanation for crossing the US border. "Visiting? Visiting who!? " is a recipe for a grilling.
    Ironically, "Going to to work" never gets another question!
     

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