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Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

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London, United...
posts: 28
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Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

Hi everyone,

Just back from our trip and i wanted to update everyone as there have been many questions and loads of confusion about crossing into the US from Canada with a UK passport.

What we found out was as we had originally come from the US as part of our holiday and had just gone to Niagara for a night or 2, when we crossed back into the US there was no problem, no fee and a simple welcome back to the US. We noticed that other people who were entering into the US for the first time did have to fill in some forms and answer various questions, but the US border control were very polite and did their best to hurry the process up. We crossed the border on foot.

Hope this helps someone

111 replies to this topic
Ottawa, Canada
posts: 13,859
reviews: 50
1. Re: Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

Hi 2011FamilyTrips

Welcome (back) to the NIAGARA FALLS TRAVEL FORUM

˂˂ Just back from our trip and i wanted to update everyone as there have been many questions and loads of confusion about crossing into the US from Canada with a UK passport.

What we found out was as we had originally come from the US as part of our holiday and had just gone to Niagara for a night or 2, when we crossed back into the US there was no problem, no fee and a simple welcome back to the US. We noticed that other people who were entering into the US for the first time did have to fill in some forms and answer various questions, but the US border control were very polite and did their best to hurry the process up. We crossed the border on foot. ˃˃

Must say that this post has me confused…

It is news to me that there is “loads of confusion about crossing into the US from Canada with a UK Passport”

Perhaps the confusion you experienced when looking at the FORUMS… lies in the fact that you don`t seem to have the whole picture (and may not be familiar with all possible scenarios).

--- --- ---

I looked at your TA PROFILE… and your FORUMS POSTING HISTORY… and no where did you ask about the process.

The info you give above is correct (albeit ONLY ONE example of what goes on at the US Border)…

So although you had an EXCELLENT Crossing… I can certainly point you to FORUM Topics where Travellers have found themselves “hung up” at the US Border Crossing !!

As you no doubt discovered… the US Border is a lot different than the free-flowing borders in Europe (something that comes to a surprise to many of our European Visitors).

Since 9/11 the US Border is something to be taken quite seriously… as ALL Visitors to the USA will be scrutinized both with the requirement of Paperwork (Passports, Visas etc) as well as the "Entry Interview" prior to being allowed in.

For many that means needing either a Visa or a Visa Waiver (depends on what your plans are when visiting the USA… and also by which method one is using to visit the country… ie point of entry… by land, boat or air).

UK Travellers (among other nationalities) crossing into the USA by land for the FIRST TIME on their Vacation need to apply for an I-94W Visa Waiver (take usually 30 Minutes… BUT if the Border is Busy it can take over 1 Hour to process… as it is done in the Secondary Inspection Area).

Foreign Travellers who either have in their possession a PREVIOULSLY Processed US Visitors Visa… or a Visa Waiver… having entered the US originally by Air, Boat, or Land are generally processed thru the Check-Point very quickly (as you experienced).

Example… if one has flown to the USA on an ESTA then that “should” be sufficient to satisfy the needs of the US Border Officials when entering their country by land.

BUT as has been said on this FORUM… it is all up to the Border Agent who is “on the line” at the time. He or She has the ultimate control over what is happening at the Check-Point… and gets to decide whether one proceeds thru… or is sent on to Secondary Screening.

--- --- ---

I am happy that YOUR particular crossing went so well… BUT we do inform Travellers here on the various CANADA TRAVEL FORUMS… that the ultimate decision on entry process lies with the individual US Border Agent… and what kind of day He or She is having, how busy the Border is at any given time (Rush Hours, Weekends, and Holidays are by far the worst)… ADD into the mix the big “unknown”… whether there is any Security Alert on the US Border at the time of crossing.

As us Local Advisors & DEs do wish ALL Travellers to have the best possible scenario… we go out of our way to arm them with ALL the info they may need to make that happen.

Including, the possibility that they could see a significant delay at the US Border Crossing (think how much it would suck to find yourself waiting here for a long period of time, and consequently not having sufficient time to reach Buffalo Airport or make one`s flight… and it can happen !!). Which is why to be on the safe side… we tell most Travellers to plan 1 Hour for the Border Crossing… and another for the Commute to Buffalo Airport… PLUS the required 2 Hour Check-In Time at the Airport… this good amount of lead-time as a MINIMUM to ensure that they do make that flight out.

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

London, United...
posts: 28
reviews: 1
2. Re: Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

Hi there

I had read many other reports on the forums and never actually managed to see reported what i actually experienced. Either way, we did of course leave plenty of time taking into the accounts on the forum and were rather concerned about what may happen - however what i am trying to inform other posters is that tourists should not be worried about crossing into the USA - there is a procedure to follow, it is done, and once processed you are able to continue with your holiday - even if it does take some time. Sometimes, people do pick up from these forums a quantity of concern and can change their plans which would be a shame as Niagara is a beautiful place to visit as is the rest of Canada

In the UK most people are aware that a visa of some sort is required, indeed when booking a flight one is normally reminded to acquire and ESTA.

Transferring via land as you correctly point out then requires a written visa at point of transfer if one has not entered into the USA already on that trip - either way, people need to leave time in case they are delayed but (certainly when crossing on foot) it seems to be a pretty smooth procedure and people should not be put off from doing it

Toronto, Canada
posts: 6,855
3. Re: Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

Well, the vast majority of folks who have routine border crossings are less likely to ask questions and less likely to report back. So we tend to deal with questions like "Can I walk across the bridge to the US before heading to Buffalo airport to buy a one-way ticket in cash (on a flight 60 minutes later), with a DUI on my record, three cases of ice wine in the trunk, and a litter of unvaccinated puppies?"

Also, the risk of delay truly is unpredictable -- if you do have to deal with the paper I-94W, you're processed in the order you arrive, so you're at the mercy of whoever's in line in front of you. Normally it's reasonably prompt, but I have personally seen it take almost three hours because a bunch of "tough cases" arrived at once.

Anyway, thanks for balancing things out a bit.

Edited: 8:30 am, June 13, 2011
Ottawa, Canada
posts: 13,859
reviews: 50
4. Re: Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

Hi 2011FamilyTrips,

Re – BORDER QUESTIONS ON THE NIAGARA FORUMS

You make some excellent points... but again it is only ONE point of view... and ONE SCENARIO...

<< Sometimes, people do pick up from these forums a quantity of concern and can change their plans which would be a shame as Niagara is a beautiful place to visit as is the rest of Canada >>

This quote... clearly showing that in your particular case you were visiting the USA... then coming into Canada... and then returning the USA...

So you had already entered the USA on a Visa / Visa Waiver PRIOR to crossing into Canada…

And it should be pointed out that as a Citizen of the UK… one can freely visit Canada as a Tourist with just a Passport (NO Visa Required)…. the issues of flow on the US-Canada Border… are almost entirely for entry into the USA (and they can apply to anyone… including US Citizens… who now require a US Passport… NOT to gain entry into Canada… but rather as Proof of Citizenship for Re-entry back into the USA).

SCENARIO TWO

So… as MATTINTO has eluded to... MOST posts about the Border are from Travellers who are concerned that they may have issues… or are unsure of the process (we rarely hear from those Travellers who have non-issues… or a good crossing… so your post would indeed be unique in that aspect).

Your particular situation… of having an ESTA in hand… would be quite different from the MAJORITY of the Questions that we see here on the NIAGARA FALLS -CANADA- TRAVEL FORUM where the Travellers are primarily visiting Canada... wanting to DAY-TRIP to the US Side of the Falls... and return to Canada to continue their vacations here

In THOSE cases the issue is always "What is the process for getting an I-94W Visa Waiver for entry into the USA?"

A process that frankly you were not required to go thru……..

As pointed out by both myself and MATTINTO... although we can tell a Traveller what that process is... "One gets sent to Secondary Inspection... is photographed, finger-printed and pays a fee"... "completes the Entry Interview" and then proceeds into the USA...

Honestly, none of us can look into our crystal balls and tell any Traveller how long it will take on any given day... be that just the "traffic jam" on the Bridge(s)... OR the actual Border Processing itself.

And although Matt's post is a bit tongue in cheek with his long shopping list of "exceptions"... these are indeed some of the many issues that we see raised here on the Forum... "ok great BUT... I have ___, what will that mean to me?"

SCENARIO THREE

This is even more acute… if the Traveller is a US Citizen wanting to visit Canada… and a great many of the visitors to Niagara Falls are indeed US Citizens

We see many inquiries here on the NIAGARA FALLS TRAVEL FORUM from US Citizens... wanting to visit Canada for the FIRST TIME ever (“we just so happen to be in Upstate NY")... have never travelled outside of the USA... may not have a Passport (or in some instances even an Original Birth Certificate)... aren't familiar with Border Crossing, Import and Export Requirements, Duty Free Allowances, could have a DUI, or want to bring their dog with them on vacation etc

SCENARIOS TWO and THREE… (and not the example that you gave) would by far be the largest number of inquiries here on the NIAGARA FALLS TRAVEL FORUM in regards to how the Border Crossing works.

And probably what you were reading when you were surfing around the FORUM during your Trip Planning phase...

--- --- ---

Lol…

Or else you came across this rather famous post entitled *Possible Delays and Issues Crossing Rainbow Bridge into USA* = tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g154998-i97-k411220…

Which truly is an example of what a BAD DAY ON THE US BORDER can look like…

BUT thankfully as is pointed out by the various NIAGARA FALLS FORUM Local Advisors & DEs… in that particular topic... the SCENARIO given there IS NOT THE NORM... and NOT what most Travellers will encounter.

BUT the post does clearly show that even if one does have their Paperwork in order, there CAN STILL BE an element of the UNKNOWN... and that it can affect ANY or ALL Travelllers to the USA… be they in need of an I-94W… Having an ESTA in hand… OR even a Canadian or US Citizen who ends up subjected to what is known as a “Random Search” or “Secondary Inspection”

That element of the UNKNOWN can happen to anyone on any given day... Canadians like myself who cross the Border regularly are aware of that fact... and we make our plans with enough flexibility to cover any possible delays at the Border Crossing... and we all count ourselves lucky on days when the crossings come off without a hitch... because it is NO FUN when they don't !! (Doesn't happen frequently... but even occasionally can be a ROYAL PAIN).

This is WHY it is so important to realize that although MOST Crossings into the US can take very little time… there are occasions when the UNPREDICTABLE can happen.

And why we tell Travellers hustling to make a flight out of Buffalo Airport to leave plenty of time for the UNPREDICTABLE !!

--- --- ---

You are right … no one should fear the process… or alter their plans to avoid the border…

And the GOOD NEWS (which I think was the original reason that you posted your topic) is that…

IF one has all their paperwork in order, no matter which of the THREE SCENARIOS above... then YES... on MOST DAYS in MOST SITUATIONS the Border Crossing is a NON-ISSUE for MOST Travellers... this is clearly shown by the fact that there are literally Millions upon Millions of Crossings done between our two countries annually… and indeed MOST of them do go off without much of hitch...

As the various crossings in the Niagara Region are Canada's busiest... and as you have noted, and we have pointed out continually to Travellers here on the NF FORUMS (both CANADA & USA) that the quickest way to complete that task is by walking across the bridge... vs sitting in traffic.

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

new marske
posts: 45
reviews: 4
5. Re: Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

Now I am totally confused having read these posts. I will have been in the US for approx 8 days before I fly Anchorage to Buffalo, then cross into Canada. Therefore I will have an ESTA, will have been scanned, finger printed, palm printed and examined in many orifices LOL. I am also a regular traveller into US. At some point during the visit we will want to re-enter the US to go to the outlet mall, return to Canada with numerous shopping bags, then a couple of days later re-enter the US to fly home from Buffalo. I presumed that I would NEED an I-94W Waiver to cover me for my 2 Land border crossings. Are you saying that it is totally up to the Border Agent that I deal with at the time, so in theory I may not need 1 for the 1st crossing but then have to get 1 for the 2nd ? (or for neither crossing).

West Grey, Ontario
Destination Expert
for Toronto, TripAdvisor Support
posts: 54,311
reviews: 65
6. Re: Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

Hi smoggyboy3;

When US Customs issues the I-94W, it will (usually) be valid for 90 days. You can keep the waiver for the side trip to Canada. The advantage is that you'll be re-admitted to the US without going through the whole process again.

Be sure to mention to Canada Customs that you are returning to the US and need to retain the waiver. If you don’t, Canada Customs will return it to US Customs.

When you leave the US for the last time, you must surrender the visa waiver.

I hope that helps.

Best Regards

Toronto, Canada
posts: 6,855
7. Re: Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

The level of immigration knowledge on the forums varies -- none of us are professional experts -- and sometimes trying to explain things in a straightforward way gets some of the details wrong. Skip to the end if you just want a step-by-step in your case, but if you want an accurate and detailed explanation of the process, here are a few key definitions:

Visa Waiver Program (VWP): As a citizen of the UK, you'll be admitted to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. The VWP allows visits of up to 90 days to the US (including side-trips) with less paperwork than a full visa.

Visit: For the purposes of the VWP, a visit starts when you arrive in the US, includes side-trips to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, and ends when you leave the US on your way home. The 90-day clock can get complicated; the easy and recommended approach is to keep your total time in North America under 90 days before returning home.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA): To cut down on the number of people who have to be turned back at airports and flown back home, anyone flying to the US to enter under the VWP must first go to www.cbp.gov/esta and answer a few questions. This pre-authorization is good for multiple visits over two years. It does not guarantee admission under the VWP, but if you don't have it you can't board the flight. It is not required if your visit to the US starts at a land border (e.g. by driving from Canada).

Admitted Under the Visa Waiver Program: Every non-US citizen lawfully in the US has an immigration "status", and yours would be "admitted under the Visa Waiver program". (Other statuses include "permanent resident" and visas like "B-2" or "H-1B".) Your VWP status will almost certainly be recorded as a stamp in your passport with an expiration date.

I-94W Arrival/Departure Form: This is the double-sided green piece of paper you may have to fill out upon arriving in the US. At some airports, they are able to use the information you provided via ESTA to fill out the form for you. Otherwise, you write out everything by hand and the border officer tears the form along its perforation, creating...

I-94W Departure Record: This is the infamous little green piece of paper, the smaller part of the full I-94W that gets stapled in your passport atop the stamp that shows your VWP status. Contrary to popular belief, the I-94W is NOT "the visa waiver". As its official name suggests, its sole purpose is to track your departure from the United States. Just to keep things interesting, not every person admitted under the VWP gets a paper I-94W -- at airports where they pull the information electronically from ESTA, they may forgo the I-94W and track your departure from the US via your passport number.

If you have an I-94W in your passport, it must be surrendered at the last departure from the US during your Visit (as defined above). A competent authority (if driving to Canada, the Canadian border guard; if flying from the US, an airline representative) will remove the I-94W from your passport, note the date of your departure, and return it to the US government. If you get home with an I-94W in your passport, your 90-day clock may still be ticking and you need to take steps to record your departure from the US.

====

With that background, here's what will actually happen in your case:

1. You will complete ESTA before leaving home.

2. When you land in the US for the first time (in Alaska?), you'll be admitted under the VWP. You may be asked about your flight home (have the e-ticket for it handy). You may or may not be issued a paper I-94W. Your 90-day clock starts ticking.

3. As a UK citizen, no paperwork is required to enter Canada. If you have a paper I-94W in your passport, the Canadian border guard may ask if you're returning to the US. Explain your plans, and he or she should leave the I-94W in your passport.

4. When you re-enter the US, you should be readmitted under your existing VWP status (i.e. no new paperwork to fill out).

5. Repeat steps 3-4 as necessary, though not often enough to be suspicious. :)

6. When you finally fly home, make sure your I-94W (if any) gets turned in. Buffalo does not have direct overseas flights, so I expect this would happen at the gate of your second flight.

Edited: 8:56 am, June 15, 2011
new marske
posts: 45
reviews: 4
8. Re: Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

Many thanks to you both for that detailed information. That certainly clarifies the position.

Niagara Falls, ON
Destination Expert
for Niagara Falls
posts: 6,370
reviews: 41
9. Re: Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

Great post matt. I don't think it could be any more understandable than that. I've added this discussion to the 'U.S.:Crossing the Border' travel article.

Toronto, Canada
posts: 6,855
10. Re: Crossing from Canadaian Side to the US with uk passport

Thanks Fallsdude. I actually wrote most of that page too but had tried to keep it somewhat brief, so the link is perfect.

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