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My Continuing Adventures with US Customs

I haven’t posted about my border issues in a while, despite there being several instances, but a call tonight with immigration lawyer Ronald Zisman has inspired me to give an update. Oh and I’ll be blogging about my conversation with him shortly.

1. Grand Forks, ND

For my 28th birthday in March, my wonderful friend Kate Morris drove from Texas to Winnipeg with her brother Brian to surprise me. Unfortunately, the surprise was on them when Canada Customs would not allow them into the country.  Kate posted about her experience on her blog.  Since I was hardly going to have my friend drive all that way and not see her, my friend Lyndon Reid and I drove down to Grand Forks to meet Kate and Brian.

We get to the booth at the border and they seemed skeptical of our story. I knew we’d get sent in for inspection anyway, so this didn’t really bother me.  I drove my car to the inspection area (this is important, in regards to another incident) where Lyndon and I were put in an interrogation room and waited while they searched my car.  When the inspector came in to question us, I again had to explain what happened in January when I tried to speak in Las Vegas. We were allowed to go.  I suppose this one wasn’t too bad, it was just worse since Kate and Brian had a run-in with the Canadian side the night before.

2. SMX Advanced – Seattle, WA

I was really interested to see how this one would turn out. I was going to SMX Advanced in Seattle as nothing more than an attendee of this conference. The first time trying to cross at the Winnipeg Airport again, I actually recognized some of the inspectors. I was, unsurprisingly, sent to secondary inspection where the were not that pleasant with me.  I was armed with my registration, hotel details, return flight details, pay stub from my Canadian employer – everything I could think of. I explained what I was doing.  I couldn’t believe what the inspector said to me next.

“If I look up this conference online, will I see you on the speaker list?  Because if you’re lying, you’re going to be in big trouble.”

Yeah, cuz those types of threats work on a 28-year-old woman. I’m not 5.  You go right ahead officer, look it up, because I will not be on that speaker list (though I wish I could be).  Sure enough, he looked it up and seemed satisfied to let me go. Whew. Even though I was totally legit, I was a bit nervous about encountering a problem.

3. Queenston-Lewiston Bridge – Lewiston, NY

In late June I was in Toronto visiting my family.  My sister and I decided to head to Niagara Falls, NY to go for lunch and do some shopping. I warned her that we would be sent to secondary inspection, but I couldn’t believe what happened.

When we pulled up to the booth, in my rental, we were questioned as normal until he swiped my passport. I was asked to shut off the car and wait.  THREE more inspectors came out.  Two females to ESCORT my sister and I to the interrogation area and another to drive the car. (Should I have told them it was against my rental agreement to have someone else drive the car?) It was humiliating.  All those cars behind us saw the two of us removed from our vehicle and taken inside.  Me, the tiny 28 girl and my sister, the even tinier 30 year old. I have NO idea why I wasn’t able to drive the car to inspection myself.

We waited about 45 minutes before I was called to begin my interrogation. It was ridiculously simple. A few questions, AGAIN repeating what happened in January (and the “tsk-tsk” I now expect). About two minutes later, I was given the keys and told I could go.  No idea where the car was, but I found it and was on my way.

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So that’s where we’re at.  I am heading to Hawaii on vacation in September and fully expect more delays, particularly since I’ll be traveling alone and meeting friends there. I connect in Vancouver, so that’s where I’ll pass through customs, and if they make me miss my connecting flight I will be SOME MAD. I guess we’ll see what happens.

Posted in Border Security.

5 Responses

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  1. I sometimes mention to my father that I plan on getting my US citizenship at some point and I think it upsets him a little. But as long as I don’t lose my Canadian citizenship in the process I don’t see why it would be a disadvantage. These kind of problems seem to happen too often.

  2. Lyndsay Walker said

    You should absolutely do it Miriam. Think of how much easier it would be to cross every time. And how hard could it be? You’ve been in the states for 9 years now and you’re married to an American. No reason you can’t apply for dual citizenship.

  3. Wow – time for a pen name, so you can speak at conferences in the U.S.

    Just joking, customs people and their prying eyes.

  4. Holy crap. These stories are what makes me ever more NEVER want to go to the states with my son. I may have sole custody and we may have no communication with his father but I would not take the hassle so well over and over and over as you have done.

  5. Wow. I live in Hawaii and I can tell you that the guys at the airports here don’t really care about people coming in or out so much. We got a ton of international traffic day and night… and CA doesn’t exactly come to mind as a suspect country. But, I could be wrong though..ya never know.

    Getting a dual citizenship isn’t a bad idea though. Either way, good luck in your travels out here. Let me know if you want to know about some good places to eat 😉

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