Trouble For Canadian Tourists

Will Rantis

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In the last few months, the number of Canadians being turned back at the U.S. Canadian border has increased. “Until recently, it was very rare—maybe once every two or three years—that I would see a five-year bar [that seemed undeserved]”, says Saunders, a lawyer working for one of those who received a five year ban. Now, many are receiving expedited removals, which are five year bans, from the U.S. Expedited removals are a process by which someone can be denied access to the U.S. without going through the court system.

Being banned from the U.S. has caused many Canadians confusion and distress. One Canadian, Rochelle Trepanier, was going to visit her boyfriend in the U.S. when she was denied entry. “I’ve done the same trip for the past two years”, she said. But this time, she was stopped by the Canadian Border Patrol for insufficient documentation. She brought back work stubs and credit card information, but was given a five year ban for her efforts.

The Canadian Border Patrols official stance is that travelers are required to show that they are not attempting to illegally immigrate. They suggest doing this by showing proof of residency, employment, and other things which indicate reasons to return to their country of origin. As Trepanier’s case has shown, however, even that may not satisfy the border agents. Despite the agencies statements, it remains unclear exactly what qualifies someone for entry. People at an increased risk of five year bans are those without permanent residencies and jobs.

There has been no change in official Canadian Border Police policy, but what has changed is the enforcement of those policies. While it is speculated that the president might have been a cause of this change in attitudes, nothing has been stated to that effect. Another possible cause is the trade tensions between the U.S. and Canada, with Canada having raised tariffs against U.S. imports in July of last year. Canadians will have to be more careful at the border, but there are alternatives to driving across it.

Using airports to get into the airports are a safer way to enter the U.S., expedited removals can not be issued if the traveler is not on U.S. soil. Canadians are able to get waivers to enter the U.S. for a substantial fee. The five year bans can be fought, but it is not usually worth it, as the legal fees are likely to exceed the cost of a waiver.

Under more usual circumstances, Canadians could come to the U.S. for up to six months as a tourist. Now, Canadians must worry about potentially being banned every time they cross the border. This may have localized economic effects in the northern U.S., where Canadians going traveling might pass through or stay at. The impact will be most felt among those who now cannot visit their friends or relatives. It remains to be seen whether similarly stringent border passage will be set up by the Canadian government.