Sunday, August 17, 2008

Newsflash: Canada is a separate country

A friend of mine is moving to Canada for a year for a postdoc. Her tickets route her through the USA where she transfers from international to domestic, but she leaves the USA the same day. Obviously she has a valid one-year visa for Canada. As for the USA transit period, normally, when Australians or NZers travel to the USA for fewer than 90 days, they can go without a visa under the visa waiver program.

As I understand it, 1 day < 90 days.

BUT. It turns out that since her onward tickets are to Canada, she has to apply for a visa for the USA that is valid for the entirety of her stay in Canada.

In other words, in order to work in Canada for a year, she has to have a 1-year visa for the USA.

She finds this out now, three weeks before departure. Chances are, she can't get a 1-year visa for the USA between now and then (although she is having to travel to Sydney next week for an interview at the United States Consulate on the off-chance they might be able to rush it through). Her back-up plan is to reroute her flights so that she no longer passes through the USA.

And the fact that is possible totally negates any reasonable justification for this visa requirement. If you can enter Canada from elsewhere and not be required to have a visa for the USA, then it isn't as though this requirement is doing a great job of border protection, right?

I just don't understand. Does the USA somehow own Canada after all?

9 Comments:

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

shhhhhh, we won Canada in a late night poker game.... and we didn't tell them, because they can get pretty feisty.

Geeka said...

I don't know about this specifically, but out local airport is no longer an international one and it still flies to Canada.

A. Wray said...

You should have realized by now we think we own the world, not just Canada (oh, and the moon too)... did the memo not go out???

*sigh* Well you know none of our plans of action actually work, so oh well. :-)

wolfa said...

Of course this has nothing to do with Canada at all, it's a rule -- an odd one, you're supposed to be able to route through an airport with just a transit visa (which is supposedly very easy to get), and even then only if you need a visa to enter at all, not for Australia or NZ -- that the US has made. Canada cannot possibly oblige you to get a visa for another country.

Anyways, I think your friend may have heard the wrong information. Of course it's a moot point, because immigration guards are right even when they're wrong.

US-Canada routes are considered domestic flights, and you can have a domestic-only US airport that flies to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver because for those three airports, you go through US customs in Canada.

thoughtcounts Z said...

Yeah, I'm definitely skeptical of this rule. It's possible that there's been some miscommunication, but even if there hasn't, I don't think it's attributable to any grand American designs on Canada so much as to American bureaucratic incompetence. Sigh. This is quite a shining example.

postdoc way of life said...

hi,
I went to the US from Canada when I had Canad.n visa. US Domestic airlines fly to Canada as if Canada is within US.
Canada 30 mil. and a lot rural area looks like 3th World countries as they themselves call. And Canada is so dependent on the US and just like US's lil' bro.

wellygirl said...

True rule. It's been in place for a few years now as my younger sister got caught in 2005.

The way she got around it? Changed her return flight to Canada to less than 6 months (or was it 3? there's some minimum for the visa to apply) and then when she was over there, her travel agent extended her flights. hehe. Take THAT american customs.

Of course, these days there are direct flights from Sydney/ Auckland to Vancouver. Soooo much better than the 3 hour customs drag at Honolulu airport just to get back on the plane.

BTW, I have heard this American visa rule also applies to anyone going to South America vis the US. Just a warning for anyone wanting to live in Central/South America. The whole Continent is part of the US apparently.

StyleyGeek said...

Yes, it's either a true rule, or the American consulate has it wrong, since she confirmed with them in writing. And as WellyGirl says, it holds for Sth America too.

Wolfangel - you are quite right that it's nothing to do with Canada. It's when she tries to pass immigration when she arrives in the USA from Australia that she will have the problem, since they will ask for proof of onwards flights and visas, she will show her ticket to Canada and her 1-year working-visa for there, and they will then require the 1-year USA visa too.

Dr. A said...

it does feel that way sometimes :(