It's no fun being a legal alien

| Comments (2) | Misc
Mrs. Guesswork and I are in White Rock, BC visiting her parents for the holidays. White Rock is only a few miles from the US, and I needed to go for a run, so I figured two great tastes that taste great together and header and headed for the border. Anyway, I usually fly into Canada (passport required) but my understanding was that you just needed ID to travel between the US and Canada, so I shoved my driver's license in my pocket and headed out.

I ran out to the 175th street border crossing and after a little screwing around figured out which building to go into. I showed the DHS guy my license and he asked me where my passport was (in my room) and said that due to the WHTI I would soon need a passport to enter the US. He asked me a bunch of questions about where I was born, etc. and then said that while he would let me into the US, without proof of citizenship the Canadians might not let me back in. I asked if he thought that was likely and he sort of waffled, but finally said that they might make me sit around until someone brought me a passport but that it probably wouldn't be a problem, especially if I had recently used my passport to enter Canada so they had records (I flew in on Monday).

I entered the US and ran to the Peace Arch border crossing. I went into the office there and showed my license and explained that I didn't have a passport. The woman asked me a bunch of questions (where I was staying, who I was with, etc.), then called over another agent who asked me some more questions, and then filled out some form, gave it to me, admonished me to carry proper ID, and send me over to another window where the agent asked me some more questions and said I could go on through.

A few notes about this:

  • It's not clear to me that you're actually required to show proof of citizenship just yet. The WHTI proof of citizenship requirements don't come into effect till January 31, 2008, so it seems like a driver's license should be enough for now.
  • A few minutes looking around and it's not as easy as you'd think to find a concrete statement of what the current identification requirements are. For Canadian citizens entering the US, it appears you need to present ID but that there's no actual requirement that you show proof of citizenship. The officer can accept an oral declaration of citizenship. According to the US customs officer, Canadian policy tends to track the US.
  • The American CBP officer did some sort of computer lookup. The Canadians didn't, so they clearly didn't check that I had actually ever presented a passport.
  • Regardless of the policy, letting me through seems to me the right plan—though of course I would say that—it's not like it's that hard to forge the relevant documents, so who would bother to come up with a story like mine and memorize all the details?
  • In neither case did people really try to physically stop me. In both cases, I went into and came out of the same door, so there was no real mechanism to make sure that I actually talked to anyone. In the CA->US direction, the CBP officer just gave me a piece of paper with a note on it to show to some other officer. Pretty hard to believe I couldn't have forged that. In the other direction there wasn't even that. And of course there aren't fences across the entire border.

Next time I'll bring my passport, though.

2 Comments

Hilarious that as Schengen keeps adding more and more countries, the US is moving to make it *harder* to travel between (and trade with) its neighbors. Brilliant politico-economic strategy there, US.

as if running weren't enough of a challenge, dork?

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