Crossing the border as a permanent resident

Day of UK Car Bombs at Bellingham International Airport When Rebecca made her adventure to live blog the Matthew Good show in Las Vegas, I had to drive down to pick her up from Bellingham International Airport in Washington state. Don’t let that name impress you too much. It’s a very nice, worthwhile airport, but it’s proximity to the Canadian border is the only reason it is granted the covenanted “international” label.

The big thing is that this was going to be my first time crossing the border since becoming a landed immigrant in Canada. I’ve got the permanent residence card[cic] that is my ticket for less hassle getting over the border, and the less hassle comes in terms of being kicked out or kept out of the country.

Things like this are no big deal, but I was driving across the border by myself. On top of that, I was in my mother-in-law’s car, so it was a vehicle in which I don’t even own. If they needed proof of ownership at any point, we were prepared for me to be held up a little bit. Plus, we also went over things to say, not say, and any documents I might need to prove my “intentions during your stay in the United States of America.”

Canada Day long weekend, I knew the waits would be a little long, but there was some safety in the thought that this was in between the major travel times. So for a Saturday, the radio said that waits were anywhere from three hours to ninety minutes. When I got there, the signs in the line up lanes said 40 minutes, and that’s pretty much how long it took.

My First Border Crossing Additionally, I had a little bit of concern with the recent bombings in the U.K. I had already heard that the threat levels at U.S. airports were raised, so there was a thought in my head that it could affect Rebecca’s flight as well as border crossings. Nothing on the radio or signs on display as I crept ahead in the queue, and things panned out in the end.

Getting up to the front of the line, I handed my U.S. passport over with my Canadian PR Card tucked inside, sticking out slightly at the top. I had a print out of Rebecca’s travel itinerary on my lap, ready to go in case he needed proof that I wasn’t a terrorist or drug runner.

He asked three questions. Where do you live? Where are you going? Are you bringing any goods from Canada into the U.S.? In the span of less than a minute, I shot right through.

What gets me is that each car ahead of me took two to five minutes on average when reaching the guy in the booth. I could see passports being passed over, then some conversation, some extra papers were handed over, more conversation, and the people were allowed to pass after getting a handful of documents handed back to them.

Perhaps I was lucky, or maybe the PR Card thing gets you some express treatment in certain situations. Time will tell, but it’s a comforting thing to be able to travel again. It’s even cooler when you get your own PR Card because your picture on the front is also a hologram on the back. Awesome.


4 Replies to “Crossing the border as a permanent resident”

  1. I think John, you are an American with a Canadian PR card? If so it would explain why you shot through.

    As a UK Citizen with a Canadian PR Card, my experience at the border has ALWAYS been bad. Minimum time through 2 Hours, and that’s when there was a 10 min line-up. Despite the PR card, which US Immigration totally ignored, I had to pull over, line up and go into a building, fill out more forms and so on. Depending on who was in front of me in the line influenced how long it took.

    The only advise I follow on all this is to simply not to make jokes, comments or show any emotion whatsoever.

    It got dangerous at one point when leftantler and I were doing a day trip to Mount Baker. We had to give an address, even though we were not staying in the country. In the end we gave Mount Baker as the address. We were not popular only coming for the day.

    Frankly, the hassle makes me wonder why we would spend any longer? My only way out of all this I’m told is to become a Canadian Citizen (which I like the idea of) and apply for a Nexus card. Current estimate from today of when all this will done, about another 2 years!

    Shame really, if it wasn’t so painful, I’m sure I would go more often.

  2. I’m thinking the American thing does help me as well. You never know, though. I’m banking that some trips are going to be good, and some not so good. Hope it’s not as hectic as yours, and it’s sad to hear that.

    If you can get passed the border dudes, there’s a lot of nice country to be seen, not to mention much nicer people. 🙂

  3. The people that work US Immigration and Customs as ports across the country are the worst. Even as Americans you are treated as a 2nd class citizen returning to the country.

    Although I have never had the 2 hr crossing…I usually sail through, the attitude of people is just terrible. Even in China, the dour faced immigration officers have learned to smile and welcome you to the country. They also have a little customer service voting box…’Did I provide you with good service?’ Press the happy faced button if you liked them or not. In other countries, there is a bowl of candy at the counter and we alwasy get a smile or a ‘welcome to…’ after our documents are done.

    John…you are right…the first impression of the country by people that LEGALLY want to enter is of these rude and sour faced immigration folk. That’s a shame…cuz its so much better once you are inside.

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