Simple Planning for Canadians seeking admission to the US as visitors

Unlike citizens of most other countries, Canadians are not required to obtain a visa before applying for admission to the U.S. as visitors (8 CFR 212.1(a)). Instead, Canadians may apply for admission to the US as a visitor by proceeding to a US port of entry and presenting themselves for inspection. To be classified as a visitor, an applicant must meet 3 requirements (INA § 101(a)(15)(b) as interpreted at 9 FAM 402.2-2B):

  1. have a residence abroad that he or she does not intend to abandon,
  2. be coming to the United States for a period of specifically limited duration, and
  3. engage only in legitimate activities while in the United States.

Additionally, applicants for admission to the US in visitor status must rebut the presumption of immigrant intent.

Residence

Your residence is your “principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent” (INA § 101(a)(33)). As evidence of your residence, you should be prepared to present a copy of a valid lease agreement or mortgage statement, and proof that you made the most recent payment (e.g. a copy of a check, bank account statement, or paid invoice). Additionally, you should carry a recent utility bill (and proof of payment) in your name for utilities at the same address referenced in the lease or mortgage agreement. Anyone can own or lease a space, but payment of utilities for that space shows your financial commitment to its operation and supports the claim that you actually “reside” there. Additional evidence of residence may include recent tax returns, pay stubs, and work schedules.

Specifically Limited Duration

For many Canadian visitors, meeting this requirement is as simple as knowing an answer to the following question: “how long are you coming down for?” Thinking about the answer to this question prior to applying for admission may save you some time and hassle at the border. If you are retired (or unemployed), think about what factors would require you to return to Canada and when your presence would be required. Do you have significant assets in Canada (such as a retirement account or additional real estate) that would require you to return to oversee? If so, bring documentary evidence of these assets. Do you take a prescription that you would prefer to re-fill in Canada? Do you have a longstanding relationship with your Canadian physician and have an appointment scheduled? Taken with evidence of your Canadian residence, documents of these ties to Canada will support the proposition that your travel to the US will have a limited duration.

Legitimate Activities

Legitimate activities” in the US includes declining unauthorized employment, and enrollment in a course of study is prohibited (8 CFR 214.2(b)(7)). Therefore, you should be prepared to show evidence that you can support yourself for the duration of your trip to the US without accepting employment. Such evidence may include recent bank statements showing that you have sufficient funds for food and lodging during your trip. Additionally, you should have some evidence of the activities you plan to undertake. For example, if you are going to Disneyland, have a copy of tickets and hotel reservations ready.

Some activities that have been recognized as “legitimate” include engaging in commercial transactions, competing in sports (recreational and brief professional try-outs), seeking investment, participating in conferences, and taking vacations.

Conclusion

Preparation for travel can make inspection at the border more pleasant, and in some cases eliminate the need for referral to secondary inspection. By having documentary evidence of their qualification for visitor status, and making specific plans to return home, Canadians can increase the likelihood of a successful, stress-free border crossing.

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