Soft landing experience in Peach Arch April 4, 2021

Background:
Have a valid H1B visa. Spouse has an expired H1B and an approved I-797. Both of us live and work in Seattle. Got Covid testing done on Saturday April 3. Originally planned to drive to Peace Arch on Monday. Since covid results came back Sunday morning, we decided to drive on Sunday rather.
Started around 11:30 AM and reached the Canada Border around 1:15 PM.

Documents carried:

  1. COPR
  2. Authorization letters
  3. Goods to follow
  4. Passports (old and new)
  5. Negative covid tests
  6. Vehicle title
  7. Supporting documents such as Medicals, IELTS scores, PCC etc.
  8. I-797 approvals (current and old)
  9. Employment verification letters, Pay stubs, ID cards
  10. Other documents (F1 visa approvals, I-140 approvals etc)

CBSA:
All lanes were closed except 1. We were the 4th car. Each one took about 2 minutes to process.
Officer 1: Please show me your identification
[[ Handed out our passports ]]
Officer 1: What’s the purpose of your visit?
Me: We are here to activate our PRs. We plan to return back immediately
Officer 1: Do you have proof of Negative covid tests?
[[ Handed out the results. Takes a minute to go through them and gives all of it back ]]
Officer 1: Go straight and park at Spot 2. An officer will be there waiting for you.
[[ As the officer was saying it, we saw 3 more officers waiting for us. Parked the car. Took our belongings and got down. ]]
Officer 2: So, you don’t plan to quarantine but want to immediately go back?
Me: Yes
[[The officer walks us into the office. Our kid was excited to see Canadian police cars and she was kind enough to play along ]]
Officer 2: Show me your COPRs
[[ Handed COPRs along with the Authorization letters. After some looking around, she realized that the COPRs were expired on-paper and that she had to print new ones.]]
Officer 2: What would be the address to send your PR cards
[[ We give our Friends address in Toronto ]]
Officer 2: This is in Toronto. Do you plan to live with your friend?
Me: Yes very likely. We may live there until we find a place for our own.
Officer 2: So, to confirm. You plan to move to Tornoto?
[[ We were now a little confused. Not very sure if that made a difference. We now see another officer come in to help. ]]
Officer 3: We cannot send the PR to your friend. We can only ship it to your address once you have one. Contact IRCC once you have made arrangements on your stay.
Me: Can we ask them to ship the PR card even before we move into our new place?
Officer 3: Yes. You can ask them to ship it a few months in advance.
[[ I am still not sure if this is possible ]]
Officer 2: I need to print new COPRs. Please take a seat. I will call you.
[[ We wait for about 5 minutes. No one else in the building except a bunch more officers. Our names get called. ]]

[[ Officer 2 makes us sign our COPR. Officer 3 is now pining the COPRs in our passports. Officer 2 moves on to stamping our goods to follow list. She confirms, once again, that the vehicle parked outside is the only vehicle we will be carrying later. She also talks at length about PR responsibilities. It was mainly about establishing 730 days of residency in 5 years. Apparently some of it can also be accrued while in the US if working for a Canadian employer.]]
Me: I have the arriveCan app filled. Don’t plan to use it. Anything I need to do with that?
Officer 2: You are now permanent residents. I have no authority to prevent you from entering this country. Whether you enter and remain in quarantine or immediately return back is entirely up-to you. To reiterate, I am not stopping you.
[[ I sensed she got a little confused by my question. Her words were pretty refreshing though ]]

[[ Finally officer 3 escorts us outside. Shows us how to head back to the US. Waits until we have actually crossed the border! ]]

US Customs and Border protection:
Immigration:
Officer 1: Show me your identification.
[[ We hand down our passports]]

Officer 1: Do you have authorization to enter the US?
Me: Yes both of us have H1B work visas

Officer 1: Why did you visit Canada:
Me: To activate our PRs. We just crossed the border and now turning back.

[[ Officer now starts to look for the visa page in the passport]]
[[ Checks mine. Ensures visa is Valid. Makes me remove the mask so we can verify identity ]]
[[ Checks spouse’s visa. Notices its expired ]]

Officer 1: Do you have a valid I-797
[[ We hand it out. Checks the name and its validity. Makes spouse remove mask so he can verify identity. Gives back all documents ]]
Officer 1: You are all set.
Me: Do we need new I-94s?
Officer 1: No. You didn’t technically enter Canada. So as far as I am concerned, you never left the US. Next time when you visit Canada, you will need to get a new I-94. [[Looks at my spouse in the passenger seat. ]] And please bring this I-797 the next time so I can re-validate your visa.

[[ We were pretty surprised/shocked at this point but proceeded, nevertheless. Never knew an officer can allow us in without a new I-94 or an arrival stamp.]]
Customs:
[[ We had some issues with fruits in our car. Took 5 minutes to get that sorted ]]

Overall, it took about 1 hour in total. We were disappointed that our addresses for the PR card wasn’t accepted but we were glad that everything else went smoothly.

Now for some questions:

  1. Whom do we contact to get the PR card shipped once we land in Canada?
  2. Officer 3 on the Canada side said we can’t use the signed COPRs to enter Canada by air. We also can’t apply for any visa since we are now permanent residents. She indicated that the only option now is to enter by land. How true is this?
  3. Does the signed COPR always need to be pinned to the passport? It’s a fragile piece of paper and we fear It could be damaged as we use our passport for travel. Can we unpin it and keep it safe?
  4. On the US side, we basically entered Scot-free. Our passports don’t have arrival stamps and there is no new I-94. Has this happened to anyone else before? Are there any repercussions to this?
1 Like

Congratulations on completing your landing.

  1. You need to contact IRCC, there should be a phone number online or you should also be able to submit a webform.
  2. Mostly true, can’t use COpR to fly into Canada. There’s a document called Permanent Resident Travel Document that you can apply for at a Canadian embassy but in all honesty it’s probably easier crossing by road or to just get your PR cards delivered to your friend and have them shipped to you.
  3. No, it certainly doesn’t.
  4. No repercussions.

Hello Basky,
Good evening. As part of your soft landing, where you nominated from a specific province? If so did the province match with your crossing? Please advise.

Congratulations on your landing! I just wanted to double check with you that non-Canadian citizens can also cross the border, right? I’m Korean, currently living in California and I’m planning to do my landing through peace arch boarder. I heard from some people that only the Canadian citizens can cross the border right now and that must not be true right? I have J visa here in US and plan to do landing in early June

Hey @basky, thanks so much for explaining everything in detail. It’s very helpful. I’m also planning to do soft landing via Peace Arch border in a week. I’d be highly indebted if you could please help with the following?

  1. What is the “goods to follow” part of your documents list? Is there any GTF form that I should fill and take with me? I’d be renting a car from Seattle and taking only a few clothes and laptop, while planning to return back immediately (if allowed). Do we need a GTF list/document filled for this?

  2. Could you please confirm the Peace Arch border address you used, was it this?

  3. The official CIC website says that we can only enter if we’re coming to live permanently. Did you face any issues around this or did you just say transparently that you don’t intend to settle in this trip and only coming to activate the PR?

  4. Was your spouse allowed to enter US based on AVR rule? Me and my wife have valid approved I797A, but expired H1B/H4 visa stamps. Did your spouse use the I-94 that is attached at the bottom of I-797? The I-94 on I-94’s official website is still the expired one as it gets updated only when we re-enter US.

@pjain28 Would like to know if you get any leads on this. My COPR is expiring end of this month and not sure if we can do the soft landing. I spoke to the cbsa, they were quick point out that we should not be doing soft landing and we should only travel if we plan to move permanently.

I see. Which number did you call? I think they will definitely say this if we ask specifically about soft landing, because there is no such thing as “soft landing” as per them. On the other hand, there do seem to be folks who did it recently, like this thread, so it all boils down to the officer pretty much. One alternative can be to go stay there for a while and not insist on coming back immediately…

Hi,

I’m planning to soft land through Peace Arch bridge NY border crossing in July. I plan to use AVR since my H1B stamp expired on my passport. Last year in Apr 2020, I booked a visa appointment In India and cancelled it due to covid restrictions. Haven’t travelled outside the US since then. Will I still be able to use AVR option. Please help. Thank you

Thanks for sharing your experience. I have a question. If you go to the i-94 website, is your travel history updated?