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.
- Authorization letters
- Goods to follow
- Passports (old and new)
- Negative covid tests
- Vehicle title
- Supporting documents such as Medicals, IELTS scores, PCC etc.
- I-797 approvals (current and old)
- Employment verification letters, Pay stubs, ID cards
- Other documents (F1 visa approvals, I-140 approvals etc)
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?
[[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:
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.]]
[[ 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:
- Whom do we contact to get the PR card shipped once we land in Canada?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?