Length of Stay

Summer 2011 CSANews Issue 79  |  Posted date : Jul 08, 2011.Back to list

I travel to Arizona for six months every winter and also cross the border to shop in the summer months. A friend told me that every border-crossing for shopping counts as a day in the U.S. and that I cannot exceed six months' total in the U.S. or risk being banned from the U.S. for five years. Is this true?

Jack Johnston
Kelowna, BC


Response:

Ed: Put simply, yes. Will it happen, is a totally different question. Up until recently, the people-tracking systems were not very effective in the U.S. With the advent of the new Homeland Security, their computer systems are improving rapidly and I expect that we will see more people getting caught up in these rules. Any part of a day does count as a full day, though. The banning process is somewhat different on a case-by-case basis, due to the latitude and power given to individual immigration agents. They basically have the right to do what they think is best to protect the United States. We have seen cases of bans for five years and some for 10 years and some with no penalty other than, “Leave now and don’t do it again.” They do have the right to arrest/detain/deport you as well, but we have not been advised of any CSA members being arrested.

Another possible penalty is to deny you a verbal B-2 visa on your next trip(s) and put this in their computers. This will force you to go to a U.S. consulate in Canada to apply for a written B-2 visa. This will usually entail getting a form I-94 or I-94W, which will state specifically the date on which you have to be out of the U.S. If they approve your trip, which they may not, it will usually be for 90 days or fewer. A border official can actually give you one of these forms when you are crossing, if he has any doubt about you leaving when you say you will. They usually do this when they restrict you to 30 or 60 or 90 days, which they often do. You then must turn this in when you leave the U.S. and, if you are late, the sirens go off.