I made a trip to Toronto and am back in SF now. Both, the events came with at a certain level of weird experience at the border.
I flew back to Toronto for 2 days in order to attend my MBA convocation ceremony. I had a strange feeling in my tummy the entire time I was there. I was nervous that I would be stopped at the border. I am not sure how, but I am always right about these weird feelings. And, bam, here is how the conversation went:
Officer A: How are you two related?
Hitesh: She is my wife.
Officer: What do you do in the US?
Hitesh: I am a consultant.
Officer: Why are you going to SF?
Hitesh: I am working on a project.
Officer: Please have your left index finger on the machine and take off your glasses for the picture.
Officer: Stamps his passport and done!
Officer: How are you two related?
Shalu: (Thinking) "Didn't he just ask us that"?
Shalu: (Talking) We are married.
Officer: Are you on H1B as well?
Shalu: Um no.
Officer: Do you have a visa?
Shalu: (Thinking) "What?? I have a Canadian passport, did the rules change in the last 2 days...I don't need a visa..."
Shalu: (Talking) I don't think I need a visa.
Officer: (patronizing tone) Is that right?
Shalu: (Thinking) "Oh no!the conversation will go downhill from here"
Shalu: (Talking) Well, do I?
Officer: Do you guys live together?
Shalu: (Thinking) "OMG, trick question..trick question...do not answer"
Shalu: (Talking) Well, I am going on a vacation.
Officer: You haven't answered my question.
Shalu: (Talking) I look at Hitesh, who gives me a very charming smile...I keep looking at him, smile, and answer,"Yes, we do!"
Officer: (Expressionless) -> makes a note and sends us for secondary inspection.
As expected, the secondary inspection officer was convinced that since my husband works in the US and that I am a Canadian Citizen, there was no way that I was ever coming back to Canada.
He asked me for a marriage certificate.
He made me buy a return ticket.
He stamped a return date on my passport. As a Canadian citizen, you do NOT get stamped ever. You can visit US conveniently.
He was super friendly after I bought the ticket and adviced me to go on H4!
Well, obviously I was upset. Anyhow, I came back to SF.
A few things happened in that experience that made me wonder whether the officer 's concern was accurate.
- The answer to the question,"Do you two live together?" should have been,"Yes, we did in Canada, but not in the US". Perhaps, that may not have made me look like a liar! However, I felt that it was a catch 22 situation - had I said, "No", he would have argued that we are not married since we did not have our marriage certificate on us.
- Later, I found out that the intent of an H4 and a Canadian visit's to US is pretty close. The officer's concern was that in order to legally stay in US and visit Hitesh many times, I should go on H4 rather than travel as a Canadian.
Question: Why does US have a NAFTA treaty with Canada and Mexico if it wants people to go on H4? Why is everyone viewed as a threat? I fail to understand how my visiting US as a Canadian citizen any different than being on an H4. I cannot work or do anything else in the US on either of the visas. On the contrary, an H4 encourages me to stay in the US??!?
I am confused.
My intention was to stay until the end of August. The officer was not accurate in his judgment.
I have until the end of July to decide whether or not I want to go on an H4. I wish the officer had empathized with my situation as well - Of course, Hitesh and I live with each other - we are married. Perhaps, a better question from the officer's part should have been,"Where do you guys live?" and not "Do you live with each other?"
Lessons learned from that experience:
A. Never travel without your marriage certificate - a ring on your finger is not enough.
B. Never look at Hitesh while crossing the border and get floored by his smile!