Tuesday, September 15, 2015

#GPinCanada: Secondary Investigation at the US-Canada Border

Visiting Seattle in the US was part of our itinerary that week, but Kuya Boy suggested that we do a quick visit to Bellingham on Monday night (the same day we visited Whistler) to get the Secondary Investigation over with so that we would be able to cross the border easily when Ate Evelyn and Salman were with us (they’re Canadian citizens so they don’t have to go through Secondary unless the officer suspects something). So right after dinner, the five of us headed to the US-Canada border at the Aldergrove-Lynden Crossing.

Before our vacation, Hubby and I watched clips and episodes of Border Security: Canada’s Front Line on YouTube, but even though we were “clean and innocent” and had a general idea as to what usually happens, I still felt nervous as we approached the border.

It didn’t help that when we were there, about two or three cars ahead of us, a driver and his companion whose turn it was at the barrier were instructed to step out of their vehicle, handcuffed, and escorted into the building for questioning. Another officer took the car and parked it at an area nearby where everything in it was taken out and thoroughly inspected. The men didn't struggle or cause any commotion, but it was still scary to watch something up close what you're used to see on the screen.

When it was our turn, Kuya Boy gave the officer our passports. He was actually friendly, apologizing for the delay because of what happened earlier, and even joking that Hubby and my brother looked like suspicious adobo and sinigang smugglers ☺ He asked us how many we were in the car, called each of our names and we raised our hands (even Sophie did this when he said her name!), wanted to know where we were heading, how long we planned to stay in the US, and then told us to park the car nearby and go into the building.

My brother said that whether the CBSA Officer suspects something or not, undergoing secondary screening is a standard procedure for people who are not Canadian or American citizens and (1) it’s their first time to cross the border, or (2) their Arrival/Departure Report has expired (this is not the same as a US or Canada visit visa) and they need to renew it.  In our case, we all had to go because it was time for Kuya to renew his I-94A document.

Upon entering the building, we sat down and waited a while until a different officer arrived. First he asked “Who’s the Money Man?” in our group to pay the fees (Hubby), and then proceeded to call us one by one to approach the counter. Hubby was first since he was already in front of him, then my brother, and finally me. Caila and Sophie weren’t called, probably because they were minors. He took our pictures, fingerprints, and handprints before returning our passports with new I-94A Arrival/Departure Reports attached that were valid for 6 months.
That’s it! No interrogation or investigation at all. Whew!

As soon as the car left the crossing and we were on the road heading to Bellingham, Kuya Boy exclaimed “Welcome to America!” We were in the state of Washington! Woohoo!
Familia 27 in the US of A!
Going through the Aldergrove-Lynden Crossing on our way back, Kuya Boy handed over our passports again to the officer, who asked a few questions, a few of which included if we were bringing in any poultry products, weapons, etc. We had none of those things; so as soon as our passports were scanned, he returned them to us while saying “Welcome back to Canada!”

CBSA officers aren’t so bad, after all.

More posts and pictures about our first family trip abroad to follow!

2 comments:

  1. have fun .. enjoy rest of the stay..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Deeps. We did. Those 2 weeks flew by really fast.

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