Canadians planning to visit the United States are not required to have a visa. You might think that is one of the obvious sentences in this blog along with "Gary Bettman hates Canada" and "there are no polar bears in Windsor, Ontario."
Manpreet Kooner is a Canadian citizen who was born in Canada with a Canadian passport. Kooner and her two white female friends were headed for a spa day in Vermont when they went through customs at Highgate Springs, VT. The other two women were reportedly not questioned by the border officers, but Kooner said she was kept for 6 hours before being denied entry. Kooner said a border agent told her: "I know you may feel like you've been Trumped."
The incident happened before the new Donald Trump travel ban. Kooner's ancestry is Indian. Unlike the Moroccans who ran into trouble, religion wasn't a factor.
As you can see above, Kooner is classified as an immigrant without a visa as the reason given for denial.
There are categories that require a visa, such as coming to marry a U.S. citizen. A day spa trip isn't in one of those categories. Proof of a reservation at a spa is considered enough in normal circumstances for crossing.
Kooner was told she had to go to the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, even with a consulate in Montréal, where she lives. Kooner made the 400-km round trip to the embassy on Sussex Drive across from the Byward Market. The embassy officials couldn't help Kooner (left, in the picture at the top of the story outside the U.S. embassy in Ottawa) because she didn't need an immigrant visa.
Kooner did have trouble getting into the United States in December. The group had to wait until the next day to cross, but the delay was tied to a computer problem. Kooner and her group did successfully cross into the United States.
The passage to the left is from the U.S. State Department Web site. I have anecdotal evidence of U.S. customs requiring non-immigrant visas for some Canadians to enter the United States. Some of this happened before January 20. They were referred to the B-1 visa for business or B-2 visa for tourists.
The B-2 tourist visa costs $160 and requires an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate if you are between the ages of 14-79. And there is definitely a wait involved for the interview.
Kooner's situation is much more difficult because U.S. customs wanted her to get an immigrant visa as a Canadian citizen.
Kooner had planned to go to Miami at the end of the month for music festival and had spent more than $1,000 on tickets. She also had planned to host her bachelorette party in Miami in May. All those plans are on hold.
Even if we are kind and generous to the U.S. customs officials, requiring a visa, immigrant or non-immigrant, of Canadian citizens who are visiting the United States is a radically significant step that officials on both sides of the border know nothing about this move. Given the number of Canadians who cross into the United States, very few of them are subject to these new laws, which aren't actually laws. And they don't seem to be applied equally under the "laws."
No matter whether you are Canadian or American, you probably know the story of Khizr Khan, who spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention against Donald Trump and potential Muslim bans. Khan's son — Capt. Humayun Khan, 27 — was killed in Iraq in 2004. Khan was supposed to be in Toronto today to speak at a luncheon.
Sunday night, Khan, a U.S. citizen, was told that his "travel privileges are being reviewed." The luncheon was cancelled.
"In a statement to CBC News, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it does not contact travellers in advance of their travel out of the United States."
I don't trot out Orwellian references at random; "travel privileges are being reviewed" qualifies as Orwellian. This isn't Canada denying Khan entry. This is Khan's home country, where he is a citizen, saying don't go anywhere just before he was scheduled to be in Canada.
We are going to end on a positive note, that is, if you are a Canadian snowbird. A bill running through the U.S. Congress will extend the snowbirds stay from 183 days (approximately 6 months) to 8 months out of the year. To qualify, Canadians over the age of 55 need home ownership or a rental agreement for the duration.
If Canadians stay within the restrictions, they don't have to file U.S. taxes. The idea of being in another country for ⅔ of the year and not be considered citizens is rather unusual.
The real concern for Canadians is how long they can stay out of Canada in terms of health insurance. Provinces determine the amount of time. The vast majority of the provinces allow up to 7 months away. Quebec and Prince Edward Island require 6 months plus a day in the province.
photos credit: CBC News/Manpreet Kooner/travel.state.gov