Closed Border, closed economy, closing opportunities

The other day Tim O’Reilly tweeted about this New York Times article. Entitled – Chicago’s Loss: Is Passport Control to Blame? – the piece struck a chord with me since my last two efforts to cross into the United States from Canada have been dramatically unpleasant experiences. Turns out that others – including IOC selection committee members – feel the same way:

Among the toughest questions posed to the Chicago bid team this week in Copenhagen was one that raised the issue of what kind of welcome foreigners would get from airport officials when they arrived in this country to attend the Games. Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago’s official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be “a rather harrowing experience.”

Border-SecurityHarrowing indeed! I crossed the border two weeks ago on my way to French Lick, Indiana, to attend a bio-informatics conference. I wasn’t paid to attend, and had been invited by the founders of OpenMRS to whom I occasionally volunteer some advice and just think are all around great guys who I’d do pretty much anything for. Is a conference work or pleasure? Not really either, but to be safe, I said work. Big mistake. The border security officer said he didn’t care if I was not getting paid, work is work (don’t even bother trying to explain to him what an open source community is) and he was inclined to red flag my passport and take away my TN (work) visa. It was a terrifying experience (and frankly, on the scale of what people can be accused or suspected of at the border economic issues are important but relatively less concerning than political or criminal ones – although don’t underestimate the fear generated by seeing part of ones livelihood flash before ones eyes).

All this is made worse by the fact that there is, effectively, no appeals process. Yes, maybe you can talk to somebody higher up, but the will likely take hours (long after your flight is to depart in 90 minutes) or even days (once the conference or event you intended to attend or speak at has long since ended). You are at the mercy of the person you’re in front of.

All this may sound unfortunate but it has significant implications, political and economic implications. International travel to the United States is down 10% in the first quarter of 2009 – a big part of this is likely related to the economy, but I suspect that fewer and fewer people are choosing the United States as a destination. But vacationers are minor in comparison to the impact on innovation and economic development. Today, it is harder and harder for the best minds in the world to work for American companies and to do graduate work at American universities. This means America’s elite will interact less and less with leading thinkers from elsewhere and its companies will have to rely on American talent, and not international talent, to succeed. 

Already the cracks are showing. Google has employees who are forced to work in Canada since they can’t work in the United States. And Microsoft recently opened a software development facility in Vancouver because US immigration laws made it too difficult to bring in top talent. Indeed, I’m increasingly persuaded that the new convention centre in Vancouver was a smart investment. If you are hosting a conference with Americans and internationals in attendance there is no way you are going to host it in the United States.

Do Americans understand what is going on? Probably not. While some of the above articles have appeared in the news section of the newspaper the Olympic story appeared in the Travel section – hardly the place to raise a red flag for politicians. At least the President seems to now understand that it is an issue:

President Obama, who was there as part of the 10-person team, assured Mr. Ali that all visitors would be made to feel welcome. “One of the legacies I want to see is a reminder that America at its best is open to the world,” he said.”

I hope he’s successful since the consequences of the status quo will be ugly for the United States. A closed border is like a closed mind – over time you become less receptive to new ideas or information and begin to atrophy.

72 thoughts on “Closed Border, closed economy, closing opportunities

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  2. WhiteRabbit3

    Yeah, I never just say “work” when I cross the border. “Attending a convention” is fine. “Meetings with our Houston office” is also good. But the following is not recommended…Customs: “How long will be you be in the U.S.?”You: “What makes you think I have child porn on my laptop?”

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  4. Gregg

    Let's not forget that you can be detained at the border by a US official without disclosed reason. My understanding (though needs to be verified) is that you are not necessarily allowed a phone call or communication with 'outside world'. At least, this was what was 'suggested' to me my a US border person when I fumbled with my response to their questions. Kinda seemed like a threat to me.

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  5. scott

    It's pretty much the same going into Canada as a US citizen, actually. If you say you're going for “work” they give you a hard time. If you say you're visiting a friend, they're all good. What's more, I had a friend who had his computer searched for 20-30 minutes by ineffective Canadian border guards who finally revealed they were looking for “porn”. Finally, I saw Toronto customs agents refuse to let an islamic woman who couldn't get out of her wheelchair go through security gates.I'm not saying that Canada is quite as bad as the US, but it is not dramatically different, either.Then again, I never get the short end of the US stick as a citizen, although the Atlanta customs guy shook me down for an hour over a damned bag of granola one time.

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  6. AH

    Give me a break. Try telling Canadian customs you are there for “work” and see what happens. You think the answer is different? No way — I did the same thing (academic “work”) and I was (a) rejected by Canada, (b) searched thoroughly by the US (“the Canadians wouldn't let you in? Let's look deeper) and I needed an emergency fax for the University stating no Canadian could do my “job,” for which I was not being paid anyway.So give me a “harrowing” break — it's called “domestic protectionism” and it's hardly unique to the US. There's a lot harrowing about customs (even for an American returning to his own country) but telling another country you're here to work — well, people don't sneak across the border to work for no reason. Ever heard of H1B visa? Green cards? Oh, I guess I should be able to just say “here for work” and most countries will welcome me with open arms.You sir are a moron.

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  7. prestondeguise

    I've been to the US twice – first time before September 11, second time after. Immigration people at LA directing incoming passengers were rude both times, but I guess in one of the busiest airports in the world that can be understandable.However, since the introduction of mandatory fingerprinting for people coming in, and increasing reports of laptop seizure and searches, I've lost all interest in travelling to the US. I'm not going anywhere that I'm treated like a criminal before I've even made it past immigration.

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  8. Ron Lussier

    I have to admit that the one time I entered Canada with a camera and told them I was a photographer, I was made to fill out tons of forms and it took about 2 hours to cross the border.

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  9. davidgillam

    I don't know about others, but I can speak for myself. I'm a US citizen, and I've travelled to many countries for various reasons. Even when I went to East Germany (before the Soviet Union fell), the Communist guards did not give me as much heck as the US border guards almost always do. On one trip to Germany, there was absolutely no questions about my “business trip” going into Germany. When I tried to return home to the US, the US guards shook me down for almost 2 hours in a side room. I had no “right” to a phone call, representation, or anything. I had no right to ask them anything (including why I was being “interviewed”). They finally got tired of their game, and let me continue on my way. On another day trip to Vancouver (I had been interviewing at Amazon, and had a weekend free), the Canadian guards were more than happy to let me in, knowing it was only a day trip. Upon trying to get back into the US, the US guards literally put dents in the rental car, were yelling at me, and read all my interview notes and other papers I had in the car with me. In neither case was I rude or unresponsive to the guards. I answered quickly and accurately all their questions.I totally agree with the perception that crossing into the US is usually a “harrowing experience”.

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  10. Gregg

    Certainly unwarranted and unappreciated language AH, is there really a need to use excessive language. As for coming into Canada, very true, it can be just as difficult if you are coming for 'work'. However, there is no Homeland Protection legislation that allows CDN border officials from stripping you of your rights for an undertemined length of time (hehe, the length of time is outlined…), and there are no non-CDN detention facilities you can be housed at (we just ship you off to a Country that does that for you).

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  11. John Harrison

    My worst business travel experience was traveling with a demonstration device from the US to Canada. Toronto was always great, but Montreal was horrendous. I was detained for two hours and lectured on the evils of Walmart and the joys of union membership. I am not making this up. The agent I was being lectured by showed real anger towards me and Americans in general. I finally told her that I was well aware of the Walmart and unions situation that she was mad about but that I had nothing to do with it, and that personally I don't care for Walmart at all. Then I was left alone for about 45 minutes in a giant room with nobody there and no indication of when someone would assist me.Finally they decided to charge me $1,000 and demanded cash. When I refused to pay cash and insisted on using a credit card the computer the had to run the charge through wouldn't allow them to charge me $1,000 based on the inputs they gave it, so they reluctantly charged me the $300 the computer had indicated was the correct amount. They said I'd get it back when I took the printer out of the country.When I left with the printer I filled out the paperwork to get my money back, but I never did.My guess is that most countries treat business travelers from other lands like crap if you get the wrong agent, because someone who is having a bad day has the power to ruin yours for their own pleasure. Fortunately that has only happened to me once.

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  12. Derek K. Miller

    In my experience, border crossing have been variously pleasant and unpleasant for decades. Long before 9/11, I traveled with friends who had their car searched; in the '90s, another friend was refused entry indefinitely because the guard thought my friend was going to try working illegally in Hawaii (and, as a subtext, it seemed, because he's openly gay and the guard didn't like that).Yet this past August I crossed with my wife and two friends on a trip to a conference in Seattle with nothing but a friendly chat with the U.S. guard about the Edgewater Hotel and the Frank Zappa song “The Mud Shark,” of all things. I've had similarly friendly and surly encounters returning into Canada, both by car and by air.The key thing is, unless you're actually going to work, i.e. get paid for what you're doing in the U.S., with appropriate visas, you should NEVER say that you're attending for work. Conference, pleasure, meeting, whatever are usually fine. But “work” is almost as loaded a word as “bomb.”

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  13. El Aura

    I think the 'robust attitude' of U.S. officials is somewhat linked to the aversion to state intervention of the American society. Because of this, the state whenever it intervenes, somehow feels it necessary to project a tough image to restore some of the respect it might otherwise not receive.That at least is my impression from Europe (where thankfully border controls are largely gone), having been to the U.S. and Canada multiple times and having lived there a while as well.

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  14. Derek K. Miller

    Oh, and as a Canadian, I should add one more thing: I have cancer, and since it's a pre-existing condition I won't travel any further than Seattle or somewhere similar where I can rip back to the border within a couple of hours is something goes haywire. I can't get travel insurance that will cover me for anything cancer-related, and while Canadian health care pays for costs out of country, it only pays what it would cost IN CANADA for the same treatment.Given the bizarre way U.S. healthcare works, I'd get charged way more than that, and would probably be bankrupted if I got ill. No doubt that's an extra deterrent for people visiting or planning to move to the U.S., at least in some cases.

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  15. Jim Dovey

    To AH:Please re-read the article. The author stated that by saying 'work' the officer threatened to remove his NAFTA work visa. You know, the special visa which allows members of any NAFTA country to work in another NAFTA country. The purpose of that visa is so that you can do *exactly* this sort of thing. It's frowned upon to use such a visa to work for many years in the US, but for short term contracts it's ideal.I should say to those who've had a problem getting into Canada that it's much the same everywhere. However, if you plan for it you'll usually be fine, as I have been every time I've entered Canada to work over the last 6 years. I'm a British citizen, so I don't get a NAFTA visa at all, I have to go with the full monty. I had to go through the immigration blokes, but I got in without any obvious problems. They're just trained to try and prevent people from working without the proper authorization.On the other hand, I'm due to interview with Apple in Cupertino later this week. I'm pretty sure that if I state that I'm entering the country for 48 hours to interview for a potential position dependent on my obtaining an H1-B visa that I'll be refused entry, because now the *border guards* are allowed to make decisions about this sort of thing (when really it's a question for the *immigration* authorities who issue or deny the visas themselves).I'm going to tell them I'm going for a meeting, and then if Apple decides to hire me and start the H1-B application process on my behalf, I'll have some paperwork to show off next time I need to enter the country. Based on this story though, it seems that the border guard has the power to invalidate that paperwork/visa should they choose to do so, which leads to the question: after the 5+ month wait for a visa, will it even allow me to enter the country, or will a particularly self-righteous border guard just cancel it? I'll be travelling back & forth fairly often (my wife is Polish, so she and our daughter stand *no chance* of getting permission to reside in CA with me), so I expect to undergo excalating degrees of scrutiny each time I do so.

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  16. Jonathan

    Ditto on the criminal comment. In my prior job I had to travel to the US from the UK for academic conferences and I greatly resented the fact that you are treated like a crook before you even get on the plane, never mind at the airport in the US when you arrive (fingerprinting, photograph). Also, the downright abusive and rude immigration staff are a tremendous disincentive to suffer the indignity any more in the future. Hell, now I've changed jobs and I no longer have to go to the US for business, I will most definitely never travel there for pleasure.Sadly, I fear much of the same can probably be said for travelling to the UK if you are a non-EU citizen. Rude staff are guaranteed, that's for sure.

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  17. el_visitador

    «my wife is Polish, so she and our daughter stand *no chance* of getting permission to reside in CA with me»You are misinformed. If an H1B is secured for you, and you are legally married to your spouse, and she and your daughter are included in your H1B application, they automatically are issued visas enabling them to live in the U.S. for the duration of the visa.Caution, however: for the border goons, you can never “reside” in CA with the H1B. You can only “live” there. Using the word “reside” is just as using the word “bomb” or the word “work” as stated in the article.

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  18. yoshi

    Now the rest of the world knows what its like to travel to their countries. Rudeness abounds through all checkpoints. I showed up with a colleague at Heathrow airport for a whole two day trip. The problem was he disappeared. Found out his old work visa expired, he stated he was there for work but no longer lived there so it shouldn't of mattered. Simple paperwork mix up? Didn't matter. On a plane back to the states by the end of the day. I've had similar experiences in other countries. The simple fact is that you need to do the proper research, have documents in order, and be prepared. Not to say there isn't problems (consistency is a key one) – but the problems persist at all checkpoints. We can definitely do a better job and I've noticed things improving a bit.

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  19. AH

    Apologies for the language but not the gist — you took a couple incidents and made some sweeping generalizations about the evils of American customs. Pre-9/11, I had the same sort of horrible things happen to me in Canada. Every time I visit Canada now, it's to see some friends from college. I don't wear a work shirt, either — that has tripped up colleagues. As someone who works for a small company that does business everywhere in the first world, Canada is very protective. We routinely have to fax over invoices, purchase orders, etc, in order to get our technicians past customs. We do not experience this in Europe or Japan. I wouldn't however choose to say bad things about Canada because of it — the whole goal is “to protect Canadian jobs.” The first, second, tenth question is always, “could a Canadian do the job.” In our case, no, absolutely not, we make esoteric widgets. Does that stop customs from being difficult? No, never. Do I understand why they do it? Sure. Same reason I understand US customs. It is par for the course, and unless you have some other evidence, you're making a mountain out of a mole hill. And that's why I think you're in the wrong. You can't just say “hey, the Canadians, they'll never do this, not allowed!” Not buying it, as evidenced by the comments above — travel abroad for work is hard everywhere. And that's because permission to work is actually a serious right a country has to bestow on people.

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  20. El Aura

    In Europe, with the main exception of the UK and Ireland and some eastern and southeastern states, border controls are basically gone. Yes, you still have passport controls at the airports but they are mainly there to verify the identity of the passengers (and their luggage). Showing a passport is about the same as showing you ticket in a train. In other words, the least problems with checkpoints are if there are no checkpoints.Maybe Europe is an exception but it makes me wonder why the U.S. and Canada could not agree on a joint set of rules (and databases) and abolish border controls between them?

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  21. Jim Dovey

    «If an H1B is secured for you, and you are legally married to your spouse, and she and your daughter are included in your H1B application, they automatically are issued visas enabling them to live in the U.S. for the duration of the visa.»Thanks for that— the only information I found was something showing that the H1-B didn't allow spouses or family members the ability to work in the US, so I'd assumed that there was no ordinary visa coverage for them. My wife is just starting a new business here, so actually can't move right now, but it would certainly help them come visit.

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  22. Just an Australian

    I am an Australian who travels to USA and Canada for conventions regularly. I don't mind being fingerprinted, and investigated, that's fine. The scary part of traveling to USA is the capriciousness of the process, and the lack of redress. Add to this that I could legally disappear at the border… Fortunately I am a WASP, but if I wasn't, I certainly would no longer be coming to USA. My experience of Canada is not like that – I get treated much more consistently.The conference center in Vancouver is not very useful, because there are *very few* flights to get to Vancouver that don't mean going through USA (Air NZ has one, I hear), and you can't travel through USA without getting a visa or a visa-waiver. (just another STUPID on the part of the USA border arrangements). So if you can't get to USA, you most likely can't get to Vancouver.

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  23. Eric3

    As a student, I crossed the Michigan-Ontario border at least 60 times and several more thereafter. I've found border crossings generally go smoothest if you 1) have your documents handy and properly filled out, 2) maintain eye contact, 3) make every answer you give 5 words or less, and 4) avoid the above-mentioned danger words like “work” and such. Do some basic research before you leave so you have answers ready; in one instance I had to expain to the guard at the desk the intricacies of my status as a working student. Being able to answer questions readily and confidently will do much to avoid triggering their radar. Remember that border guards, regardless of the country they work for, have been trained to react automatically to certain trigger words, actions, mannerisms, and situations, rather than think things through. Their job is to keep things and people OUT of the country, and you want to avoid implying that you'll be doing anything other than staying for a limited amount of time and leaving anything other than your money behind.

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  24. John Smith

    As a non-American I've travelled extensively through the USA since the eighties. I dare say I've seen more of it than most Americans.In the past four years I've turned down four all-expenses-paid trips to the USA. “Hey, there's this conference–” “Is it in the USA?” “Yeah.” “Not interested.”It's not worth my time or my dignity. When conferences and business meetings get scheduled, I make sure someone else goes. Inevitably they get back complaining about some jackbooted stormtrooper screaming “PAPERS! PAPERS!” at them, and vow never to go through it again.

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  25. James

    “I've found border crossings generally go smoothest if you … make every answer you give 5 words or less …”I've found it best to aim for a two word limit on answers, the second word always being “sir” or “ma'am”.

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  26. peterjjackson

    This has been going on for a very long time. Back in the 70s and 80s, as a UK-based tech journalist, I had a multiple indefinite visa for entry to the US that worked fine. It even worked after the passport it was in expired, 10 years later. Then it was arbitrarily cancelled on one US trip, and since then I've had to use the visa waiver scheme and learn to… errrr… adjust the truth on each entry. Don't say you're a journalist; don't say you're intending to send emails back from the conference you'll be at; pretend to be a technical consultant for the company hosting the event; in short, don't give the perfectly natural replies that you would give in response to anybody but an immigration official.Of course, I could have tried to get a full visa to work as a UK-based journalist on visits to the US. Good luck with that, younger aspirants.Actually, I suspect I've been committing an offence by not saying on the visa waiver that my multiple indefinite visa was cancelled. In which case, I didn't say any of this.

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  28. Another Aussie

    As another Aussie, and indeed one who is married to a Yank, I have crossed the US border (and many others) dozens of times. It's hard to generalize behaviour, but that main sense is one captured above: consistency. The same answer one day is a red flag the next. It's a tough job, to be sure, and systems are probably modified often enough to avoid complacency or habits forming, but its almost hard not to be nervous every time you step up, because you really are not sure what you will get each time. The “induce fear” approach does seem to be core to the role, as opposed to an understanding that these are often the first impression a visitor has of the countries inhabitants. What I do find tiring is that LA and NY have some of the most bedraggled international airports I have ever used. They are old, slow, ill-equipped, and (apart from the ticket counter staff, who do put in customer service effort) the apparent feeling of disdain you get from staff in the terminal when you ask a question is sometimes quite astonishing. Often no eye contact, no patience, and all the non-verbal cues to illustrate how much they hate their job (and you really are interrupting their desire to do as little as possible). The sense of resentful entitlement was so palpable on our last trip back through JFK that my wife even mentioned it.America is, to quote an Australia expression, a very “lucky country”, so it's hard to understand why the gainfully employed want to act like it's all so miserable. But in the end, it's hard to pin this one only one country, as every country has 'em.

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  29. David Eaves

    AH – what I think is interesting is that the advice a lot of people are giving in the comment section of this blog is… lie. This of course is the worst outcome for border services (on both side of the border) as they are effectively criminalizing average honest citizens. Maybe I am a moron for erring on (what I thought was) the side of caution but the problem with conferences is that they are neither (paid) work nor personal… I'm sure that things can be equally unpleasant crossing the other way although I've heard far fewer stories from my American friends. The real point was not to have people dwell on my personal anecdote but to highlight was the newspapers are suggesting is a systemic problem in the US.I'd be interested to see our governments explore the option of a customs union between Canada and the United States so that we could dispense with the border altogether but at the moment there are more congressmen who equate us with Mexico then who see us as a different type of fish.

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  30. Keith Lang

    I've travelled to the US twice from Australia. I've never experienced any hostility entering the country through LA or SFO. I do like the form where I need to tick the box if I'm a terrorist or nazi. LA is not much of a fun experience, but I found if you're a little prepared to take your shoes off and wait around, then that's OK. On the other hand, I'm a white male, and I travel in khakis and conservative dress in order to seem as least 'interesting' as possible. I wouldn't feel as confident if I was a large-bearded Middle-Eastern guy.I found Europe more relaxed than the US in general, although I saw two police in Amsterdam airport walking around openly holding scary looking semi-automatic rifles, which being Australian I've never seen. Dutch customs does have a sense of humour though:http://skitch.com/keith/nb9uk/dockMoving to work in the US, which I'm considering, is another matter entirely. I don't much like the concept of being an 'alien'. The US healthcare system (or lack thereof) scares the hell out of me.

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  31. Greg

    If you're a Canadian or U.S. resident and are often crossing the Can/US border, consider applying for NEXUS:http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/prog/nexus/menu-eng….Apart from the fact that your retinas are scanned and stored in a government database (spooky in a way), it makes crossing the border a breeze. There are dedicated machines at the border that scan your retinas and print out a document.When entering Canada, you skip talking to the customs agent (at the big airports, at least). When entering the U.S., you still have to talk to someone (and saying that you're coming in for “work”… sigh… well yeah, what the other commenters said…).In any case, you are considered a “trusted traveler” and that definitely seems to speed up the process.Cheers

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  32. John Daggett

    As an American working in Japan, I travel fairly frequently back to the States and to Europe. The level of rudeness and inhospitableness on the part of those working at the US immigration counters and security checkpoints is beyond compare, it always saddens me. Some may feel that it's required due to threats but that's simply not the case; other countries manage airport security and immigration measures that are far more rigorous while at the same time allowing travelers to maintain their dignity. Airports in Japan do a much more careful inspection of carry-on luggage but the lines are well-organized and the screeners well-trained and polite. For Americans, the immigration counter going into Canada can be tough but it's always polite and reasonable, the immigration officials have obviously been thoroughly trained. Compare this with the latex gloved American immigration officials who are either seem like those who couldn't quality for the local police force or just got out of the military, they never seem like they've ever traveled outside of the country or understand basic tenets of customer service. Playing tough guy does not improve border security.

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  33. Jamie

    I almost got thrown in jail just for showing up in the UK… Anyway, the three countries that I hate crossing customs in the most are the UK, United States and my own, Canada, I avoid travel to any of the three like its the plague.

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  36. trashbat

    The real problem here is the lack of right to redress – ticket inspectors and club bouncers equally being jobs where the element of power gets translated into a right to be rude / hostile. The rest of us – who might actually like to be rude / hostile to the idiots we deal with, have at least had a good few decades of the importance of customer service being drilled into us, and know that if we're rude to someone, there's a good chance they will complain to our seniors.I wonder how things would change if someone introduced something as simple as one of those feedback machines that supermarket till operators have to suffer – the ones where the customer gets to decide if the till operator had been smiley enough to them? Mystery travellers?

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  37. Simon Griffee

    “And that's because permission to work is actually a serious right a country has to bestow on people.”People are important. Countries are not. Borders in the US, and everywhere, should be abolished.

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  38. jake grimshaw

    “So give me a “harrowing” break — it's called “domestic protectionism” and it's hardly unique to the US.”No, not unique. Just much worse. A friend of mine recently visiting the US said that going through customs there was like being in bootcamp. The 'guards' were offensive and threatening, shouting at anyone who didn't get in line properly or who had any questions. This friend was unfortunate enough to be female, so when she was frisked by a male inspector she had to just stand there as he slowly ran his eyes over her body not even trying to hide the fact that he was in control, and she'd just have to stand there and be visually groped. She knew that if she objected, then she'd be taken away to a private room for a full search and several hours intense questioning. Not a good introduction to the US.My sister-in-law who visits the States regularly says that customs processing and the inspectors have become noticeably worse over the last 5 years. It's still worth the hassle, she says, but it's now close thing.

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  39. darwin11

    The well known financial services company I work (as a contractor) for has laid off many American employees and hired Indians. Many good american jobs have been given to foreigners because they are cheaper and will not complain for fear of being sent back. So I'll take my chances on doing without foreign labor rather than skilled americans losing their jobs. Stay in your own countries and build them up instead of leeching off of ours. I think somehow we will manage.

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  40. Nic Wise

    This is both inline, and at odds, with my experience.I came to the US in summer 2007 (2 years ago), when working out the end of a job for a US company (I was working for an NZ company, and we were bought by a US company). We came in for 89 days – because the limit on the visa waver program (I'm from New Zealand) is 90 days. I was asked “why 89 days?” – I replied “'cos the limit is 90 and I want at least 1 days wiggle room”. No problem.I find it a lot harder to get into Canada – the US only cares about finger prints, a photo, and… well, that's about it. The Canadians are generally friendlier, but they sound like they care about their border. More why, where, how long, who etc. All of which I have no issue answering.Maybe I've only hit nice people, or I don't appear “suspect”. It's not the airport, thats for sure – I've come into LAX, SFO, Boston, New York, Philly – same deal in all cases.Funniest one was “why you coming here?” – “conference – about wealth creation” – ahha!! – “so, how much money you got with you” – (looking in my wallet) “um, about £20…..”That said, the most direct routes from New Zealand to London is either via Hong Kong or LA. LA used to be the most popular, but since we now have to do in, go thru customs and immigation, get our bags, recheck our bags, then sit in the airport for an hour….. lets just say it's easy to get a seat via LA, and REALLY hard to get one via Hong Kong.:)

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  41. Magnus

    I just whish other contries, e.g. the EU, would take advantage of the situation and use it to their benefit. “Oh, I can't get into the US, I'll go to Europe instead for my PhD.”

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  42. cjottawa

    Shipping packages between the US and Canada has, similarly, become more hassle than it's worth.When I order goods from England or China, for example, I have to jump through fewer hoops (less paperwork, fewer restrictions on imports) and pay less in fees than I do bringing items into Canada from the USA.My experience at the border has generally been pleasant with Canadian border guards usually ending the conversation with “welcome home.” US guards vary between polite, curt and gruff. Fortunately I haven't said anything to set them off.Regardless, I avoid traveling to the US as much as possible for the reason stated by another commenter: “lack of redress.” I am a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen of Canada. I see no reason to put myself in a situation where my rights are forfeit. Traveling to the USA puts me at risk.

    Reply
  43. improbable

    You do need a visa to change planes in Canada, too. I found this out the hard way, while living in the US and trying to get to Europe…

    Reply
  44. Rob

    As someone who once had a border control agent actually scream at me and threaten to 'take me into custody' because I complained that I'd been instructed to stand at a passport control booth where no attending member of staff had been in over 30 minutes, I have total sympathy with your concerns.When they finally noticed that there was a line of frightened people who weren't being attended to, we were then called 'god damn jackasses who were wasting their time'.Great way to start a holiday in NY.

    Reply
  45. John Daggett

    That's a problem with our screwed up immigration laws that effectively make H1 visa holders indentured servants. More flexible labor laws as other countries have would go a long way to eliminating this, Indian workers can complain and get paid like everyone else. In general, immigrants add to the labor pool which makes the whole economy stronger, not weaker. And someone who works in the States goes back with a set of connections that help American companies sell products and services abroad.

    Reply
  46. sevitzdotcom

    A further problem is that when it lands up easier to lie, and say you are there for a holiday instead of a conference you start losing useful info, like how many business people enter the USA ever year for confernces and meetings etc etc

    Reply

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