My immigration statusPosted: 2009/09/04
Both my US immigration status and Canadian immigration status is restricting my trip back and forth between Toronto and Ithaca. And, it gave me a huge headache last Sunday and this Monday.
If both of them were in favor of me traveling, or not traveling, that will be ideal.
However, one forces me to travel while the other restricts me from traveling.
* US forces me to cross the border*
My current F1 (student visa) expired at the end of August. I can apply for a new student visa as my I-20 doesn’t expire until 2011. However, my lawyer in Ithaca advised me not to file for a new F1 visa as it could become a problem when I want to file for a green card in US. (In the form for F1 visa, I have to answer whether I have US citizen fiancee or a husband. If I say yes, I get rejected. If I say ‘no’, I might not qualify for a green card later on for misrepresenting myself)
Now, expired visa doesn’t mean that you cannot reenter US. It means one cannot be issued with an I-94 card (I-94 card is attached to my passport). I-94 card is what grants me entrance to US. Here is the trick. When you cross the border in a car, you do not have to pass US immigration office. You only pass either Canada or Mexico’s immigration office. This means your I-94 card is not detached from your passport and from US immigration office point of view, you never left the country. Therefore, I can reenter with my existing I-94 card even if my visa is expired.
However, my I-94 card expires when I travel longer than 30 days outside US. In order to keep my I-94 card valid, I need to come to US at least once a month.
*Canada restricts me from traveling*
My current working permit in Canada expired on 8/30th. My lawyer at Autodesk filed for a renewal on 6/23 but it takes 81 days to be processed. In other words, I am currently working with my expired Canadian working permit under this “implicit status” because I didn’t receive my new one. Hence my lawyer in Canada advised me not to travel outside Canada starting from 8/31 until I receive my new working permit.
* the incident*
Not knowing when I will receive my new Canadian working permit, I wanted to visit US as late as possible so that my I-94 card will be valid until the end of September. On August 30th (the last day that my Canadian working permit was valid), I decided to drive to US to drop of Adam at Buffalo airport. As I was entering Canada, they questioned my status. I told them that a renewal has been filed but they couldn’t find my information anywhere in their system. So, they wanted to see a copy of whole package that was sent to the Alberta immigration office for working permit renewal. When I told them that I did not have anything, they started questioning other unnecessary stuff.
“What is your status in US with this expired student visa. Why haven’t you returned to your home country”
“How can you be a full time student at Maryland and work full time at Autodesk in September?”
It was really terrifying when someone starts treating you like a criminal. Even though I had very good reason for every question the officer raised, it was nerve breaking.
However, I was not able to prove that I applied for my working permit renewal. I tried to contact my Autodesk lawyer but it was Sunday night. Of course nobody picked up the phone. After being stranded at the Peace bridge for 2 hours, the immigration officer told me to come back the next day with the documents.
The next day, I spent another 5 hours driving plus 1 hour in the Peace bridge immigration office defending about this “implicit status”. I am TOTALLY pissed that these officers that receive salary from the Canadian taxes that I pay, treated me like an illegal immigrant, and made me waste 6 hours of my precious time~!!