Warning from CBP in Toronto

#1
I have just had a harrowing experience with an US immigration officer at Toronto airport, and I'm not sure what I should do now. I live in the UK and am employed by a UK registered company. I have been in Toronto visiting a customer of the company I work for. We also have an office in the USA amongst other countries. I am on my way to DC for the weekend, and then to Atlanta to meet with my American colleagues in the USA office to continue discussions relating to the Canadian customer. I am retuning to Toronto in a week to visit the customer once more, and then home to London.

The officer was not happy with the explanation and I was taken to a room for further questioning. He challenged my travel patterns and reasons for entering the USA, essentially claiming that I was "working" and taking a job away from an American. At one point I was told "your story is unravelling, and so are you". I was told "we are watching you, and next time you visit you will need to have a work visa".

It is my understanding that the planned activities with my American colleagues would be allowed under the visa waiver program for temporary entry for business purposes. I am not employed in the USA, I am employed and paid in the UK by a UK registered company who happens to also operate in the USA. He wanted to know why someone from the USA office wasn't doing the project in Canada. All sorts of strange questions. Was the guy just trying to scare me? Will I now have to visit the embassy in London to apply for a visa every time I need to come for meetings in the US? Can I find out if the warning has been officially recorded? Would he have let me in if I really didn't meet the requirements? He did let me in, but did not stamp my passport! What a great welcome to the USA.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
 

newacct

Well-Known Member
#2
I see no reason why you would not be able to use VWP the next time. You haven't overstayed, haven't been denied a visa, haven't been denied entry, etc.
 

Britsimon

Super Moderator
#3
I spent several years flying to the USA every 2 weeks for work. I worked two weeks at home (UK) and two weeks in the States - so I went through various POEs every 4 weeks regular as clockwork. When I was about to start that pattern of work I applied for a B1/B2 visa explaining what I was about to be doing. They told me I didn't need a visa, but granted me a 1 year B1 anyway. During that year I was treated suspiciously almost every time I entered. I was asked why I had the B1, what sort of work I was doing there and so on. Complete pain in the bum.

Once that B1 expired I continued entering every 4 weeks for years and things were a hell of a lot better on the visa waiver program (ESTA when that was introduced). I remember only one occaision where I had any questioning at all at the airport. The guy was a pain. Sounds like he moved to Toronto. He asked some crazy questions designed to "catch me out in a lie" which was daft because I was perfectly up front about what I was doing (meetings mainly with all programming work back in the UK). I pointed out that I had been inspected about 30 or 40 times at that point with not a glimmer of interest. He was just interested in flexing his ego and was trying to make me squirm. I got pretty short with him and asked him to stamp me in or send me to the back room for further questioning. He stamped me in within moments telling me I would be under suspicion from then on - and I then returned to about 30 more entries with not a sausage of interest.

I later got an H1 and then a Green Card - no issues.

Draw your own conclusions....
 
#4
Thanks for your replies. I can only assume based on what I have read that my activities are indeed classified as "business". My mistake might have been using the word "working". I'm not sure he got the fact that one company can operate internationally. He kept claiming that my time in the US was considered work despite it consisting solely of meetings and consultation, oh, and not being paid here. Sigh.
 

Britsimon

Super Moderator
#5
Thanks for your replies. I can only assume based on what I have read that my activities are indeed classified as "business". My mistake might have been using the word "working". I'm not sure he got the fact that one company can operate internationally. He kept claiming that my time in the US was considered work despite it consisting solely of meetings and consultation, oh, and not being paid here. Sigh.

Yes - there is a difference in what activity you plan to do.

I was a software consultant. I was clear that in the USA I would attend meetings etc - but would not be programming.
 
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