Posted by: martinworster | May 10, 2005


Border hopping isn’t fun

I had a close brush with immigration the other day. My 3 month tourist visa had nearly expired and I thought I could hop across the border to Mexico to get it renewed. In fact a month earlier I had been there to check whether this was possible. The civil servant paper stamper told me if I came back nearer to the expiration date with a proof of a flight out of the country I could get a new stamp. I followed his instructions and one hot October day in Tijuana in a two hour queue with hundreds of Mexicans I was told it wasn’t be possible. I had two days left on my visa. If I out stayed my welcome I might have problems with re-admission down the line. Given my situation of impending fatherhood this wasn’t a good predicament to be in.

At home I found a return flight to Vancouver the next day. A city I had always wanted to visit. Pity that I would only be touching Canadian terra firma for two hours. A grey and rainy Vancouver revealed itself as the plane lowered over a brown Pacific. Upon entering this former colony it was the Canadian immigration officials who gave me the hardest time. I waited in line – sorry, queued – for an hour and a half behind a posse of Pilipinos who all required translators to aks them why they had come to Canada. My turn came and they asked me why I was visiting Canada for two hours. At first I told them I was visiting a friend. They asked me what his name and number was and why for such a short time. I dithered and stuttered, as I dug myself into an increasingly deep hole. Then I came clean and told them it was just to get visa extension. Lesson; be as honest as you can with customs officials.

Next thing my flight was cancelled back to LA – luckily as I would have probably missed it with the Canadian palaver. Funny how the Queens head is still on the banknotes? What I didn’t realise was that the US immigration was on the Canadian side, not in the US. I was preparing myself for questions like what were you doing in Turkey and Morocco? Do you have any affiliations with other North African countries?

Actually the US side was not that difficult but I know I can’t make a habit of border hopping. I managed to strike a rapport with the official and here I am back in the US of Eh.


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