Monday, 9 November 2009
When we arrived at the Canadian border, Daniel explained candidly to the guard that we were spending the weekend in Vancouver so that he could get his US holiday visa stamped for another six months.
She didn’t really like that, and explained that this was because both the US and Canada frown upon “flagpole-ing”, the practice of visiting one country for a short time to regain access to the other one.
The reason she was worried, she said, was that Canada didn’t want to have to look after Daniel in the event that the US refused him re-entry.
But she let us in anyway.
And we kind of worried about it all weekend. Well, not that much: if you are forced to emigrate, Vancouver’s probably as good as it gets: family friendly, best climate in Canada, a market mostly unaffected by the global economic crisis, good food, yummy local beers, etc.
To facilitate a possible return to the US, we printed out as many things as we could to demonstrate that we were indeed going back to London at the start of April: a letter from my father, correspondence with our tenants, a letter from my company confirming that I was due back at work on April 23 and a copy of our travel insurance documents.
When we arrived back at the border on a rainy Monday morning, the officer in the window thought getting a stamp would be all right, as long as we paid $6. He sent us into the office with a pink slip of paper, telling us to park the car next to a guard.
Inside, another official told us that according to the law, a visa holder must take a “meaningful” trip out of the country in order to renew his or her six months. A weekend in Canada was not meaningful, but a trip to the UK was, he stated (helpfully?).
I could see Daniel spinning sums in his head: one round-trip plane ticket to London, room and board somewhere in the northwest Pacific for the girls and me, a brand new travel insurance policy (ours terminates if we go back to the UK).
We pointed out that Daniel had applied for a nine-month holiday visa – this had been approved at the US embassy in London - but was sent a ten-year visa that we later found out was valid in six-month increments.
After letting us sweat a teensy bit more, the official stamped Daniel’s passport and sent us on our way.