Canadian visitors to the US do not need a visa, and generally are lawfully admitted to the US for six months. However, recently, some Canadian visitors have been have been learning that US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) authorized one of their previous trips for a shorter period than expected. This can cause problems with unintentional overstay.
What type of situation is causing CBP to shorten a period of admission recently?
There have been reports of this happening to Canadian citizens traveling to the US by air, then returning to Canada and later reentering the US at a land border. It seems probable that this could also happen to a Canadian citizen with two US visits within six months.
Generally, when entering the US by air, an electronic I-94 card is issued and can be reviewed at its website. When entering by car or bus, however, an I-94 is not usually issued. This has resulted in a problematic situation for some Canadian visitors who enter the US by air, leave, then reenter by land. In this situation, the second land border entry should result in 6 months of lawful status in the US. However, CBP has been revalidating the existing I-94 record, allowing the Canadian visitor to use the remainder of the 6 months from the first visit. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) gives the following example:
For example, a Canadian citizen enters the U.S. by air on June 1 and is given a 6-month period of admission, through December 1. When he departs the U.S. in August and seeks readmission in September, he may only be readmitted until December 1, without any explicit notice from CBP. The client would not necessarily know that he was admitted pursuant to a pre-existing I-94 unless he checks the CBP website. As a result, Canadians who frequently travel to the United States may unknowingly overstay and may only find out upon a later attempt to reenter. -AILA Doc 16123072, Practice Pointer for US Immigration Attorneys
How can I check the authorized length of my stay?
Canadian visitors who stop to speak with CBP upon entry can ask for an additional 6 months, rather than revalidation and can ask for their I-94 to be updated online. For those planning a long trip to the US, after another recent trip, it would be prudent to stop, rather than using the Nexus/Global entry lane. Canadian visitors should also check their I-94 record online, and should speak with a qualified immigration attorney if they have additional questions.
CBP is reviewing its practice
Hopefully this will not be a long-term problem. AILA has raised the issue with CBP, and has said the process appears to violate immigration laws for visitors. In the meantime, Canadian citizen visitors who fall in the categories described should carefully check their status, and speak with CBP if possible upon entry.