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A Word to Avoid When Entering the US

Old Jan 5th, 2008, 05:44 AM
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A Word to Avoid When Entering the US

Friends of ours got turned away at the border at Detroit. Not only did they get turned away, but they were photographed and fingerprinted. They are in their sixties.

Why?
When asked why they were entering the US, they replied that they were going to do some work for two weeks for Habitat for Humanity.
Obviously, it was the word "work" that rang the bells and, despite showing the letter from Habitat, and explaining what the word "volunteer" meant, the lady at the border was not relenting.

I know a number of people travel around doing the Habitat for Humanity thing. Be forewarned.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 05:47 AM
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By mentioning work, you change the requirement from a passport to also needing a visa. While it shouldn't have applied in that case, it does raise an alarm.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 09:22 AM
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yep, 'work' is a four letter word when entering any country. i was once travelling with colleagues holding chinese passports. when entering a european country, they stated that they were there to work rather than saying that they were travelling 'on business' (which was in fact the case). this schoolboy error caused a lot of problems in this case. NEVER use this word when entering any country unless you have 'work' permission.

it's also important to realise that volunteering is also considered 'work' in many countries and those with tourist status are not permitted to do even volunteer work. so one must be careful with this word also.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 10:26 AM
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So what does someone in this situation do? Not be totally truthful and say you are a tourist visiting the US?
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 10:43 AM
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trip - I think that is the message. It amazes me that this was not solved with a little explanation... and why the photograph and fingerprint to turn them away.

I wonder what Jimmy would say?
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 11:50 AM
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What idiot didn't know what Habitat does? I feel soooo much safer knowing our borders are protected by someone incapable of discerning the difference between volunteering and work.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 01:17 PM
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Just because it's Habitat For Humanity it does not mean there are no paid employees...Charities do have paid employees. Somebody does have to take care of administrative, marketing, logistical matters.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 01:24 PM
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Yes, I too wonder what Jimmy would say Robjame. Maybe there is info on the Habitat web site.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 01:33 PM
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Everyone who enters under the visa waiver scheme is photographed and fingerprinted. Those who are rejected under it are too - so they flag up next time they try to enter

However I don't see why they were rejected because they said the W word. Last year we went to Boston - him for work me for play. He said he was there to work, what work? was the question, defence work was the answer, whose defence yours or ours came the reply. Both he said. We were let in. He worked, I played. Seemed like a good deal to me
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 02:01 PM
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This isn't a security issue, it is an economic issue,

Canada used to and may still do the same thing to US citizens entering to work. You had to say you are there for a meeting or to attend a conference or to study a project, but not let them know you were being compensated or you would be on your way home.

NAFTA would have allowed me to manufacture trucks in Canada but not to work as a consultant.

I hope this has changed.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 02:04 PM
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About four years ago, I flew from the U.S. to Toronto. A Canadian colleague had warned me that at Customs I should be careful to say I was visiting Canada for "training," not "work." Which was absolutely true, but it's good she warned me, because I might not otherwise have been let in. The agent acted like he was about done with me and then in a very casual tone asked me the purpose of my visit like as if he was just curious.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 05:02 PM
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Everyone entering by air from foreign countries is photographed and fingerprinted.

I recall reading that even those who are arriving to work as "volunteers" need to have some sort of work (H-type, or J-type) visas. Habitat for Humanity should have provided them with the information for entrance to the USA. If they were entering casually under the Visa Waiver Program and then intending to hook up with HFH, the agent may have been correct in refusing them entry.
 
Old Jan 5th, 2008, 05:06 PM
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To reiterate:

If they were transiting the US, they would still have been photographed and fingerprinted. For example, someone from UK who is going to Cancun, but flying through Miami enters the USA under the Visa Waiver Program and is photographed and one-fingerprinted.

Personally, I think that it is not a big deal.
 
Old Jan 5th, 2008, 06:12 PM
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Ya, what Birdie said!

Unbelievable.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 06:34 PM
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Ackislander is correct ("Canada used to and may still do the same thing to US citizens entering to work. You had to say you are there for a meeting or to attend a conference or to study a project, but not let them know you were being compensated or you would be on your way home.")

I checked the "business" box on the form and had to produce a letter of invitation to a business conference I was attending before I was allowed to enter the country. The main concern appeared to be whether you were being compensated. This is the only meeting I have ever attended abroad and was an eye opener. It is of no concern now as the US dollar is so weak I am sure there will be no more conferences abroad.
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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 03:50 AM
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"Casino" is the magic word. If you just say you are going to the casino they will let you through in either direction pulling a missile behind you on a trailer.
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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 06:19 AM
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Robjame, this is by no means something that would happen only in the U.S. A couple of years ago, an American charity group planning to do two weeks of volunteer work in Belgium (at the invitation of the sister org in Belgium) were deported three days after they got there because someone reported them for "working." The fact that they were volunteering (and could prove it) counted for zip...they were still chucked out en masse.
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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 06:57 AM
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<<Everyone entering by air from foreign countries is photographed and fingerprinted.>>

Of course this was people driving across the Ambassador Bridge where it is sufficient to show a driver's licence.

An interesting point - the story has been circulating around the community where we live in Florida. A number of Canadians say that they avoid the Detroit crossing and choose to cross at Buffalo. They find Buffalo crossing "friendlier".
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 08:42 AM
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Work is bad word to use when entering Canada as well. When I have attend hobby related conventions in Canada, folks who were planning to help with the convention as volunteers were carefully warned not to say they gong to work at the convention.

Keith
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 10:43 AM
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Other words to avoid are "Hi, Jack."
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