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Three years ago I was on holidays in Canada and visited the Niagara Falls. I also went to the American side of the falls and got something like a "short-term visa". I also got a green paper with all my information (name, passport number, etc.) which I should give back at the border when leaving USA again.

When I got back from the USA side of the falls, the border was abandoned. Therefore I couldn't give the green paper back to the officials. Now I'm really a bit afraid that in their computer system I still haven't left the USA.

Next summer I plan to visit USA again. Can I get into trouble at the border?

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I cannot prove this, but I think you are way over-estimating the competence of the US government. They probably don't know, they almost certainly don't care. Of course, it isn't me that has to go through customs. –  Malvolio Sep 12 '11 at 11:06
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@Malvolio: I would definitely agree before 9/11 but now all bets are off ... –  hippietrail Sep 12 '11 at 21:55
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@hippietrail -- Because panic and over-reaction makes government bureaucracies more competent? I would take ESultanik's advice and have the documentation that you returned home with you, and show it to them if they ask. It seems less risky than drawing attention to yourself by filing ahead of time. Again, just what I would do, you have to make your decisions. –  Malvolio Sep 12 '11 at 23:12
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Yes I'm not certain enough of anything to give an answer, only comments. I've had my run-ins with US immigration in the past, including being denied access at the border. Like I said "all bets are off". I wouldn't bet it's definitely OK and I wouldn't bet it's definitely not OK. They're still a huge clunky bureaucracy but especially immigration officials do not play nice, in my own country either. Incompetence can go both ways too and I've been denied at a border crossing of another country due to just that. ESultanik has a great answer though. –  hippietrail Sep 12 '11 at 23:19
    
From what I've heard, individual US immigration officers have a lot of discretion as to whom they allow in. Therefore, a lot of it comes down to random chance as to which officer deals with your case. If you can convince him or her that you didn't overstay your previous visa (with proper documentation), then I think you will be fine. Also, given the US's clunky bureaucracy, you could plausibly make the claim that you previously sent the green form to Kentucky and it's not your fault that it hasn't been processed yet; the website I linked states that they don't sent confirmations of receipt. –  ESultanik Sep 13 '11 at 11:48
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up vote 19 down vote accepted

Short answer: Yes, according to the official rules you could be denied access at the border. You can avoid this by submitting the green form (along with additional documentation) after the fact.


It sounds like you participated in the Visa Waiver Program and the green form was an I-94W.

According to the US Government,

If you departed by land, private vessel or private plane, you will need to take steps to correct the record. If you do not validate your timely departure from the United States, or, if you cannot reasonably prove you departed within the time frame given to you when you entered, the next time you apply for admission to the U.S., Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may conclude you remained in the U.S. beyond your authorized stay. If this happens, your visa may be subject to cancellation or you may be returned immediately to your foreign point of origin.
[Emphasis is mine.]

If you still have the green form, you can remedy the situation by mailing it to:

DHS - CBP SBU
1084 South Laurel Road
London, Kentucky 40744
USA

You should also include a copy of the boarding pass you used to exit Canada. You should also provide a letter explaining your situation and why the form was not originally collected. Proof that you lived elsewhere after the 90 day period of the visa waiver (e.g., rent checks, pay stubs, receipts, &c., from after you got home) would also be helpful.

Note that the visa waiver program also counts time you spent in Canada and Mexico. Therefore, you will need to show that your total time spent in Canada and the USA was no longer than 90 days.

The original US government FAQ page does seem to suggest that it may be enough to simply bring this documentation with you the next time you enter the US. Regardless of whether or not you mail it to Kentucky, you should definitely bring a copy of all of the documentation with you on re-entry. Also, if you are really worried, it seems like you will have no problems if you apply for and receive a formal tourist visa before re-entering the US, but that process will also likely require you to provide the same documentation.

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Thanks! Denied Access would be not so bad than being arrested or something like this ;) –  RoflcoptrException Sep 13 '11 at 7:00
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