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I'm a Canadian permanent resident with an expired PR card. I'm currently in San Francisco. My flight to Canada will leave in 3 weeks. Here are the details:

SFO (US) -> IAD (US) -> YUL (CANADA)

Yes I've looked into PRTD but I don't have 400$ ....

SOLUTION?

The only way I can possibly get to Canada is by getting out of the transit in Washington DC (IAD) and take a bus to New York and then wait for my mom to bring me my valid PR card, which is waiting in my mailbox (didn't arrive in time).

QUESTION:

My plan won't work if I have to clear Canadian immigration at (SFO) since I do not have my PR card. Hence, where will I have to clear Canadian immigration? Once in the last transit to Canada or before my very first flight?

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    I also don't understand why you would have to go to New York to collect your card. If someone would be able to bring it to you, why can't they mail it to you now? – Nate Eldredge Oct 20 '17 at 15:19
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    The general answer to your question is that you clear Canadian customs after landing in Canada. Canada doesn't have preclearance in the US like the US does in Canada. However, the airline may deny you boarding at some earlier point if you don't have valid documents to enter Canada. In this case I am not sure whether they would allow you to fly to DC, but they certainly would not let you get on the last leg without documents. – Nate Eldredge Oct 20 '17 at 15:21
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    It’s worth noting that commercial bus carriers will have document checks prior to departing to the border. – Jacob Horbulyk Oct 20 '17 at 15:26
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    If you can't get your card sent ahead for some reason, my advice would be to look into changing your booking to just a single flight SFO-NYC. It avoids the whole issue and you might even save money. – Nate Eldredge Oct 20 '17 at 15:28
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    @JacobHorbulyk I'm completely in a legal situation. I just don't have the paperwork to prove it. Since it's a bus from DC to NY I figured that showing my valid passport and american visa should be more than enough? – S.Castro Oct 20 '17 at 15:28
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Canada does not have preclearance facilities in the United States (or, to the best of my knowledge, in any other country.) While the treaty between the US and Canada is fully reciprocal concerning the rights of each country to establish preclearance facilities in the other, only the United States has chosen to exercise that right.

The main issue, as pointed out by commenters above, is that the airline may not let you board your first flight if you do not have travel documents that would allow you to enter Canada. For example, if you had a Japanese passport, you would normally be allowed to enter Canada without a visa, and the airline would normally accept this as a travel document that would permit entry to Canada. (CAVEAT: I am not sure whether airlines check that you have an electronic travel authorization (ETA) at the point of departure. If so, then this plan would not work.)

Finally, I would note that the cost to send a FedEx envelope from Montreal to San Francisco, such that it arrives tomorrow by noon, is approximately CAD 75. Cheaper options exist at slower speeds. I suspect that this cost is competitive with the cost (and hassle) of a bus ticket from DC to NYC and a round-trip drive from Montreal to NYC.

  • Firstly, thank you for your detailed answer. I see now that I can't count on United not checking if I have the right travel documents before transits. Secondly, I thought of asking my mom to mail to me. I'm scared that it might be illegal to send identification documents like PR-cards through couriers. What do you think of the solution proposed by @NateEldredge changing my flight to only New-York. Do you see a problem with that? – S.Castro Oct 20 '17 at 15:51
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    @S.Castro the cost of sending the card to San Francisco is probably lower than the change fees you would have to pay to change your airline ticket, let alone the bus tickets and the hassle for your mother. Why not just ask her to send it to you? Three weeks is plenty of time. Instead of being "scared it might be illegal," why don't you find out for sure? (Hint: it isn't; people send their passports through the mail all the time for visa processing and the like.) – phoog Oct 20 '17 at 16:17
  • @phoog I will go to fedex this afternoon to ask them. If they tell me it's completely legal I will do as you guys suggest. However, I think that either I change my plane ticket to directly New-York or if I can't take the plane, I will have to rent a car and make a road trip across the US – S.Castro Oct 20 '17 at 17:51
  • @S.Castro, Canadians in the US who renew their passports send the applications to Canada and receive the new passports from Canada by courier delivery. If the government can do it I'm pretty sure you can to. You could avoid customs inspection, if that's your worry, by having it FedEx'd from Champlain, NY instead, though I really don't think that is necessary. – Dennis Oct 20 '17 at 18:53
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    People mail passports for visa purposes all the time. It's OK, and is the best solution to your problem. – Andrew Lazarus Oct 20 '17 at 20:43
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I think your SFO to Washington flight will be domestic, not international. You will have to show your Canadian visa papers/visa exempt status at IAD while boarding the flight to YUL. You will clear Canadian customs/immigration at YUL. EDIT: As per comment by Zach, you might be required to show Canadian status proof at first airport.

If you want to fly to Canada best way is apply for PRTD. But if money is a concern you can also fly to the nearest border city, e.g., Detriot and drive across with your COPR, expired PR card or PR visa which will enable CBSA to check you at the border and let you in. Note however, that you might be pulled onto the side or asked further questions in this case.

All this is assuming that you have met the residency obligations, which might be checked while entering Canada.

  • The airline will generally require proof you are able to enter Canada at check-in in the first city, which would be San Francisco in this case. They may refuse to fly you to IAD unless you show valid travel documents for Canada first. – Zach Lipton Mar 5 '18 at 20:13
  • Yeah, probably. Thanks for the clarification. – AVJ Mar 5 '18 at 22:10

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