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I've started a job in Canada that requires me to drive to the US occasionally. At the border this week I've learned that apparently all non-US/Canadian citizens have to go to secondary screening to receive their I-94s. This is time consuming and annoying if you do this often.

Is there a program that would allow one to avoid this process and get stamped into the US without leaving the car?

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    Not technically an answer, but I believe holding on to your I-94 should mean you can avoid further processing until your VWP runs out. That should keep your annoying crossings down to 4 a year. – DJClayworth Jan 10 '18 at 22:20
  • The best way is probably to apply for a long term US visa. That's allowable even if you are VWP eligible. Although it might be just as good to apply for Canadian PR. – DJClayworth Jan 10 '18 at 22:22
  • @DJClayworth There's no point for a VWP national in getting a visa unless planning to stay for more than 3 months in one visit. – Crazydre Jan 11 '18 at 20:46
  • My understanding is that a 2 year visa would allow you to enter the US as many times as you like in those without having to go through the secondary processing required of a VWP applicant. – DJClayworth Jan 11 '18 at 20:47
  • Land entrants needing an I-94 can only avoid secondary if they already have an I-94 from a previous entry valid for the duration of their stay. With a B visa the I-94's you get are generally valid for 6 months, versus 90 days for an I-94W, so a B visa can halve the frequency of secondary visits (even for day visitors); that's the advantage of a B visa over the VWP. The validity of the visa itself doesn't change the I-94 validity, however, that remains 6 months even for 10 year B visas. – Dennis Jan 11 '18 at 21:30
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Unfortunately all land border users who are not somehow exempt from the requirement to have an I-94 (i.e. American citizens and LPRs, visa-exempt Canadians and Bermudians and maybe BCC holders), and who do not already have an I-94 that is valid for the time to be spent in the US, will need to go inside to secondary and pay the $6 to get one. Once you have the I-94, however, you'll normally be admitted by primary inspection on subsequent trips, and perhaps be allowed to enter at Class B Ports of Entry, for as long as that I-94 is still valid. Once it expires you'll need to go inside to secondary to get a new one. A frequent VWP traveller can hence expect to visit secondary not (much) more than once every 90 days.

While an occasional visit to secondary is unavoidable a VWP traveller can reduce the frequency at which you have to do this to twice a year by applying for a B visa, as this extends the validity of the I-94s you receive to 6 months. It also permits extensions to be applied for while in the US if you are unavoidably delayed beyond the expiry of the I-94 you entered with.

I'm not positive how this all interacts with air travel but you may find that if you fly to the US and then subsequently enter by land you may be admitted by primary for the remainder of the (paperless) I-94 you received for the flight (I'd be interested to know if someone has experience contrary to this). If so, a mixture of land border and air travel might keep you out of secondary at the land border altogether.

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Foreign but resident citizens (in Canada and the US) can qualify to get NEXUS, a trusted traveler card that helps save time when crossing the Canada/US border, or into either country from abroad. You may want to do some research to see how your I-94 is affected by being a member, but it might save you some time.

  • That's for permanent residents of Canada, not temporary ones – Crazydre Jan 10 '18 at 20:06
  • I believe that even NEXUS card holders who need an I-94 but don't have (a currently valid) one need to go to secondary to get one. They might get to the primary inspection in a shorter queue, though. – Dennis Jan 11 '18 at 18:36
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The only way AFAIK, which only applies to VWP nationals (and AFAIK you're not one) is to get an ESTA. In this case, at major road crossings and the Vancouver train station, I've been told on the phone by the local CBP officers you'll not need to obtain the form.

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    Nope, ESTA nationals were traveling with me and they also had to get the form. But the train station has a US border post, so it is seamless regardless of your passport. – JonathanReez Jan 10 '18 at 20:57
  • @JonathanReez Where did you cross? I've personally called the Blaine, Vancouver station and Rouses Point checkpoints and the supervisors said those having a valid ESTA don't need the form – Crazydre Jan 10 '18 at 21:30
  • At Blaine. We were asked to leave the car to go get our I-94s. – JonathanReez Jan 11 '18 at 2:24
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    @JonathanReez you say they were "ESTA nationals": that's not the same thing as having a valid ESTA; it just means that they qualify to apply for it. Did they actually have them? – phoog Jan 12 '18 at 0:17
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    @phoog yes both had them issued in advance. All of us paid $6 to enter the country. – JonathanReez Jan 12 '18 at 1:23

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