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It is mentioned in many places that there is no US border post when entering Hyder, Alaska, a community not connected by road to any other in the USA, and that persons are permitted to cross into Hyder from Canada without inspection. For example, see here.

What is the actual rule on crossing into Hyder, AK from Canada?

  • Is there a specific US law or ruling that legally exempts people from checking in with US immigration when crossing the border at Hyder?
  • Is crossing into Hyder actually illegal, but tolerated due to practical purposes?

If crossing into Hyder, AK without inspection is actually 100% truly legal, are there any special rules? For example, are non-US citizens theoretically required to determine in advance if they would be admissible to the USA and only enter Hyder if they fulfill the requirements (even though, in practice, they won't be checked)? If someone, lawfully in Canada, would normally require a visa to enter the USA, do they need that visa if they only want to go to Hyder, or is Hyder exempted from ordinary visa requirements since there is no inspection?

For example, it looks like Romanian citizens are currently ineligible for the US Visa Waiver Program but may now enter Canada visa-free. If a Romanian citizen is lawfully in Canada (either as a visa-free tourist or on a Canadian student, work, immigrant, etc. visa):

  • Can they legally just mosey on over to Hyder for the day?
  • Can they legally visit Hyder if they first obtain a US visa, even though it won't be checked (but being in possession of their visa makes their unchecked visit legal)?
  • Would any attempt to cross from Canada be illegal, only tolerated, because US officials have a gentleman's agreement not to investigate or prosecute?
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    Lack of inspection does not mean open to all. Many borders around the world are not water-tight and manned 24x7 (and I’m pretty sure most of the US-Canada border isn’t). That does not mean you can enter without the appropriate paperwork, just that your chances of getting caught are smaller. – jcaron Apr 25 '18 at 6:38
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    @jcaron but in this case, it seems that the US government has more or less knowingly decided to let this one slide. My question is whether this is more similar to the situation of medical marijuana in the USA (which depends solely on the decision of the Executive to choose not to prosecute under Federal law), or whether people entering at Hyder are truly shielded from prosecution for illegal entry even if government enforcement priorities suddenly change. One could also ask whether it is similar to DACA, but I don't really want to open up that political can of worms. – Robert Columbia Apr 25 '18 at 14:27
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    @RobertColumbia I think the U.S. simply doesn't consider you to have "entered" the US by visiting Hyder. If they did, they'd have, at a minimum, a telephone reporting system like they have at the Northwest Angle, MN. (Canada installed a telephone reporting system for people crossing back to Stewart, BC at night.) – Jim MacKenzie Apr 25 '18 at 14:58
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    Interestingly, the relevant regulations still say Hyder has a Customs station and a Class B immigration port. – cpast Apr 25 '18 at 22:23
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The US really treats Hyder as part of Canada in a lot of ways. Even its flights to US airports are considered to be international flights.

Aside from by air, or by a dangerous overland journey through the mountains, there is nowhere to go from Hyder except to Canada, so on a practical level, there is no need for border inspection. Few foreigners go there, except perhaps for some international or Canadian visitors who want to tick off the "I've been to Alaska" box or buy some American beer. In fact, the town gets its telephone service and utilities from Canadian providers.

The question of whether people banned from the US are allowed to visit is interesting. My instinct is that they are still banned, but that no one would find out so the odds of harm resulting are slim to none. And, as has always been the case, if someone wants to go from Hyder to another point in the U.S. by land or air, they will have to report to a US Customs and Border Protection inspection station. (That was true in the days when many crossings on the Canada-US border were unmanned; people were supposed to cross and go to the nearest inspection site voluntarily. That didn't always happen, obviously, which is why we now have manned crossings.)

It's an interesting little quirk in North American geography.

Another quirk is the Northwest Angle on the Manitoba border - only accessible by water from the US. It has customs inspection, but by video terminal.

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    I pretty much already knew this, that there really isn't much practical point in regulating who enters Hyder because the effect of a few inadmissible persons going there is unlikely to affect the rest of the country much. What I am asking is whether this exception is enshrined in law or official policy somewhere, or if it is all based on the decision of a few border officials to sort of look the other way. – Robert Columbia Apr 24 '18 at 21:53
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    @RobertColumbia I can't find anything - there must be some written policy somewhere to allow entry into Hyder without clearing US customs and immigration checks. My guess? You're simply deemed not yet to be admitted into the U.S. when you're in Hyder. – Jim MacKenzie Apr 24 '18 at 21:57
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    I was looking for information on the nature of the policy (e.g. Federal law, a SCOTUS ruling, Executive Order, USCIS official policy, etc.) and what it actually provides for. E.g. perhaps crossing without inspection is only 100% legal for Canadian citizens who would otherwise be admissible to the USA, and other persons (e.g. inadmissible persons, non-Canadian citizens who qualify for the VWP, persons who need a US visa) are simply tolerated. – Robert Columbia Apr 24 '18 at 22:04
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    There's probably an unspoken presumption that if someone is able to enter Canada, they'd be allowed into the US. As for a Canadian who is inadmissible to the US, even if they did enter at Hyder, so what, there's no where to go they couldn't also get to crossing the border in the wilderness. – Johns-305 Apr 25 '18 at 2:26
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    I believe that there are some laws that everyone entering the US (regardless of immigration status) must report themselves to customs for inspection (e.g. 19 USC 1459 perhaps). Would someone entering Hyder be subject to this too? And if not, why not? – user102008 May 3 '18 at 17:08

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