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I am a Canadian citizen (Pakistani origin) and I currently live in Dubai.

My father was diagnosed with cancer in October and has been undergoing treatment in the USA since then.

So, I have been frequenting the USA since October. I was there in October for 10 days, November for 10 days, and December for 30 days

This time when travelling from Dubai and entering the USA via NYC, I was asked a few questions — why I was here, I gave them the reason. I did not have printed documentation on me, but I had everything on my phone, which I showed the customs officer.

My sister lives in the city as well, however my father is not living with her and with two little children it is impossible for her to care of him her own.

He proceeded to ask me which hospital my father was at and who was paying for the treatment. I gave him the name of the hospital and told him that my father is paying for it himself.

The officer, told me that he does not care if my father is ill — that I am not a doctor, and I do not need to be in the USA. That I should go back and be with my children.

My children had come with me to the US in October and in December — which I told the officer. To which he said that they were had school holidays so I could bring them with me — and he ignored the latter and said that I am taking my children out of school to bring them all the way here.

He said that my sister is enough and that he did not care either if my sister has 2 young kids and is unable to take care of him full-time.

He then proceeded to tell me, that I can only be in the US for 2 weeks this time (I told him I was booked to leave in a week and would do so), and he then proceeded to tell me that he is putting a ban on me from coming for 3 months.

He did not take me to a separate room or anything, and just told me to leave as there were a lot of other people in the line.

The issue is that: all my family members take turns coming to care for him and I am due back for 10 days in March. In addition, with this kind of illness there is so much uncertainty and I may need to head back due to any emergency.

I have extremely strong ties to my home country (middle east), in addition to my own work, my husband has a very secure job (he is quiet senior within his company), I have two children in my home country who are enrolled in school and ability to afford my trips to the US. Also I attended university in the USA for both my undergrad and grad. I have no convictions, clean record etc.

I have also not stayed more than 6 months in a 12 month period — which is the limit applied to Canadian Citizens.

I checked my I-94 online and the exit date stated there is not 2 weeks later but 6 months later than my entry date, and there is no note stating there is a travel ban for 3 months. There is no mention on my passport stating the date of departure and the temporary 3 month travel ban. As mentioned I am not concerned about the departure date restriction for this trip but I am extremely concerned about the 3 month ban.

I am unsure as to what I should do now. Is there any way to appeal this? Can I apply for a visa, so that everything is on file?

Added from what was posted as an answer:
My brother works for one of the airlines in Dubai and one of the perks of his job is that we his family get very good rates for flights, so would rather not have to through Abu Dhabi for this reason.

If the government shutdown hasn’t affected the CBP office in NYC – do you think I should visit the prior to departure?

I am thinking: Once I get back home, I will try and speak with someone from the Consulate if I can apply for a visa – then at least I will have a chance to provide them with all my documentation and they may be able to put it into my file. Only thing, what if my visa gets rejected ? And / or Look for an immigration lawyer, I am definitely going to have to have to go back and forth for the next 6-8 months, and I just don’t want to have to stress each time.

On another note - I spoke to a friend of mine Canadian citizen, lives in UK – of South Asian descent, married with 2 young children - who visited the US (Boston), for about 7 years very frequently as her mother was being treated in Boston. And she had absolutely no problems traveling to and fro, till the time her mother had passed away. That was the only time she was scrutinized by customs. However, he did not limit her stay or threaten her with the ban.

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    Canadian citizens are admitted for six months per visit, not six months per year. The cumulative limit is a function of tax law, not immigration law. Where were you entering from in New York? – phoog Jan 18 at 5:56
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    Whoa, what a dick. If there's a CBP complaint number, I would definitely file a complaint against this officer. Many CBP officers are not nice, but this one is just outright being an asshole all around and making false threats to you. – xuq01 Jan 18 at 13:20
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    If you can afford it, you might consider getting in touch with a good US immigration lawyer. I agree with Honorary World Citizen's answer, but it sounds like you might be quite well off, in which case the cost may be worthwhile to you, especially as your father's illness means that disruptions of your travel plans could be much more troublesome than they otherwise might be. – phoog Jan 18 at 13:59
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    @DavidRicherby I'm going to re-edit to remove the "living in" and replace it with "travelling from" as that is the detail that we have. The suggestion to travel via Abu Dhabi is not ridiculous if you're coming from Dubai, whether you are actually living in Dubai or not. OP can edit in where they're living (whether that's Dubai or Canada or elsewhere) if they wish but it's not for us to make speculation look prominent and as if it were fact! :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 18 at 16:02
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    Can you fly to Toronto and cross the land border by car, or train, or "domestic" flight? A Canadian will get looked at a lot less strangely coming across the Canadian border... also do you have a Canadian province driver license and does that province offer enhanced driver licenses? – Harper Jan 19 at 0:12
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Did he give you any paperwork about a ban? Quoting which section of USA immigration law? If he didn’t (which he likely couldn’t because it doesn’t exist) then there’s no ban. For all intents and purposes he was grouchy and was just blowing hot air and lecturing you how to live your life. Ignore him.

Immigration officers are vested with the power to deny you entry and the bans which follow (typically 5 years for Expedited Removal) are by law (and in the law books), not arbitrary. There’s nowhere I have seen that an immigration officer can just ban you for a period of time determined by him. This is a country of laws (at least most of the time).

On subsequent trips have all your documentation printed out showing your strong ties (which you mentioned) to your home country.

You don’t need a visa for anything. Unlike UK visas, USA visas only give you the opportunity to present yourself at the border/airport for admission to the country. You’re able to satisfy that with your Canadian passport.

A great suggestion by Phoog is to if possible fly through Abu Dhabi and go through preclearance. That is preemptive and reduces the chances of encountering such issues after a long flight.

Reference

Expedited Removal of Certain Applicants for Admission

The expedited removal order bars reentry for 5 years following the removal, or 20 years in the case of a second or subsequent removal, unless the alien obtains advance permission to reenter the United States.

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    It might be worthwhile to add a suggestion to fly from Abu Dhabi next time, or another preclearance airport, just in case. – phoog Jan 18 at 13:54
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    Just for the avoidance of doubt, I mentioned Abu Dhabi because OP was traveling from Dubai. For future trips, any convenient preclearance airport would be, well, a more convenient place to be denied entry. If coming from Europe, that would be Dublin or Shannon. If coming from Canada, it would be almost any major airport in Canada. – phoog Jan 18 at 17:00
  • "If he didn’t [give any paperwork] [...] then there’s no ban" -- Is it possible they didn't give the paper work to OP (either because they forgot or were being rude) but still filed it and there is a delay for it to show up in the online site? – Captain Man Jan 18 at 21:37
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    @CaptainMan The point is there is no ban like that so he could not have given her any paperwork for that. I ask Did he give you any paperwork about a ban? Quoting which section of USA immigration law? If he didn’t (which he likely couldn’t because it doesn’t exist) then there’s no ban. rhetorically because I know there is no ban in existence like that. – user 56513 Jan 18 at 22:42
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    Yes he can make notes on your file for you to be scrutinized on future visits however what I am saying is he has no discretion whatsoever to ban you some arbitrary duration. The law does not give him any such discretion. It was either he refused you entry and you get a five year ban, paroled you in to face an immigration judge, or allowed you to withdraw your application for entry. These things are well structured and defined, no ambiguity. – user 56513 Jan 19 at 10:20
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While most CBP officers are professional and courteous, I've encountered a fair number who were incompetent, disrespectful and outright abusive. They wield a lot of power over you and they know it. That's one of the reasons I got a Global Entry card (when I could).

You seem to have encountered one of the bad examples. As a Canadian you may be eligible for a Nexus Card, that would allow you to bypass that whole process and there is no need to interact with any CBP officer. It will speed up your entry and provide peace of mind for travel.

Ironically my Global Entry interview was much simpler than the average CBP interaction. In contrast to a CBP officer, the interviewer has your entire information available and can make a decision much quicker.

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    +1 With her travel patterns though, isn't it likely she will get pulled aside for questioning even if she has a trusted traveler program membership? She was probably profiled for her travel frequency, ethnicity trip origin and other citizenship. I am just conjecturing here. – user 56513 Jan 18 at 14:51
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    Last time I entered the US on my Nexus card (US citizen), I still had to come face-to-face with an officer. Don't think he said anything, but a Nexus card doesn't guarantee you won't see a CBP officer. – Azor Ahai Jan 18 at 17:57
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Since you already have an Ontario driver license, upgrade it to an enhanced driver's license on your next visit to Canada. Mind the paperwork and timing.

Once you have it, or even to get it, fly from Dubai into Toronto. You cannot be refused at Toronto because you are a Canadian citizen.

Then, with or without the enhanced DL, cross the border by land. At Niagara Falls, you will be one in a blur of Canadians presenting either passports or Enhanced DL's, and there will be nothing special about you.

It simply isn't weird for an American or Canadian to cross the land border on a frequent basis. It used to be much less formal before 9/11, and restoring that ease is what Enhanced DL's are all about.

The Enhanced DL is only valid for land crossings and is used instead of a passport. It is not valid for entry by air, for that you need the passport.

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    Are you sure that having a driver's license is sufficient to qualify for renewal? There may be no enforcement of any requirement that a no-longer-resident is supposed to surrender the license, but that doesn't mean that residency won't be required (and enforced) on an upgrade/renewal. The page you linked does state a residency requirement, so.... – Ben Voigt Jan 21 at 3:59

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