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Being in possession of a valid eTA for Canada and eligible for the US Visa Waiver Program, I plan to visit Canada, flying in and out. During my trip I may want to cross the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls into the US and back.

I know I do not need ESTA to enter the US by this route, but would it somehow make the procedure quicker or smoother? Do I qualify for ESTA without any flight or cruise booking for the US?

The I-94W form has been scrapped. Does that mean that the fee payable at the border is also gone?

How is the exact procedure at the border crossing? Do you step out of the car and enter an office or do you get inspected in your vehicle? How do you make your customs declaration? How long time would it normally take to cross the border? Is the procedure similar when returning to Canada?

  • The I-94W form has been scrapped. Does that mean that the fee payable at the border is also gone? Obtaining an I94 at the border still attracts a $6 USD fee – Midavalo Sep 21 at 22:28
  • There used to be an I-94 (white) for a visa and an I-94W (green) for a visa waiver. The I-94 is still around and can now be completed and paid for online in advance. The official I-94/CBP website seems to demand a visa number for this service and does not say what to do if you plan to travel without a visa. – Arne Sep 21 at 23:11
  • the I94 website visa fields are optional if your passport is from vwp country, and it checks if there is a valid ESTA if you proceed – Midavalo Sep 21 at 23:15
  • Thanks. Obviously it is I-94 and not I-94W for visa waivers now. If you want to use this service you need to obtain an ESTA first and pay another $14? – Arne Sep 21 at 23:30
  • yes it does appear that to pre-apply for the I-94 you need to have either a visa or Esta. Since you don't need either in your case you may need to pay for the I-94 at the border. See also Why does the online I94 form require VWP applicants to buy ESTA? – Midavalo Sep 22 at 2:24
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We have crossed the Canadian border many times in a car, with multiple people having passports from a European country with Visa waiver status. They flew in the US (having an ESTA), so this should be the exact situation that you describe.

In every instance, the Canadian border officers took our passports (handed through the driver's window), asked some question about visit duration, potential weapons, drugs, and alcohol, and spent maybe a minute offline with the passports. Then they handed them back, and that's it. No need to leave the car.
On the way back to the US, the questions are slightly different (no alcohol limit, etc.), but the process is the same; sometimes they wanted to look in the trunk, but never bothered to look inside any luggage (I assume they look for people hiding in the trunk).

This experience is from 2017 to 2019, on the Rainbow Bridge, on the land border south of Montréal, and in various small crossings from Maine to New Brunswick and Québec, overall maybe 12 crossings.

I don't think you need to be worried in any way, if your passport is ok, and you haven't overstayed or are wanted by the FBI.

  • "They flew in the US (having an ESTA), so this should be the exact situation that you describe" if I understand the OP correctly, this is the exact opposite of the OP's situation, which involves flying in and out of Canada with a short trip to the US in the middle. – MadHatter supports Monica Oct 2 at 13:32

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