29

When crossing into the USA by land, foreign visitors who can enter visa free must pay a processing fee. Suppose that, for whatever reason, I am unable to pay this fee, then I will not be allowed to enter. Does that mean I will have been formally denied entry to the USA?

This comment by user DJClayworth notes that to cross the border, one must pay USD 6 in cash (no cards accepted), so travellers which did not get cash USD prior to crossing the border may be unable to pay. I don't know if it applies to all travellers, but it certainly applies to some (I had to pay when entering Buffalo, USA from Fort Erie, Canada; by chance, I had cash USD).

  • 10
    I think would be they'd let you withdraw your application to enter, but someone may know a solid answer. They do this to most people that can't enter due to small reasons. – BritishSam Jan 13 at 11:12
  • @Gerrit - Would you please explain your first sentence above, or provide a reference? I am pretty sure that it is not true in the broad sense that it is worded. – Michael Hall Jan 13 at 20:34
  • @MichaelHall Foreigners entering the US by land without a visa need to fill out an I-94 form, and pay a processing fee (though its really small, I think less than $10). Canadian citizens have special status and are exempt from this requirement, though if you have a NEXUS card, that is essentially a pre-paid I-94 application. See: i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home. (Note: if you enter by air or sea you will "need" an I-94 but US Immigration auto-generates it for you based on information from your travel carrier.) – KutuluMike Jan 13 at 21:07
  • 4
    It might be useful to mention that the processing fee is 6 USD, which is less than it costs to enter New York from New Jersey. – De Novo Jan 14 at 3:23
  • 2
    @DeNovo How does a snarky New Yorker pass up an opportunity to make fun of New Jersey? There are more people paying to leave NJ than just about any other continental state. – WBT Jan 14 at 19:40
67

Absolutely not. For land entry, the US has a process by which you are allowed to withdraw your application to enter the country. That is exactly and precisely intended for situations like this.

The mission of Immigration is to block anyone who isn't a genuine "Visitor" -- people who come to the US to

  • commit acts of terror or other crime
  • seek employ (without a proper visa for that)
  • go "on the dole": seek benefit of public services like food stamps, Medicaid, public housing, etc. much of which is provided by the States, but States aren't allowed to run their own immigration services, so it's all on Federal immigration.
  • Overstay their visa, or effectively live in the US through repeated visits

A refusal is a big deal. It says there were serious issues with your application that made border authorities worry you would do one of the bullet-point things above. A refusal means future applications will be viewed with distrust.

Further, Canada is a special case for the US: It's a GDP equal, so they're not crashing the gates, and easily half the population is within an hour's drive of the US border. Which means Canadians and foreign visitors to Canada make frivolous, unplanned, on-a-lark visits to the US all the time. Like, for lunch.

This creates a perfect storm for people showing up without proper documents. When this happens, it does not reflect in any way whatsoever on their trustworthiness to not do that above bullet-list of things America is worried about.

So burning a refusal into their immigration record would be completely inappropriate.

That's what "Withdraw your application" is all about. The immigration officer will instruct you "In the future, immigration officers will ask you if you were refused entry into a country. What is happening here is not a refusal. Don't tell immigration officers you were refused entry because of this. We just caught your paperwork problem early, before you applied for entry, so not a refusal. Got it?"

If you did tell US border guards in the future that you were refused, they would probably look in the computer, see the "withdraw", ask you the date and location of the "refusal" and give you a lecture about it not being a refusal and stop saying that. If you tell the UK border guards that you had a US refusal, they'd have no way to check that, and that would prejudice your UK entry.

So, not a refusal.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    The one time I have driven a car into the USA was at the Ogdensburg port of entry. The people ahead of me turned around after talking to the border officer, from overhearing their conversation, they were simply following their sat.-nav. from one Canadian destination to another, apparently not even aware they were entering the USA. Since then I thought they had been denied entry, but from what you say, it is much more likely they withdrew their application to enter. – gerrit Jan 13 at 18:32
  • 7
    If a visa form asks about "withdrawing a visa application", that would be entirely different than withdrawing a request to enter at the border. First, the question is about those eligible to enter visa-free, so there was never any visa application. Second, visas are usually applied for in advance; the visa allows one to travel to the border and request entrance. A hypothetical example: a visitor to Canada has a US visa, but doesn't want to go to the US today. Due to heavy traffic the visitor can't get out of the lane leading to the border, and tells the border agent so. – Gerard Ashton Jan 13 at 18:58
  • 2
    @MichaelHall Gerrit is asserting that someone entering the US must pay. I am reading between the lines to infer that the "someone" is neither a US nor Canadian citizen, but a foreign visitor to Canada. I am not actively challenging that claim, but I am definitely not asserting it. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 13 at 19:53
  • 9
    "like, for lunch". I don't live on the US/Canadian border, but I do live near the Swiss/German border; we don't just cross into Switzerland for something as important as lunch - we wander across just because we want to show visitors the pretty wooden bridge (and perhaps pick up a yogurt while we're there). Note that this was true before CH joined Schengen. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jan 14 at 14:18
  • 5
    @MartinBonnersupportsMonica The situation at borders between other countries may not apply to the OP situation. The one time I entered US by land felt comparable only to one other of my border-crossing experiences worldwide - but that other border has ceased to exist in November 1989 – Hagen von Eitzen Jan 14 at 16:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.