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The children want to visit LA next year to witness the Super Nintendo World opening. Would it be easier to fly to Canada from the UK and travel to the States by car?

Would this reduce the chances of getting denied entry at the US border?

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    What is your citizenship? Specifically are you eligible for the Visa Waiver Program? Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 16:44
  • 7
    I have to say that assuming you have no real issues that might exclude you from the US, the chances of you being denied entry because of your colour or religion are extremely small. I'm not saying you won't get extra scrutiny and inconvenience, but it's very unlikely you will be denied. For the CBP to do so would be illegal. This from experience of many Muslim colleagues of colour travelling to the US. Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 16:56
  • 60
    Someone has to say it. It's a 20 hour drive from Vancouver BC to Super Nintendo World. Do you really want to do that with a car full of kids? Not to mention adding several days to your trip for no apparent benefit.
    – Peter M
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 18:47
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    Further to @PeterM's point, driving from Hollywood to Vancouver is about double the distance from the Channel to Caithness. As a general rule, places in North America are farther apart than Europeans think they are. Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 20:10
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    Do you have a particular reason to think you or someone travelling with you might be denied entry?
    – Traveller
    Commented Mar 12, 2022 at 7:40

3 Answers 3

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Possibility of denied entry

Whether you seek to enter the US by air, or overland from Canada, should make no difference: it's still the US, and the CBP border officer will assess your suitability for entry. If you present the same facts and documents, you should have the same chances of success.

Note, however, that the above paragraph assumes that your home > Canada > US itinerary is a reasonable one. If flying by Canada is inconvenient or illogical compared to flying directly home > US, the officer may wonder why you chose this odd/unusual/more expensive route. That may generate scepticism on the officer's part.

Effect of denied entry

If you fly directly to the US, and one or more of your party are denied entry, your trip will not occur as planned. You will be turned back to the air carrier, who will return you to your arriving flight's point of departure. None of this will be pleasant.

Sometimes, you'll be given the option to buy a ticket to go somewhere else, but this is not at all assured and will cost a lot for a last-minute booking.

On the other hand, if you come to the US by land from Canada and are refused entry into the US, you'll be turned around and can drive back into Canada. This won't be an enjoyable end to your planned vacation in the US, but you'll have more options for getting home, including rescheduling your Canada > home return flight(s).

Finally, note that the US maintains preclearance facilities in some non-US airports. Coming to the US, travelers are screened by CPB at these non-US airports. If they pass screening (both Immigration and Customs), they board the flight and it arrives in the US as a US domestic arrival, all immigration and customs assessments having been conducted at the non-US airport. If a traveler is not admitted at a preclearance facility, the result is less awful than physically landing in the US, being denied entry, and being given back into the hands of the arriving air carrier to be returned to the point of departure.

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    I have never heard of preclearance before. It seems it can be done in Ireland.. this is a very good solution for me.
    – Ulkoma
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 16:54
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    Flying direct to the US requires an ESTA, which gives you some level of confidence that the US has run your details through a database and is happy for you to enter. If your name happens to match a terrorist name (to pick an example) you would probably find this out when you apply for the ESTA, and can sort out any problems before you leave, rather than trying to do so at the US land border in a foreign country. Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 17:09
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    But note the point made over at Law in this comment: "The informal organizational pressure on a border patrol/customs agent to let someone enter the U.S. is stronger when you have to fly them back to [where they came from] (and inconvenience an airline) than it is when you have to make someone turn around in their car and drive for twenty feet back to Canada.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 17:57
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    If you present the same facts and documents, you should have the same chances of success. => this is true in theory but in practice the Canadian land border is more lax than airports. Source: 25 land border crossings via Canada and 10 crossings in US airports as a foreigner. That being said, I'd take the Irish preclearance route myself if I had concerns => worst case you turn around and take a 45 minute flight home or enjoy a pint in Dublin :)
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 20:18
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    I'd add also that Canadian immigration is not particularly nicer than anybody else and a British citizen who is likely to be denied entry to the US (I have no idea if OP falls into this category or not) is similarly likely to be denied entry to Canada. Especially if the stated reason for entry into Vancouver is a land transit to Los Angeles due to a fear of entering the US at an airport, the CBSA is likely to be at least as alert as the CBP, and they presumably have access to almost all of the same databases if it comes to that.
    – mlc
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 23:52
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No!

I am Canadian, but also a French citizen, so visa-exempt for the US. Before I got my Canadian citizenship I had to cross the land border on a French passport, by Vancouver.

  • Airports are organized to check everyone and visa-exempt (and visa-carrying) citizens get through fairly quickly, after filling in their forms on the plane.

  • By contrast, most of the land traffic through borders here concerns Canadian citizens who are essentially waved through with minimal questions and no forms. They don't even have to get out of their car. Even easier than airports.

  • However, that only applies to Canadian citizens. Other visa-exempt people have to park their car and queue up in the customs building. Along with any and all people US Customs wants to have a closer look at. It is not quick, much worse than airports! Anyone in front of you may take up a lot of time and there are many fewer booths to cycle them through. Even my own time, once "at the booth", ended up longer and more complex than when flying. And that's after first queuing along with the other cars that are being waved through, which itself can take a while if the border is congested.

This from having done it 2-3 times as French-by-land and 20 odd times as French-by-plane.

This is re. convenience. Re. entry denial, see DavidSupportsMonica's answer.

P.S. I last had to do this 12 years ago. If US Customs at land borders now follow different procedures and, as a visa exempt person, you can sort out the paperwork from your car, without going to queue up again in the customs buildings, let me know and I'll edit or delete this answer.

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    You are right that you have to exit your car if you don't have an active I-94 but at least at the border in Blaine (Vancouver->Seattle highway) there were almost never any lines and the officers were super friendly. Things might be worse on the East Coast border crossings though.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Mar 12, 2022 at 23:31
  • @JonathanReez can't VWP travelers get an I-94 beforehand online? Doesn't that relieve them of the need to get out of the car (remembering of course that anyone can be required to get out of the car if the officer feels like it).
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 13, 2022 at 15:34
  • @phoog you can apply for it in advance but you'll still have to get out of the car.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Mar 13, 2022 at 16:23
  • @JonathanReez well, I was crossing @ Blaine for one of those... 90 minutes, in building, IIRC. And that border is highly variable in wait times for Canadians, let alone non-Canadians. The other crossing was to go hike Mount Baker, 30 km east. Smaller crossing, not busy that day. Still 20-30 minutes to get through. So seems to me best case land is about best case airport, at best and that's being generous (I've had 10-20 minute pass-thru times in the US a number of times). Bad case is brutally worse. Commented Mar 13, 2022 at 17:33
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I've once waited 2.5 hours in Blaine in my car however once inside the CBP building it only took 10 minutes to get my I-94. Same deal at the airport - I've once waited 1.5 hours in line at Seattle airport as they only had two CBP agents to process visa holders. However the good news is that you can avoid the land border queues by crossing the border in non-peak hours.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Mar 13, 2022 at 18:21
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You might want to fly via Dublin or Shannon airports, both of which are in Ireland. As a UK citizen you have a almost-unlimited right to visit Ireland. There are US pre-clearance facilities in both of these airports. This means that you will go through all US tourist immigration checks in Ireland, and when you arrive in the US it will be to a domestic pier.

This will save you a long trip to the US/Canada, only to be sent back (or have an alternative holiday in Canada).

If you are doing this, then you should allow several hours to get through pre-clearance, but AFAIK there aren't many shops beyond the US security. https://www.dublinairport.com/flight-information/travelling-to-usa/faqs

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