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I'm pondering using the Amtrack Cascades train to get from Seattle up to Vancouver. The ticket price seems pretty good, the views are supposed to be great, and it seems to be fairly quick too!

When travelling southbound (i.e. into the USA), Pacific Central Station has a juxtaposed US border control point. So, you clear US customs and immigration before boarding the train, which departs from a special fenced-off platform. (The first stop after Vancouver is in the USA, so there aren't any issues with having a mixture of domestic and international passengers boarding the train)

What I can't seem to find is any information on what the procedure is going Northbound? Does the train stop at the Canadian border for customs and immigration? And if so, do you have to get off and back on again, or do they just walk through the train?

Also, I'll be travelling to the US under the Visa Waiver Program, arriving in the US from Europe but returning to Europe from Canada. As such, I'll need to let the DHS know that I've left the USA so they don't mistakenly think I've not gone. Is that easy to do when taking the train, or am I going to have a huge faff once in Canada to have my departure registered?

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While I assume the original poster has already made his journey, for reference this train does Canada Customs clearance on arrival at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, not at the border. As such, there won't be any US CBP around if you need to get an exit stamp.

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    Reconfirming five years later: when you get off the Cascades in Vancouver you are in a dilapidated, narrow, fenced off area behind the terminal and after you've frozen solid and possibly drenched as well if the queue is long enough, as you get inside you go through the border check. In other words, it's not nice. Wish my beautiful home city gave a nicer welcome to our visitors. The airport managed to do it. Why they couldn't arrange queuing inside, I can't fathom. – chx Apr 12 '17 at 5:46
  • @chx Vancouver train station is tiny. I don't think there's enough space there for a big queue. – JonathanReez May 14 '18 at 23:14
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It's usually a lot easier getting into Canada than the U.S. Make sure Customs takes your I-94 form at the border. They let you keep it if they expect you to return to the U.S. soon, to make it easier to enter. Since your going on to Europe, you are supposed to turn it in.

  • I won't have an I94 though, as I'm entering by air and I have an ESTA. My worry is if customs will be prepared for that eventuality... – Gagravarr Sep 20 '11 at 16:46
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    Customs should be familiar with it, because that happens a lot. Just be clear on what you're doing and you should have no problem. – xpda Sep 20 '11 at 18:47
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Well, I've made the trip from Vancouver to Seattle on the Greyhound bus. The bus stops at the border and we have to get off with baggage et al and put it through a scanner, and there was a proper customs and immigration check.

I've also walked over the Niagara falls bridge (back and forth) and even then went through a proper customs and immigration check BOTH ways!

So, I'd think that it shouldn't be any different by train. Whether you'd have to get off the train at the border, I'm not sure. But I highly doubt that they'd let you cross the US-Canada border without a proper customs and immigration check, especially since you're trying to cross the border legally!

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    When you crossed into Canada, did the Americans record you as leaving though, or was it only the Canadians checking your arrival? – Gagravarr Sep 18 '11 at 14:34
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    This doesn't answer the question. The question makes it clear that the train is different from the bus, since the southbound train does immigration control in Vancouver, whereas the bus does it at the border. – David Richerby Jul 2 '14 at 9:44
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Just one aspect should be clarified in addition to the answers above.

As such, I'll need to let the DHS know that I've left the USA so they don't mistakenly think I've not gone.

Since 2016, you are not required to report anything to DHS as Canada shares entry/exit information with the US:

Currently, Canada and the U.S. exchange biographic entry information on third-country nationals and permanent residents, so that entry into one country serves as an exit record from the other.

A few minutes after going through Canadian immigration in Vancouver you can open the I-94 website and confirm your exit has been correctly recorded. I've done this a couple dozen times and it always works as a charm, no special action required from my side.

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