14

I'll do a two week trip from Europe to Toronto and will fly back from New York. I plan to enter the US at Niagara Falls using a Greyhound bus (or Amtrak train alternatively). I meet all requirements for the Visa Waiver Program and had no problems entering the US a couple of years ago (under ESTA by air). However on the homepage of my American consulate, it says:

To qualify for the VWP, travelers from participating countries must:

If arriving by a land border, have proof of financial solvency and a domicile abroad;

What exactly does this mean? How do I have to prove that. Is there anything I can prepare beforehand and which documents/forms are needed besides my passport?

  • 1
    Have your return ticket from NY to Europe available. For solvency, I suppose you could have a bank statement, and I assume you have at least one credit card. – Andrew Lazarus Nov 11 '14 at 20:00
  • 2
    The way to prove financial solvency is to have past 1-3 months of bank statements and a domicile abroad would be a current utility bill or other proof of residency. – Karlson Nov 11 '14 at 20:51
  • What passport are you on? – Mark Mayo Nov 11 '14 at 22:28
  • Credit card is a bit tricky, as although I travel a lot, I never really needed one (using my Maestro card at ATMs I was fine wherever I went so far including the US). I ordered one for this trip though (just in case), hoping it still arrives on time. If not, I'll have a couple of traveller cheques, which should serve the same purpose I guess. – martin Nov 12 '14 at 6:52
  • I'm on an Austrian passport. – martin Nov 12 '14 at 6:53
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Firstly, it's a little tricky - the ESTA doesn't always mean you can arrive by land. Indeed, it usually only applies to land borders within 90 days of a flight into the US (go figure).

However, I've done this and it's not a big deal. I've done both ways:

  1. Within 90 days of a flight, they looked at my ESTA stamp and once asked for my return ticket to Canada (it was 2 days later) and I went straight through. No proof of financial anything.

  2. A couple of months after a flight into the US. I was told this made my ESTA invalid, and I'd need a visa. Shocked and a bit worried as I was with a group of Canadians/Americans, he told me it was pretty simple - $6 and a stamp and 5 min later and I was done. Again, no proof of anything but a return ticket required. I did this again this year - knowing what to expect this time.

Conclusion: They're looking for evidence you won't get into trouble money-wise, and aren't trying to sneak into the US. So they want evidence you're leaving again (ie a return ticket), and IF they ask for anything else, it'd be evidence of where you're living/working. So if you're worried about it, consider a copy of your contract (with date and address) and a bank statement / utilities bill.

  • Thanks for the reply. However, I don't think ESTA will apply at all. For land borders they still use I-94W. I can't apply for ESTA as I will not arrive by air. – martin Nov 12 '14 at 6:49
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    @martin the ESTA actually DOES cover you if you arrive by land WITHIN 90 days of an ESTA flight, is what I was getting at. As you're not doing a flight first (eg exiting to Canada from US then returning) you'll need the visa with I94W, and that's done for $6 at the land border, as in my second point above. – Mark Mayo Nov 12 '14 at 7:27
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    @MarkMayo You seem to be using ESTA to mean VWP. ESTA is irrelevant if you arrive by land. The "$6 and a stamp for 5 mins" isn't a visa, it's getting admitted on the VWP. – DJClayworth Sep 6 '17 at 13:05
  • @DJClayworth more precisely, the $6 is the fee for the I-94 form. – phoog Oct 31 '17 at 3:07
6

That's the reply I received from the US embassy:

Credit cards are usually used to demonstrate the ability to cover travel expenses and the intent to depart to a foreign domicile is usually demonstrated (if even asked) by showing the return flight ticket.

I also found this video description helpful: Crossing USA Canada border by Greyhound

Personally, I ended up taking a different route and crossed in a cab at the Detroit Windsor tunnel. They pulled us over to get my I94W form but all in all it went rather smoothly. They asked me about my trip but as expected did not want to see anything but my passport. Expect to pay $20 plus the meter (including the waiting time at the border). Greyhound obviously comes cheaper.

4

To enrich the experience, it seems that land crossing is dealt on a case-by-case basis.

Riding Amtrak from Montreal to New York (Adirondack train), it all began at the Montreal central station when personnel was giving away entry application forms (huge ones, A4-paper-sized) to passengers in line in front of the stairs leading to the platform. I was asked if I had an ESTA, as it was the case, no form was given to me.

The first stop of that train is in USA; just one hour on the rails led us to the border crossing, where US officers boarded the train and checked passengers at their seats. For cases requiring more examination, passengers were asked to go to the "café" car where all the forms were available. I had to fill a green form that was typically given in airports 10-15 years ago, and a stub was stapled in my passport; all clear. Last thing was to pay the 6 USD fee applicable to land entries. The little detail is that officers only take US dollars, no cards; the bar attendant at the café car is able to do the currency exchange with Canadian dollars.

The customs stop lasted 1 hour. The train reached New York in time.

Seems the train is a rather relaxed way to cross the border; passengers remain at their seats. By bus, passengers need to get off with their luggage at the border checkpoint, clear the immigration, then get back on board.

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