I am planning a one-day trip from Vancouver to Seattle and will probably travel by bus (Greyhound) as it is more convenient than train (direct route).

As far I have done my research, since I am crossing the border by land, I do not need an ESTA.

The question is, what happens at the border. If I am processed for a longer time, will the bus wait for me?

If it doesn't wait for me (more probable, since processing times can be 30-60 minutes), how can I continue my travel to Seattle? Wait for the next bus?

Is it perhaps better to take the train, where I do need an ESTA (Amtrak Cascades trains do not fall under the U.S. CBP “Land Border Crossing” definition. Source).

2 Answers 2


While you do not need an ESTA, you can get one. Last time I crossed a Canada/US border, by car (no need of ESTA either), the border agent asked me if I had an ESTA. When I said I thought I did not need one, he told me the process would be faster.

But most importantly, there is a priori no reason you will take much more time than most other travellers. As you said, the total processing time for the whole bus is around 30-60 minutes. Depending on the number of people crossing the border (probably higher around holidays and maybe Friday and Sunday nights), there might be some more waiting in the bus, or fewer border agents. The process for a "VWP citizen" is a few questions on what you plan to do in the US, the filling of the I-94W, the green paper with your identification and a few questions, and the payment of 6 dollars by cash (USD only) or credit card. That does not take much longer than for other passengers.

If for some reason, be it you carry forbidden merchandise, or you are considered a threat, or whatever, they may keep you for longer. That probably does not happen to more than 1 or 2 people in a few buses (I have crossed the border by bus a couple times and I saw that once or twice, including once at the Canadian border). In that case missing your bus is probably the biggest worry (it is more the fact that you may not enter the US). I wondered like you what happens. In my opinion (I never tried!) you can either take a later bus, if there is a free spot. Regarding air travel, carriers take responsibility of transporting the people banned from entering the US back to their origin, so I suppose Greyhound should also bring you back to Vancouver if you are denied entry (or get you to Seattle if eventually allowed). Or you may be allowed to call a cab to go to a border town (on either side, depending if you are allowed in) and then you'll be able to board a bus there. Anyway, this happens often enough so that the border agents probably have a procedure for such people.

So in any case, you should not worry too much. Make the process as fast as possible, by thinking of where you go in the US, what is the purpose of your trip, by having a ticket to leave the US (by land or air or sea), a proof you reside outside the US (or even a pen to fill the form). You can also get an ESTA if you are very worried. And if for some reason the border agents decide to keep you for deeper investigation, when they release you, they probably have a procedure for that purpose.

  • Thank you for your thorough answer. So if I understand you correctly, If everything goes smooth at the border, I will continue my journey on the same bus. If ESTA shortens the processing time, I will indeed get one (although it is generally not needed).
    – ales
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 12:53
  • @ales exactly, you got it all right.
    – Vince
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 13:17

The trip is now (successfully) over, here is the summary.

Crossing the border via bus (Greyhound) is not a problem, since everybody has to go through customs (including the driver). I had an ESTA form, but it wasn't really necessary since there were only ~10 people on the bus and it was early in the morning. We were the only ones at the border and the whole bus needed about 10 minutes of processing for all passengers.

Bottom line: if you are a VWP citizen, you don't need anything to cross the border (except, obviously, a valid passport).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .