In my first article following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I addressed border issues in light of the new global reality.The general rule then, as now, is that nothing has changed other than tighten...
In my first article following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I addressed border issues in light of the new global reality.
The general rule then, as now, is that nothing has changed other than tightened security. People that were admissible to the U.S. before Sept. 11 are still admissible, but they may encounter more questions, or have to produce more documentation, than they did in the past.
Coincidentally, a change did occur around that time, although it had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks. On Oct. 1, 2001, new rules went into place regarding border crossing cards (BCCs). Although some people affected by the rules have concluded they are a result of the attacks, the changes were announced well in advance, to take effect at the beginning of the new government fiscal year for 2001-02.
An observer may have a hard time understanding why the new rules apply to some people and not others. The key is understanding the rights and privileges associated with Canadian or Mexican citizenship, or Canadian landed immigrant status. Now, more than ever, one’s citizenship can make a difference with respect to entry documents.
Canadian citizens are passport and visa exempt for routine visits to the U.S. for business or pleasure. Canadian landed immigrants from U.K. Commonwealth countries and Ireland are also visa exempt. Since Sept. 11, these rules have not changed.
Initially the INS announced the desire to eliminate the BCC and the annual waiver document, and substitute it with a five-year waiver document by Oct. 1. Although they have taken the first action – they no longer issue new or replacement BCCs – the five-year waiver has still not been rolled out. As a courtesy and a compromise for holders of previously issued BCCs, those individuals can continue to use their BCCs indefinitely.
But there is a second type of BCC that has caused some surprise and confusion. It relates to individuals who require a visitor visa to enter the U.S. Mexican citizens are perhaps the largest group affected by this issue. Canadians citizens and U.S. residents in the north are often unaware of the fact that Mexican citizens do not enjoy the same passport and visa exempt status Canadians do. Similarly, Canadian landed immigrants from outside of the U.K. Commonwealth countries and Ireland, also require formal visas to enter. A visa is a machine readable sticker with computerized photo issued by a U.S. Consulate and affixed to the holder’s passport page. In the past, to facilitate entry for those individuals, the INS was authorized to issue a BCC to Mexican citizens in lieu of a visitor visa.
This card, about the size of a credit card, was more durable and easier to handle than a passport visa, and was valid for 10 years. Canadian landed immigrants from non-Commonwealth countries were also eligible to receive a BCC designation, in the form of a passport page sticker that strongly resembles an Immigration visa. Although also valid for 10 years, there was no separate card. The holder received an I-94 card as an entry document.
Effective Oct. 1, the INS changed the system for the second type of BCC. For Mexican citizens, the INS introduced a new “laser visa” with enhanced security and information features. All Mexicans holding an old BCC were inadmissible with the new card’s introduction – unless they had received the replacement.
The INS engaged in heavy publicity regarding the expiration and replacement of the cards for several months but the publicity for Canadian landed immigrants was not as good.
I have received calls in the past couple months from more than one Canadian landed immigrant driver who was refused entry to the U.S. after having his BCC passport document cancelled. The situation is not as drastic as it may seem.
Cancellation has nothing to do with the person’s inadmissibility, and does not indicate any adverse finding by the INS. All it means is that the person must apply for a different entry document in the form of a visitor visa from one of the U.S. Consulates in Canada.
Due to reciprocity rules between the U.S. and other countries, there is no one rule covering the cost and duration of a visitor visa for all applicants. As a general rule, the driver faced with this situation is quite likely to receive a passport document valid for many (often five or 10) years and will be indistinguishable in all important respects from the BCC document he previously held.
So if you’re a driver faced with this situation, or an employer of such a driver, don’t panic. It has nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks, and it has nothing to do with an Immigration law violation. The situation can be remedied in a matter of days, so long as the individual has a valid passport from the home country and proof of his employment as a Canadian O/O or driver.
– Daniel Joyce can be reached at Hirsh and Joyce, Attorneys at Law, at 716-564-2727.