We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

Vancouver, Canada
8 posts
Save Topic
Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

I am doing a trip to Seattle over the weekend with a couple of friends. Thing is, they all connected in the US on their flights to Canada, and thus are already in possession of processed ESTA:s. Since I flew straight from Europe, I don't have an ESTA, and it's my understanding that I am simply to fill in an I-94W form at the border. However, it sounds like my processing would take longer than theirs. Hence, my question is if I can apply for an ESTA now and thereby won't have to bother with the I-94W? Or, since my ESTA will not have been processed at a US border control previous to my crossing the land border, will that take equally as long, and will I thus have paid for the ESTA in vain?

Thanks!

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
13,856 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

Hi Schnuffi87,

Welcome to the VANCOUVER TRAVEL FORUM

And I see that you are NEW to the TA FORUMS… so a BIG Welcome Aboard as well !!

As you have also asked basically the same Question on the NIAGARA FALLS TRAVEL FORUM…

tripadvisor.ca/…35942211

I am copying my Reply (# 38 within the topic) here…

<< ESTA's ONLY apply to flight pre-clearances into the USA... this is so they know essentially that anyone who gets on a plane elsewhere in the world and flies into US Air Space has been documented / vetted.

ESTA’s therefore DO NOT apply to land crossings. For that you require a I-94W Visa Waiver

Hence no advantage in getting an ESTA beforehand.

So YES, when you enter the USA for the first time on your North American vacation you will have to apply for an I-94W... it includes being finger printed, photographed, filling out a form, and paying a fee. You'll be sent to Secondary Inspection to do this... the process normally takes about 30 Minutes... >>

Hope this is helpful,

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Edited: 17 September 2011, 09:48
Vancouver, Canada
8 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

Thanks so much for your (quick) response! I apologize for posting the same question twice and not really knowing where/how to post adequately, but as you said I am not that well acquainted with the TA forums. Yet. :) Thanks for the tips though!

And am I right to assume that my fellow travellers (all non-Canadian) with ESTA:s might or might not have to apply for the I-94W as well, depending more or less on the people working in border control at that time?

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
13,856 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

Hi Schnuffi87,

Technically, they shouldn't have to get an I-94W... When they arrive by plane... US Customs will stamp their passport or attach a paper waiver...

BUT as you say, a lot depends on who is manning the post when they return to the US by car... some Border Guards will be on top of the process... while others may just send them to Secondary Inspection as they aren't Americans or Canadians... truly it is a crap shoot... but THANKFULLY most of the time it does go to plan (waved thru after the in-car Entry Interview and their Passport checked).

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

PS.. No worries on the double-post in the CANADA FORUMS... TA is great... you'll get the knack of it soon enough... we all started somewhere

Edited: 17 September 2011, 10:27
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
6,858 posts
Save Reply
4. Re: Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

All of you will be admitted (or readmitted) to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. This is what allows Europeans to visit the US as tourists for periods of up to 90 days without having to obtain a full visa.

What happens in your case? You'll be sent to Secondary Inspection because you haven't yet been admitted to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. You'll need to pay $6 (US cash preferred) and be fingerprinted and photographed. If you wanted to go through ESTA in advance, you could try to say to the border guard at Secondary, "I have an ESTA confirmation here, does that help?" but the answer is very likely "No."

Now, to try to clear up some of the terminology that's gotten confused above. (Wine-4-2, perhaps you should just leave these questions to me?)

ESTA is a pre-authorization to enter the US by air or sea under the Visa Waiver Program. It does two things, and _only_ two things: it pre-screens against common reasons to be denied entry, thereby giving the carrier permission to transport you to the US (assuming you present a valid passport) and it gets your information into the US government computer systems. ESTA is not an immigration status and there is no such thing as a "processed ESTA".

The I-94W is not an immigration status either -- it's a paper form. ("Applying" for an I-94W is simple -- "Officer, can you please hand me one of those green forms over there?" -- and rarely refused.) You apply to enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program, and in some cases (especially when entering for the first time at a land crossing) you fill out form I-94W. Form I-94W collects pretty much the same information as the ESTA web site. In some cases, the "departure record" portion of I-94W is stapled into your passport to track your departure to the United States. If a CBP officer staples a piece of paper into your passport at any border point (air, sea, or land) when entering under the VWP, that's an I-94W.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
Level Contributor
59,740 posts
64 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

And Matt ~ what do they need to make sure happens with the I94 stapled bit when they leave the US for the final time?

Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
6,858 posts
Save Reply
6. Re: Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

Yes, if a paper I-94W departure record is stapled into their passport, it's important to turn it in before crossing the pond. When leaving the US for the final time this trip:

- If flying from a US airport, the airline should remove the I-94W at check-in.

- If driving to Canada, the Canadian border guard should remove it from the passport (they should ask whether or not you're returning).

- If they get as far as a Canadian airport and still have the I-94W, they should go to the CBSA service desk (near the exit from the arrivals area) and turn it in there.

Vancouver, Canada
8 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

Thanks for the info guys. However, I just noticed that the border guard did in fact not remove the departure record. I totally forgot to check that when I got my passport back, which is especially embarrassing after your very thorough posts (although, in my defence, it was late and we'd been in line at border control for almost two hours). Now we're back in Vancouver, and it is kind of a hassle to get back to the border. But if I understand you correctly, it should work going the airport and return it there?

Vancouver, Canada
8 posts
Save Reply
8. Re: Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

I just called the CBSA, who told me that since I didn't return the form to the Canadian border guard when I re-entered Canada, I will have to contact the US Customs and Border Protection and send it directly to them in order for my departure to be recorded correctly. I don't know if the agent I talked to didn't know that it's possible to return it the CBSA at the airport, or if the information in #6 is wrong (or if I simply misunderstood it). Because it would feel considerably better to hand it over in person rather than posting it to the US without being able to confirm that my departure record is updated.

Yet another complicating factor is that since I'm going to be in Vancouver for another seven months, I'll likely do more trips to the US. I just don't know if that'll happen within 90 days. But let's say I was to undertake more trips across the border within 90 days, am I correct to assume that it doesn't matter if I still have the departure record in my passport?

West Grey, Ontario
Destination Expert
for Toronto
Level Contributor
74,319 posts
94 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

Hi Schnuffi87;

The I-94W Visa Waiver is still valid, and can still be used to enter the US. If you cross between now and the expiry date, you can return it on your next trip.

Best Regards

Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
6,858 posts
Save Reply
10. Re: Crossing the US border by car. Faster processing w/ ESTA?

Yes, you read correctly about returning it at the airport. I've actually done this myself (with an I-94 rather than an I-94W, but very little difference) and the CBSA officer at the airport service counter seemed entirely unfazed about it, as if it was an everyday thing. The answer you got over the phone is technically correct -- it needs to be returned to the US government -- but the CBSA is authorized to collect them on the US govt.'s behalf from travellers going to Canada. The advantage is that they stamp it with their passport stamp, which certifies that it was collected from you in Canada and thereforeyou left the US as required. Obviously if the officer at the airport says it can't be done, then you'll need a plan B.

As RescueTeam notes, if you're planning to return to the US before it expires then there's no problem at all -- just keep it and make sure to get it handed in on the way back next time. But, however you do it, it is very important that you get it submitted before the 90 days are up -- if you show up at the border with a four-month old I-94W in your passport you will get very close scrutiny.

Edited: 20 September 2011, 10:08