On Sunday, January 3rd we started our journey. Leaving from Kitchener it took us a couple of hours to get to the border. Several windmills and a (minor) snowstorm later and we were talking to a US border guard.
“Five months in the US?” he seemed taken a back. He was equally interested in where we were coming from. “Toronto is that place with the crazy mayor, right? What ever happened to that guy? You don’t hear about him anymore.”
Due to the length of our stay we were told to put our four-way flashers on and proceed to secondary screening.
Passed the other (temporarily) abandoned cars and (temporarily) caged animals, we found ourselves at a service counter being interviewed by a series of border guards. While Fox News hummed along on a TV above the counter, we were told they had some concerns. First, it was a longer than usual trip, but the biggest issue was that we were between jobs and didn’t own or rent any property in Canada.
You see, the starting position for every individual trying to enter the US (even from Canada) is to prove they are not trying to immigrate. All the questions you are asked when you cross are essentially designed to have you prove that is not your intention. Thanks to the Canadian Snowbird Association’s guide we knew this, and were as prepared as we could be.
Over-prepared one might say. We printed out almost anything associated with our trip: the itinerary, accommodation bookings, emails from friends in the US inviting us to stay with them, emails from friends in Canada looking forward to seeing us on the Canadian portion of the trip, our travel insurance, OHIP extension, and mobile phone suspension records to show we intended our stay to be temporary, as well as bank statements and other documents to demonstrate our assets in Canada.
At the end of the day, it was the (rather detailed) itinerary that got us through. While we had hoped to return to Canada on June 15, we were only given a permit to stay until June 2. We weren’t about to try and negotiate. “Thanks, that sounds great” we said.
Once we were across the border, we decided it was time to stop for much needed beer and food, so we drove down to the Thumbcoast Brewing Company in Port Huron, Michigan. The rest of the day was spent getting a US phone number and plan (tip: the network that your phone automatically switches to when you cross the border is your best bet). We’ll be sharing the phone for the trip, so if you need to send one of us a secret message (you know you do), email is the best way. It should be noted that the cell phone plans are far more generous here than in Canada. Unlimited everything, including data, for $60 US.
Once that was settled and checked off our list, off to Grand Rapids we went.