D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Adventures In NAFTA: Washington, We Have A Training Issue

Monday, March 16, 2009 8:42 PM

Welcome back to the further adventures with NAFTA. Last episode, we had a face to face encounter with the Customs and Border Patrol. Part of that interaction was getting a phone number that I could call to gather more information. This is where our story continues…

I called the number given, which announced that I was calling the CBP office at the airport. I went through the automated menu, waiting for the part where I could ask questions about visas. I waited…and waited…and waited, listening through the menu until I was told that if I wanted to ask about visas, I could call the US Consulate in Calgary. So much for speaking to a human here at home.

So I called the number to Calgary, listened through another long menu until *drum roll*…I was directed to a US Gov website!

To the website I go, where I find the same numbers that I had found before; the ones that charge 1.59 – 1.89 a minute for help. At this point I bite the bullet: I call the 1.59 number, give my credit card number, and promptly get passed to a human. Finally!

Unfortunately, although she was very pleasant and friendly and legitimately tried to help, she didn’t have any useful information for me. I actually got put on hold while she checked with someone else as to an answer for my question (remember, 1.59 a minute!)

Oh, and let’s just refresh ourselves with the question: “For a Canadian to speak at a conference in the US and get paid for it, what visa is required?”

K, so this lady couldn’t help me but she did give me a number to call. It was the CBP office around Niagra Falls.

So I call, and relay to the gentleman I talk to there my plight. He says that a TN might be what I need, but then transfers me to another officer who tells me that it sounds like I need a B1-I94. But…to be safe, I should probably call the Rainbow Bridge border crossing office (Niagra Falls, New York) because they have more senior guys.

Ring a ding to the other office where I talk to one of the “senior” guys there. He informs me that I need an H1 because I’m getting paid. Weird, because…um…the TN allows for getting paid?

So let’s recap here:

  • Winnipeg CBP officers give me a number to get more information. It’s a local number.
  • The number simply directs me to call the US Consulate in Calgary.
  • The US Consulate directs me to the US Gov website.
  • The US Gov site has pay-for-call numbers, one of which I call.
  • The rep on the line directs me to a CBP office somewhere close to Niagra Falls.
  • First guy I talk to there says a TN is what I need. He redirects me to another guy.
  • That guy tells me I need a B1-I94, but that I should call the Rainbow Bridge CBP office because they have “senior” officers.
  • I talk to a senior officer at Rainbow Bridge who tells me I actually need an H1.

Not a TN, a TN, a B1-I94, an H1, and an I Don’t Know. 5 different answers from five different Customs and Border Patrol officers or immigration representatives for a question that should be simple to answer.

Does anyone else see a problem here?


# re: Adventures In NAFTA: Washington, We Have A Training Issue

I told you... the first words out of your mouth should be TOURISM and then maybe SHOPPING. 3/16/2009 8:47 PM | Chris G. Williams

# re: Adventures In NAFTA: Washington, We Have A Training Issue

I can understand the border guards' reason for rejection. When in doubt, reject is the safer of the two policies for someone in their position.

I wouldn't suspect this will get any easier with the foreign policy of "buy American" of their current President. 3/17/2009 9:21 AM | JH

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