Tagged permanently by Canada!!

The first time I made it to Canada was in April 2012.  I arrived late (11 p.m.) from Phoenix in Toronto visiting colleagues for 3 days of business meetings… I was excited to finally visit another new country and went through Immigration… after initial questions at the first desk, the officer asked me to go a secondary room for further questioning.  We were originally going to play golf in Toronto but the weather turned cold and it was going to snow, so I didn’t take my golf clubs.  I thought the officer got suspicious that I said that it was going to be a golf trip and hence the secondary screening.  After about 20 minutes of wait finally an officer started talking to me… he asked me to show my reservation for the hotel, what I did, phone number of my friend, etc.  I found the questioning a little harsh and finally he let me through… I didn’t expect going to Canada with a US passport was going to be this hard…

Second time.. to Vancouver in June 2012.  My colleagues were waiting outside of terminal  to pick me and go up to Whistler… I got through first check quickly and texted them that I am almost out… then the guy at the exit looked at my form and said I have to go to the extended screening room… arrrggh!!! There were about 10 people waiting and 2 officers.. about 30 minutes wait and finally same routine, what do I do, why am I here, etc. etc.  I got out finally 45 minutes after picking up my luggage.  I started to get a feeling that Canada doesn’t like me….

Third time… Jan 2nd 2013… Rinse and Repeat, go to the extended screening room – it was a busy day or travel and the extended screening room was packed… luckily after 20 minutes an officer looked though line and picked up a few passports based on the “code” behind our forms and stamped my passport and let us out 10 minutes later.  Now this is getting annoying…

Finally in Feb 2013… during the extended screening.. there was not many people, the officer asked me when did I get my US passport… I told him 2002.  Then he asked me what did I do in 2006.  I said 2006?  Nothing… then he looked at something and said… actually 1996.  Were you denied entry into Canada? Then it struck me… rewind back 17 years…

In 1996 for our 1st wedding anniversary Lesli and I went to Montana and to Glacier National Park.  On 2nd day of our trip, driving through the park, we came to the US/Canada border and I thought we could get to the Canadian side of park without any issues… Then we were stopped at the border.  Luckily I had my passport in my bag which was from India then and not even a green card.  The officer told us that we can’t go through and he will not press the issue if we turned around without insisting to cross the border.  Well, we turned around and took a picture at the “Welcome to Canada” sign and drove back to hotel.  I guess he did scan my passport into system and put status “Denied Entry”.  I guess that still exists in the system no matter what passport I use now.

So the officer explained to me that since I was denied entry in 1996, my name is “tagged”… so every time they swipe my passport at the entry point it pops-up that message and they send me to secondary screening, since the details are not available at the entry desk.  So they have to make sure the denial was nothing serious each and every time… no matter how many times I come in and go.  So I asked him, if it is ever going to be cleared and he said “No, it is forever”… nothing I can do about it.

There you go.. I am permanently tagged by Canadian Immigration and have to go through secondary screening each and every time…  So this week when I came to Vancouver I told the officer at entry “secondary screening required” because of 1996… he smiled and obliged to my request.

Now I am getting to know the officers in secondary screening area in Vancouver… pretty soon we will be greeting each other on first name basis… who knows??

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