Business Travel To Canada

Although Canadians overall have been extremely friendly, their immigration department still has an important job to filter out people coming over with an intent to stay.

Apparently I fit into their demographic of a potential questionable person and I have been sent to secondary questioning 4 times out of 20 or so crossings.  I was always able to placate the secondary officer by presenting a return ticket, hotel, and rental car reservation, but occasionally they would request to read the contract or a letter of introduction from my company…sometimes going as far as requesting a business card as well.  The business card part is even more interesting since my Canadian clients are have been much less interested in collecting business cards than their American counterparts.

The problem is that now that I will be in Sales there often is no existing contract, but I will always be traveling for a pre-set meeting, not randomly dropping in on people.

My Canadian entry package will change from:

  • Passport
  • Letter of Introduction
  • Training Agenda
  • Travel Itinerary
  • Signed copy of Contract (at a minimum including the service contracted for, often also for the whole system purchase if not included together)
As always, you may cross many times and never have a problem, but after making the mistake of saying I was going to Hamilton, ON for vacation I decided to get all of my ducks in a row and be safe rather than get declined admission.  Being declined admission is not a risk I am willing to take so I get all of my papers together.
Of course my first order of business in my new job is heading right back up to Canada so I won’t have time to get business cards printed with my new title, but overall I hope that isn’t a show stopper.  Now I will try:
  • Passport
  • Letter of Introduction
  • Travel Itinerary
  • Meeting Agenda
  • A copy of the quote if I can find it
  • And maybe a copy of an e-mail confirming the meeting.
Overall I hope to just present my passport and say I’m there for a meeting and be done with it, but apparently I look really guilty or something so I’d rather be prepared.  Also, it’s just not worth it to me to lie to immigration because I don’t want to affect any future entrance into a country.
I don’t think “Why would I want to move to such a cold place” is a good defense to questioning.


  1. That is a VERY good question to end with…. why would someone from the South move to a colder clime indeed! And you are right too… that coldness begins with the border reception.

  2. I frequently have meetings up in Canada – my colleagues insist that i travel with them for this exact reason. Being Canadian citizen living in the USA, no extensive questioning is received when i travel with them…but if they go alone – they are even asked for a work visa despite all the above provided. Being such a cold country and friendly place – i wonder why they are so hard on americans travelling to Canada for business whereas the USA is very welcoming the other direction.

    Good luck!

  3. I’m not sure I would agree that the US is very welcoming the other way. I recently went to Halifax and had a charming welcome from the Canadians. However, I had a very sour puss US exit person who gave me, a citizen, a hard time – why was I in Halifax, why was I going to Boston etc. etc. and gave the English lady in front of me a real going over – she was going to the US for the weekend as a guest at a wedding, so clearly a real threat.

  4. Do they still consider a laptop “tools of the trade”? I remember them being difficult regarding this back around 1999-2000.

  5. @Susan, I would venture a guess that there are a few Americans who play the Sicko card and try to get medical treatment in Canada. Otherwise, job prospects for me aren’t any better up there since most of the companies who do what I do are US based.
    @Isaac, on Flyertalk it sounds like when the economy is down they crack down more. Also, the theory mentioned to avoid young women seems to be true. I definitely get sent to secondary more often by the 20/30 something women than by the 50/60 year old men.
    @Bill, no. My Canadian travel has always been feast or famine so by the time I really thought about it the project would be over and I wouldn’t go back for a couple years. I also keep thinking I will stop traveling, but now I will acquiesce and try to go ahead with this.
    @Flyer1, they have not addressed anything about my laptop.

  6. …I always thought Nexus costs more than it actually does. I might have problems scheduling an interview though so that might lead to a trip and added costs.

  7. I travel to Canada a couple of times a year for business meetings. At first I didn’t get sent to secondary but last year I was sent to secondary every single time, even on personal travel. The more you go, the longer your record gets because they record everything from your questioning. I got fed up and applied for the Nexus card to which I got a courtesy call because of my record. The immigration officer said I still had to send myself to secondary even though I had Nexus so really the card would be useful getting back to the US. The Nexus interview was surprisingly easy but yes, it is a hassle trying to get to an interview site. They do allow you to book months in advance and you can change your date. Good luck!

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