I grew up in Vancouver, a stone's throw from the border, so I suppose I take it for granted that we all learn very early on that CBP is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, and everyone knows someone who was chewed out, berated, and generally treated like a criminal by them.
Seeing as how I work in the US now, it's probably fortunate that I grew up with such a cynical view about crossing international borders.
Anyways, let this be a lesson to Canadians (or I suppose more generally, all non-Americans) who want to cross the border for whatever reason: be prepared always for the worst. If you are crossing for business, always seek legal advice for your situation, and make sure all of your ducks are lined up in a row. You have no right to enter a country where you are not a citizen, regardless of what treaties and protocols your two nations have set up.
I do have a question for the author though: what kind of training involves setting up a US corp? Also, regardless of how you classify it in your head, I'm fairly certain that setting up and working for a US corp, for profit or education or just plain fun, means you're working in the USA, and would be illegal without the relevant visas.
Without knowing the specifics about his situation, it would seem to me that he was in fact trying to enter the US illegally - though he didn't seem to know this. Ignorance of the law won't help you very much when you're in a room with an irate CBP officer.
For example: after a series of tough questions, the border was just about to stamp my passport, he held the stamp in the air and then asked "have you been in the US before"? And I flustered, because I said no, but I corrected myself because I had crossed the border at Niagara Falls for a day trip. I explained this to the agent which granted me an extra round of questioning.
But I felt most offended when I went to Canada (I'm a Canadian citizen and I hadn't been there in years) and the agent asked me what was my reason for going to Canada. As if I needed an excuse.
You do have to provide a basic customs declaration though.
He then found a stamp on my passport (which was only there because I got a connecting flight to Chicago from Toronto - I never left the airport) I got another round of questions and even further questioning by a second immigration officer.
Granted, I am staying for almost the maximum time allowed without a visa (6 months) but such a minor slip-up can lead to a lot of extra questions and if you slip-up on them you could be on your way home. It's always good to know what you are going to say before you reach the desk, at least as much as possible.
I made the honest mistake of being honest. I was working as an electrician for my fathers company, which meant I had a plenty of money and as much holiday time as I wanted (I declared I was taking 2 weeks, and the officer acted like this was a lot).
My second mistake was being nervous. I came from the UK where our police, even at the border, are professional, courteous and aren't carrying handguns. The Canadian border officer was extremely rude (In dealing with 5 female officers and 4 male officers I found the male ones are the only professional and courteous officers employed by CBP).
After being questioned for an hour I was taken to get my bags searched. The male officer doing the searching was extremely polite and professional. He opened my suitcase (for a very messy person, my luggage is always meticulously packed to maximize space) and automatically adopted "We're not going to find anything here" mode, like you visibly saw the guy relax and he started chatting about the books I'd brought with me (one was a manga that he bought his kid).
I then got questioned further, and taken back to the immigration desk and asked to wait. This is when I overheard another male officer say "He's got nothing, you should have known that in the first five minutes. Just let him go." So she asked for the contact information, accused me of them being false when they didn't immediately answer (noisy terminal and 2 hours waiting). I asked if I could text them, and got grilled for her accusing me of keeping my phone on. I basically threw my phone over the desk at her and said "No it's been turned off for the past ten hours!" Then her attitude changed.
Since then I've rehearsed everything I've said. Act pissed off and say as little as possible. When I get to the person who checks my claims I say, sounding extremely pissed off "Hey, how are you?" I take the same policy whenever I get sent to the actual officers (it happens way to frequently, I have no clue why, apparently being completely white bread I look like a major terrorist threat - actually with my knowledge of chemistry and physics I'm probably a bigger risk than any of the guys who hijacked the planes on 9/11 as I actually know how to make a nuclear bomb - probably a very, very dirty bomb - and explosives).
She began insisting that I pay $1000 cash to enter the country with my laptop and printer. I refused to give her cash but offered to pay with a credit card. That got me detained for another hour, sitting alone locked in a room.
Finally she brought someone else out that wasn't irrationally mad at me and she charged my credit card $250. The entire thing was surreal.
Had the same experience in Europe. I'm Austrian citizen, but live in the US. During my last flight back to Austria (via Amsterdam), the border-agent in Amsterdam asked me quite in detail about why I'm entering the European Union. Wonder what would have happened if I had refused to answer.
Agent: why did you come the Netherlands six years ago?
Me: to study
A: where's your student id?
M: that was six years ago...
A: any other proof you might have?
and so on...
I would imagine in most cases the "WTF? Leave me alone." response would not mark you as anything other than a law-abiding citizen that's just annoyed with the process. They ask the horribly silly questions for a reason. Well, most of the time, sometimes you just get someone who's having a bad day or maybe just an overall jerk high on abusing his authority.
In every country I've visited it's known your flight number, know your hotel address, know your return date, and if anyone asks, you are just visiting. Getting into specifics just invites more and more questions.
It's very true. There's a reason that, when your Miranda rights are read upon a rest, they say "...anything you say can and will be used against you.."
I'll leave it up to the viewer to judge this video with a defense attorney talking about why it's never good to talk to the Police: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc
(48mins in length)
There are now also agreements between some european countries that you don't have to drop your previous nationality when you adopt a new nationality. So I should get three nationalities in a few months.
The Canadian Border Patrol has always been calm, patient and understanding in my experience. The US border patrol is hit-or-miss. Some people are nice (once I was only asked two questions, and wasn't even required to show my passport, back in ~2005), while others obviously have a chip on their shoulder and are just looking for someway to nail to the wall... no matter how small or insignificant.
Every single time, the trip into Canada was great ("enjoy your visit!") and the return and US Border Patrol Experience was horrible. I had people try and catch me on whether Kirkland was on the east or west side of Lake Washington; deep grilling on the specific chinese buns we ate; it goes on and on. I don't think I ever made it through with less than five minutes of solid grilling. I never ended up in secondary questioning, but if it weren't for my wife's love of good Chinese food, I certainly wouldn't have made the drive --- just because of that.
On the way back, depending on the person at the booth, it could either be a stern questioning, or a waive through. You learned to guess the demeanor of the agents by looking at the lines of cars; if one line was moving very slowly, it was best avoided. As a general rule of thumb, the less you say, the better (of course, it shouldn't be _obvious_ that you're biting your tongue and withholding information; just be polite, courteous and to-the-point).
I've crossed into Canada twice, both times awful. The first time (crossing from Detroit, heading towards Toronto) required having my entire car searched. The people were extremely unpleasant. Probably took close to an hour at the border. Coming home through Buffalo took two seconds. Second time was heading to Montreal from NYC and the guard was just generally a dick. Again, returning home, the guard was very friendly and advised us of some bad weather.
Maybe there's a system to the dickery, but probably not. I think border guards are generally hit or miss, regardless of their country.
> Maybe there's a system to the dickery, but probably
> not. I think border guards are generally hit or miss,
> regardless of their country.
The only bad experience I had with Canadian Border Officers was at the Lewiston-Kingston Bridge.
To me, this seems to make sense. These crossings are higher traffic than the other crossings (Rainbow Bridge, Detroit-Windsor Tunnel) in those areas. There may be more pressure on the guards at those crossings to be extra cautious, or they just might find people trying to pull stupid stuff more often (which re-enforces the idea that anyone is a potential 'evil-doer').
The other pattern that I've noticed is that most of the officers with chips on their shoulders reek of ex-military, whereas the more reasonable people don't give off that vibe.
Legally, they can't prevent me from entering the US, but they sure love to slow me down.
That said, I've always had an easy time going through the border, and have rarely had more than a couple questions asked to me over the many many crossings (this may be because I have a student visa in my passport and I believe that answers most questions for the guards before they ask them). One tip in contrast from a post above -- Don't think too much about what you're going to say, because if they ask something else you won't be prepared. Imagine border guards are actually people and you're just having a conversation with them!
Ex-military, like everyone else in the world, are individuals. Being in the military doesn't turn you into an asshole, although it could amplify that tendency if you went in with it. Military and ex-military are not exotic aliens, they're us, nothing more and nothing less.
I think it's more likely that poor treatment at the border is institutional.
I also don't claim that being in the military doesn't change people. Everything changes people, and the change in the military can be profound; in my opinion that change will most often be positive. I am biased, being ex-Navy.
What I'm saying is that the military doesn't produce assholes to the extent that you can reliably explain that behavior as a result of having been in the military. They're individuals.
All sorts of executive-branch military or law enforcement posts seem to encourage "us vs them" thinking, while shifting the bright line in the "us" direction. Accepted norms become narrower, while "the other" becomes correspondingly broader.
That change is not confined to on-the-job attitudes and behaviors.
Granted, I am a developer, but my work couldn't have been done remotely - I had to be physically present. The CBP at the airport were generally unpleasant and surly.
Of course, there's also US Border Patrol in YYC's airport for the return back to the US, and I will say that the US border guards were pretty surly as well.
I'm a Canadian citizen and I get no end of grief from the Canadian Border Patrol. "Are you trying to bring this car in illegally?" or "Visiting family? What do you mean by family?".
Then I return to the US and all I get is "Welcome home!".
It makes sense if you think about it. Who in the gov't cares if one of their citizens complain? It's not like you're going to stop coming back to your home country.
I have a friend who in the pre-Euro days only realised he had drunkenly stumbled over the Netherlands-Belgium border when he went into a fish'n'chip shop and thought 'wow, the prices are really high here'.
My own experience with the US border guards was mixed. Inland in Texas, I met a guard who ruined my day at a checkpoint (though I wasn't in danger of being detained). But at the border at Nogales, the entry to Mexico is just a turnstile, and on the entry back to the US, the guard just waved me through with a bored look on his face, passport unexamined.
I agree though that you have to be prepared, and you have to just shut up and play the game if they're being fractious.
According to the EU:
"The first right of a European citizen is the right to travel, work and live anywhere in the Union."
I guess that's because the member states of the EU have given up complete sovereignty through things like the Treaty of Maastricht.
I personally believe everyone has a right to move across arbitrary lines written on some map by wealthy people in the past few centuries. I believe it is a natural right for every human being, as much as the right to participate in the organization of your community (e.g. voting), the right not to be unduly harassed without habeas corpus, the right to be treated with dignity etc etc.
The fact that some specific law of some specific land recognises some rights and not others does not mean we should resign to the fact that this is how it ought to be. Otherwise, we might as well roll back to theocracy or some other rubbish way of life.
That is false. Every country has the right to determine who can enter its borders.
Every government, legitimate or not, has the power to decree who may or may not enter the country.
There's a huge difference between a power and a right.
For me (and many families in my town) it was completely normal to shop in Switzerland, or go to the gym there. I've once switched the border every day just to use the swiss highway, cause my commute was shorter and faster this way.
Reminder: Switzerland is not part of the EU (european union)
Reminder: Switzerland is not part of the EU (european union)
Leaving from Zurich to most European destinations by plane I usually don't even need an id.
When you take the ferry from Britain to Ireland, if I remember rightly, the customs ask you if you are British or Irish. British / Irish citizens don't have to show a passport, but everyone else does. The beautiful thing is that you are just relied upon to tell the truth.
In fact, I have never been asked anyway, they just wave everyone through.
I was really impressed by this story. I never wanted to go the U.S.A. anyway, but my decision is even more strongly reinforced now, I certainly will never go with my children. (Mostly I didn't want to be finger-printed like a common criminal.)
Travelling between the Schengen countries, in my experience, the worst country is Germany, the second worst is Switzerland. Travelling between Spain, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Portugal and Austria I don't remember being ever asked even to produce a passport. (In Germany you are though - although Germany is supposed to be a Schengen country, unfortunately the police are still bastards. They make a big rude show of themselves, and like to feel important. We decided after that never to travel through Germany again if possible.)
Also, Australian customs - really friendly. Japanese customs, also nice.
Not true. Having an ID on you is needed while travelling Schengen, and you can get a fine if you don't have one.
One chick from our bus even managed to get one when we were stopped by Polizei for a random check a few km inside Germany.
The major highway and airport crossings that deal with many thousands of visitors a day are obviously a different matter.
In my own experience as a US passport holder, the absolute hell that is entering at Heathrow far exceeds anything that my European friends have encountered coming to the US. Border crossings are often unpleasant. Europe isn't different.
If you take Europe as a whole, it's not scared of immigration between member countries. The UK is simply more racist and narcissistic than the rest of Europe.
A thing that British people forget is that our country is the only in Europe where there are no ID cards (yet). In Italy, Holland and France people think it's strange when I tell them that it's not only that you don't have to carry an ID with you in Britain, but that it's not even compulsory to own an ID (passports, driving licenses, etc. are all optional). Furthermore, you are not required to register your address in Britain, like you are in, for example, Austria, Italy, and Holland. In Britain, the state doesn't know for sure how many people there are, and where they all live because there is no national database. They have the voting register, NHS database, DVLA database, whatever the Inland Revenue has, and the census, but it's a mess and they don't really care.
In comparison, when I moved from Holland to France recently, we had to de-register (in Holland), and we took great care to say that we were travelling (not true) and we gave no address. We didn't even give the country. But they found out anyway, because they sent us letters and stuff, even though we didn't have to register in France. The Dutch state is extremely efficient, data is shared widely and easily between state organizations. It's vaguely fascist. The British system, in comparison, is chaotic.
In my opinion, the British don't appreciate how liberal their state is.
That's probably because the cameras spying on you wherever you go already know who you are.
"In my opinion, the British don't appreciate how liberal their state is."
Liberal in some ways. But there's no freedom of speech guaranteed in the British constitution, protesters are atrociously abused, and the British libel laws are outrageous. I would not call either of these things very liberal.
Of course, the British system is more liberal in some ways than some countries -- particularly in regards to their NHS -- but more conservative in other ways (see above, plus the push to privatize more and more over recent decades -- Britain is getting more and more conservative).
I've only crossed in Switzerland once (from Italy) on a motorbike, and they didn't even stop me. I slowed down approaching the border post, and the guy just waved me through. Likewise when leaving Switzerland going into France it was quite easy. That's cause the French border post was empty and we just drive through.
Y Combinator. The company he mentions has a post on the front page right now mentioning "[their] Y Combinator experience". Calling it "business training" seems an overly simplistic description, but I don't think it's technically inaccurate. It's certainly the wrong thing to call it at the border.
EDIT: And neither B1 nor B2 is the right visa, so CBP was right to send him home. The OP needed a working visa.
Just to be precise here: it probably requires an employment visa, which is in a different category than business visas. You can come to the US and talk contracts with a company your company wants to do business with: that's (probably) B-1 (business). If you're doing work in the US, you need a work-capable visa. Some options would be TN-1 ("Hello Mr. Canadian professional"), L-1 (intracompany transferee), and J-1 (specialist).
I have some accidental knowledge about this because I used to help finangle things for Japanese folks affiliated with an employer of mine, but if you have any doubt about this sort of stuff, get a lawyer. The very fact of having a lawyer makes it less likely you will get tripped up because they know how the game is played and they will provide consequential bits of advice like "Give anyone asking questions the minimum information required and refer them to the stack of official documents you will carry with you." (Bureaucracies are state machines: you give them the minimum information necessary to get the state transition you desire.) They will also to be able to give advice such as "Given your circumstances, one way we could hypothetically do things is X but the on-the-ground reality would be exactly the same as if we classified it as Y and Y is orders-of-magnitude easier to pass scrutiny for."
I certainly agree that he should have known better. How can you honestly say (or think) "I'm going to the states for a couple months to do business training, and yes those are documents to set up a US business, but no I'm not here on business."
The author noted why - he said as he wasn't financially benefiting [or acting as an agent to procure direct financial benefit presumably] he assumed it didn't count as business. TBH that's the measure most people use for "is this a business thing".
It could get quite tricky. For example part of what I do for money involves working with ceramics. I get inspiration in all sorts of places. If on a holiday to USA I happen to see a nice piece of ceramic art that inspires me then suddenly I've learnt something that benefits my business and one could argue it is in part a trip "for business". Perhaps that's too weak, but where's the cross-over ... if I go to visit a pottery? If I attend a seminar? If I go to a workshop [an event where one learns new techniques]? If I actively participate in a workshop?
Is the problem that USA don't want to let people learn things in the USA and leave the country with that knowledge just in case they give away some commercial advantage?
I am a citizen, so I have a right to enter this country. Why is it that they harass me?
I suspect they just like harassing everybody. Citizenship is barely involved.
IMO, better people training is required—but that requires spending money on soft-skill stuff that the U.S. doesn't want to spend on either CBP or TSA agents.
The absolute single biggest problem with the way CBP works (especially for non-citizens) is that a CBP agent with a bad attitude can decide to reject your entry for no reason whatsoever and no right of appeal. (The second problem, at least at Toronto Pearson, is that some of these folks apparently hate working in Canada. If you hate it, get a fucking transfer. You're a guest in Canada, and it's a great place to live. Stop being a sourpuss because your bad attitude is making it worse for all of the people you interact with, and you're a representative for the U.S. Do you really want to give a negative impression of the U.S. based on your attitude?)
Well technically citizens of the EU have the right live & work anywhere else in the EU....
As an European, I'll be forgiven if I start to forget this. After all plenty of our traffic posts, some older then US, have been turned into cafes.
We should watch this as hackers - and as hackers, this looks a lot like a process that's failing at its job. The point is not to make crossing the border an unpleasant experience (unless it is, and then it's doing a great job) but to do whatever it has to do as transparently as possibly. And regardless of other constraints, it can _at least_ do it politely.
No matter how you look at it, somebody isn't doing his job here.
>the border guard starts in on me hard. I mean he had it out for me. I still have no idea why I rubbed him the wrong way, but he sure didn't like me.
This happens to me 75% of the time I try to enter the USA.
The best one was when I had my usa-plated motorbike in Canada, and came back into the USA with it. The border guard yelled at me, literally yelled at me for 2 hours about how much trouble I was in. "You gunna get it, boy", etc.
Whenever I politely asked what law I had broken, I was told to "shut the hell up, smartass".
(I broke no law, and was eventually allowed on my way)
Another time in front of about 40 people the border guard booms "Can you read, Boy?". To which I replied "yes, sir", as he threw my passport across the room, hitting me on the chest and falling on the floor.
A while back I was flying out from LA to Melbourne, and upon looking at my international plane ticket, the border guard said "where's Melbourne?". I was then forced to sit in a dark room, by myself for 4 hours, until another guard came along and said "looks fine to me, on your way"
>he was trying to get me to talk and contradict myself - which I have to admit is pretty fucked up.
This is the case every time I cross the border.
For the record, I'm white.
Oh, and I had a similar experience re: Melbourne. I'm a US citizen living in Australia, and was landing in San Fran for a 3 week visit about 8 years ago. As required by law, I travel on my US passport in and out of the US, so no problem right? But no, I start getting the third degree about what I do with myself - "I'm a student at the University of Melbourne" - "What is that? A college? What's Melbourne?" - err, where I just came from, and its best known University.
(For non-Americans: a common racial slur in the southern US during the Jim Crow era was to call an adult black man "boy".)
The phrase was a slogan for a product that the local celebrity had been involved with, and didn't have the connotations here that it did in Ali's home country... the interview went sour fast.
In older English films, you often hear "my boy", which also doesn't have the same connotations.
Across cultural boundaries, the same words can mean different things.
Nonetheless, I'd be offended if someone referred to me as "boy" when directly addressing me because of the connotations that come from a culture separate to my own.
here's the video (can't confirm audio on this machine)
corrections to my story:
- late '70s
- misunderstanding was acknowledged and forgiven
"Do you live in Holland? What do you do there? What are you doing on your visit back home?"
I usually (happily, respectfully) humor them for a few questions, and then switch to "am I free to go?" (with a smile).
Only once has this resulted in a small temper-tantrum by the agent (after which he just let me go). They cannot deny you entry, they can only delay it for a while and conduct extra searches.
How would you call a person you don't know? Particularly someone with authority, like a cop, border guard, etc? Just curious; so far I still consider "mister", "man", "ol'guy" and "chap" to be deliberately insulting :)
"Hey, guy..." or "Hey, dude..." or "Hey, man...". I prefer just "Hey" or "Hi" to get someone's attention. "Mister" and "ol(d|') guy" seem anacronistic to me. (I was born after Vietnam if that helps.) "Mate", "chap", etc. are the same idea, but originate in British (or colonial British) culture.
Those attention-getting pronouns are frowned upon in formal or "civilized" (upper-class or upper-middle-class) communication, I suppose because it's considered informal or rude to try to grab someone's attention that way. However, in everyday vulgar (as in not-formal) speech, I don't consider any of them to be insulting. There are other culture-specific race-specific and gender-specific pronouns which can be very insulting, to the point of getting you killed when used in the wrong situation, but can also be okay depending on who you are and who you're talking to.
When talking to cops, border guards, or any agent of the executive branch who has the power to ruin your day, I would always use "sir" or "ma'am".
e.g. "Hey, guy! Don't step on the wet floor"?
I don't think, generally speaking, that honorifics are required, even with individuals working in an official capacity (I would never say "sir" to a cop or a ICE agent, for example). That might just be a west coast habit, though. Back east, things might be different.
BTW how would you talk to the said cop? Officer?
I'm from Southern Europe and I'd say it's quite normal for waiters to greet customers like that (except on fancy, expensive places of course).
You don't have to "create bonds" with them, it's just a matter of being friendly.
Also, don't forget that waiters in the U.S. live off their tips, so I guess that can be a reason as to why they try to be as friendly as possible.
When interacting with authority figures I am generally polite without deference.
I find that people generally use honorifics when they're being quite rude and would like to soften the impact (e.g. the perennial "Good day, sir"), or while insipidly attempting to endear oneself to another (e.g. perceiving someone as wealthy or powerful). I don't know if it's my own egalitarian nature, or cultural, but I find both more rude than the omission of "sir" or "madam".
I wouldn't call a cop anything. Would just say "hi".
You're under the impression that complaints filed with DHS will lead to consequences. I'm not quite so certain this is the case.
TSA is annoying, but for the most part just see like miserable people grudgingly following policy. CBP on the other hand, consistently seems like it attracts only the most power-trippy of individuals known to this country.
I don’t have any rights, right?
Exactly. By very definition, when I enter the USA under the visa waiver program, I have to sign the back of the form, which essentially says "You have no rights".
(That's actually what the guard was talking about when he asked if I could read)
Even when I've applied for a working visa, been interviewed and approved, paid the fees, have an entire page visa in my passport and caught a 15 hour $1200 flight, the border guard can deny me entry and force me to go home simply because (s)he doesn't like the cut of my hair. (S)he doesn't need any more reason than that.
I will never, ever talk back or be in any way uncooperative to a US border guard, or any law enforcement during time in the USA, including asking for a badge number. I don't want to deal with the st storm that will likely bring down on me.
I'm not white. In fact I look like I could be the younger, nerdier brother of Mohamed Atta. I got off my green card and became a US citizen only in 2009 (After I was sure McCain wouldn't become President, and after I was certain they couldn't draft me :-)
My papers have always been in order, and I've never had a problem with any customs or border guards.
Blame dumb visa requirements, not the agents who actually managed to catch you out. The laws need to be changed, and Obama actually got the point in his SOTU.
In my five years living in the US during the first dot com boom first a student then on an H1B visa I knew enough not to bother trying to start a business. I've since started or helped start over 10, but none in the USA. Their loss.
I feel misled after reading the article. Not knowing the context, I assumed that he was actually referring to some sort of training; something like business school, in which you pay to be taught. Instead, being given an initial investment to form a corporation, write a prototype, and shop it around to venture capitalists is pretty much the definition of "doing business," even if it is only the first few steps.
I can imagine why CBP officers would feel misled as well. And it doesn't help that he is saying he had no intention of keeping the business in the US. Starting up a business in the US just to take the capital and move the business overseas? This isn't something that a lot of border officers are going to take kindly to, nor is there likely to be much in the way of laws encouraging it.
I would absolutely like to make it easier for successful, smart, and educated people to immigrate to the US, and make it easy for people to immigrate to the US in order to start a business. But going to the US to hit up investors, work for three months to get a prototype going, and then move the business elsewhere? You're going to have a hard time selling that.
Perhaps if he was able to prove that his business was not in the USA and that it would not be in the USA, then he may have been able to show the difference between training and returning, and incubating a new business.
Er... What? You create a business in order to give yourself legal protection. You can go mow lawns, or do contract software, or whatever, without forming a business. But by forming a business you 1) give yourself personal liability protection and 2) create more options for handling taxation.
It's like they go out of their way to discourage people from doing business.
That's not really true. For something like $150, and minimal paperwork, I can start a business right now, in my state. In fact, it was only $50 until just a couple of years ago.
Starting a business from another country, however, is another matter. I don't think it should be particularly easy for a non-American-resident to start an American business.
I started a Delaware corporation a few years back, and it took a couple of hundred dollars to a company to have them set it up for us. It would've been cheaper except for some complexities in the way we wanted thing set up.
The only thing that's slightly more hassle is getting a US business banking account set up, but that's easy enough too (my first attempt at getting a US bank account many years ago required me to go in person to the US consulate to have them certify my signature and a copy of my passport, and that's the most hassle it's ever been).
If you want to work for your new US corporation _in_ the US, that's another matter.
You did this through a registered agent service, correct? How did you get a federal EIN? Is it really your business, or is it a business of the registered agent, who defers to you?
That said, attempting to cross borders for the purpose of working illegally (sorry, I don't like the law either, but there is no conceivable way that YC does not count as employment) will not endear you to law enforcement. I wish they had been more polite in the course of discovering your true purpose and refusing you entry, but if they hadn't, that would have been a crazy result under US immigration law.
There's better ways to handle one's business and legal affairs tactically, but start with knowing that the US really doesn't have a visa category "People from countries we like, for any purposes whatsoever, no questions."
"Often this training involves setting up an American corporation for the startup activities - but I'll get to that later.".
Why didn't he just say he was accepted into a start-up incubator, and his company was being funded in exchange for a piece of the company that was being incorporated, and that they were going to make a real product and try to find customers for that product?
"We go through his whole list and at the very end, he very stubbornly says none of it matters because the real grounds for refusal are that I am trying to start a business in the US as according to the notes on my file by the Lewiston prosecutor. I refute this, explain the documentation prevents and disproves this, I explain and explain and explain and all to no effect."
What exactly are you doing in YC then...?
Then they'd arrest him for being a bio-terrorist.
He makes it sound like this is an evil US policy. But in fact, every country I've ever visited outside the US, and I've visited a lot, asked me when I would be leaving and issued the appropriate visa. For example, if you visit the Philippines, the initial visa is 21 days. You can extend the visa, but again you must inform the government of your leave date. But if you mess around with Customs on this, you're likely to get in trouble all over the world, not just in the US.
I was in Toronto for a week for work in December, and part of entering the country was presenting a letter signed by our Canadian office verifying that I really would be leaving on the set date, that my accommodations and travel out of Canada were already booked and paid for, etc.
Always make sure you have your ducks in a row at the border. I still find it hard to believe that someone approved to YC would not know that. If you're doing anything more than just visiting, you probably need to apply for a visa in advance. Lying to CBP (they call it "misrepresentation") is grounds for a lifetime ban from the US.
Here in Europe, we have mostly no border between 15 states, when you cross one by car, you have a few signs on the side of the road: flag of the country you are entering, european flag, and local speed limits. That's pretty much it.
Not as weird as the fact that Irish people without UK citizenship, resident there can vote in all elections, and that UK citizens resident in Ireland can vote in all elections bar for President (seeing as Irish people in the UK don't get to vote on the Head of State.)
In my experience the CPB is the worst customs agency in the world and I'm an American. Natural born, of course.
If you're naturalised, my understanding is that you have all the rights of a person originally born in the country, with everything that implies. Is there even a point of asking this question other than aggressiveness?
But it only works this way if you're a US citizen. With any other status border agents can do and ask pretty much whatever they feel like.
Traveling to a country which you are not a citizen of is not a right, it's a privilege. There are places where you need to apply weeks (or months) in advanced just to visit. Every country has different types of visas, and each visa has restrictions on what sort of activity you can and cannot engage in. If you are unprepared, or worse, you get caught breaking these laws, whatever happens is your own fault.
Don't like the system? Don't like how a particular country enforces its laws or what the punishment can be? Don't travel.
Not one of the 9/11 terrorists entered the US from Canada, and it is a startling indictment that there are people still so incredibly ignorant to make this claim.
Further the US has one of the most porous borders on the planet, with some 12 million+ illegals within its confines right now. They didn't get there from Canada -- they flew directly in from overseas, or walked across the land border from Mexico.
I frankly don't think you understand one bit of what I was saying. You latched on to one part of my original statement - which particular terrorist it was that crossed the border - and missed the overall point. The border patrol is not there for travelers convience. The burdon is on the traveler to have their affairs in order. The officers are going to really dig into anyone who has a wierd story or raises red flags. The fact that you know you are innocent doesn't mean they know you are innocent.
Let me give you an example. The last time I crossed the border from Canada into the US, I was waiting in line in my car. I was probably 10 cars from the checkpoint when I realized that I had left my passport in its usual home in my suitcase - which was in the trunk. I thought, "oh, I'll go get that now so I don't have to waste time later and hold everyone up in this line" which seemed like the efficient thing to do. As soon as I got out of my car to open the trunk I had a pile of border patrol agents running at me yelling to put my hands up. I hadn't realized it, but apparently going for the trunk would be an obvious move to set off a car bomb.
Once they came over and we talked about what I was doing it was all cleared up and I had no issues, but at the moment what was an entirely innocent action to me appeared to be very suspicious to them. That is not an indictment of them, it is just a fact based on the red flags they are looking for. If you hit those red flags, whether you know you are innocent or not, you are viewed through the lense of their training.
Now if you got that from my original message and still think I'm an idiot, then thats your opinion. But that's my perspective on the matter and I'm almost certain that you are judging it without understanding it.
How utterly obnoxious. I suspect that few of the HN community would embrace your inability to accept your error.
You latched on to one part of my original statement - which particular terrorist it was that crossed the border - and missed the overall point.
You claimed that all of those responsible for the worst terrorist incident in the US history came through Canada. Only none of them did. It's a pretty egregious claim.
The rest of your boring story is irrelevant. Terrorism has nothing to do with this situation. Nothing at all. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
I agree. I worked for 8 years for a Canadian company, during that time travelled up to 4 times a year for our US clients. Often having to bring ample documentation to prove that:
* I work for a Canadian company, and am paid by the Canadian company. (See letter from my employer, on my company's letterhead.)
* The American client I'm visiting is a client of my Canadian company. (See Statement of Work, license agreement, copy of purchase order. Note the SOW specifically has a provision saying "onsite travel required".)
* The American client invited me into the US for the installation/support of our product. (See letter of invite, signed by American client on their letterhead.)
And so on. Regardless of bringing this documentation, I found that the US boarder guards often did not even request it.
But if they did, and if I didn't have it, this business trip would be fscked.
Anyway, I'm going to try inserting <p> tags every few sentences to see if I can make sense of his rant :)
- super tempted to make a bookmarklet for that later on.
Sort of. But we are all citizens of the world. States are just arbitrary things made by ... historical reasons, I dunno why. This reason is the same reason the customs guards use to excuse their crappy behaviour to other people. No-one deserves to be treated like that.
Does President Obama get that sort of treatment when he goes through the U.S. / Canadian border?
> Don't like the system? Don't like how a particular country enforces its laws or what the punishment can be?
I would have said, "Complain." Because the more people in a position of power act like that, and people don't complain, the more it gets accepted as normal.
I find that often you get pestered by people in museums, saying, "Don't point!" and whatnot. The last time we went, my daughter got told off for touching the plastic sign next to a painting. It didn't used to be like that, the museums have got more ... well, fascist. Some of them now have airport-like security with X-ray machines (e.g. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).But people put up with that crap, and they've got used to it. 50 years ago, people would have thought, "What the fuck?!"
In the 70s (I think) Jean Tinguely made machine-like sculptures that people were allowed to touch and use. Now those sculptures are worth millions, so they don't even turn them on. But even new works by unknown artists nowadays, they would never let you touch the art works.
It's interesting to compare it to a restaurant. Because in a restaurant you pay afterwards. So if the waiter starts being dickish, and you complain, and ... he carries on, nothing changes, well you can just stand up and go! And not pay! But the fact is that the restaurant wants their money first. So usually they are much nicer than customs guards or museum attendants.
(I live in Europe, but) why don't you U.S. / Canadian people do the following:
Give a tip to the guard when you next pass through customs, but only if they are reasonable, do their job properly, and they aren't rude. You like tipping anyway! Make it a new American institution, get all your friends to do it.
Eventually, the customs guards will learn to expect their tip, and will be nice to you.
He brought it upon himself. You can't just go unprepared expecting them to help you out.
Generally, every question that the CBP agent will ask revolves around money: who pays your salary, in what currency, are you attempting to get in to the USA to find a job, will someone be giving you money for whatever reason (e.g. honorarium for giving a talk at a conference), etc. Even if the question sounds innocuous or completely unrelated to money, chances are that depending on your response, a follow up question would be. Additionally, if for whatever reason the agent decides that he doesn't like your story and believes that you are going to the USA and are going to be given money while you're there, you're basically shit out of luck.
> I say Waterloo (totally out of habit) and that I left my job so its no issue about the time off (just a pointer here - never enter the US with an unclear leaving date, and no paying job).
As someone who got locked up in a tiny room for a few hours because I mentioned that (at the time) I had been self-employed, these are basically the worst things that you can say.
I really do understand what the author went through, and I sympathize. But the reality of the situation is that entering a country where you are not a citizen is not a right, it's a _privilege_.
Remember: The CBP agents aren't there to let you in; there are there to keep people out.
The reality of the situation is that any country that treats its most productive guests in this way won't remain an attractive destination, regardless of whether those guests have the right or privilege of visiting.
It's one of the few countries in existence with a century-long isolationist movement, and in decade after decade has had anti-immigration sentiment run high for one immigrant group after another.
I never got actually locked up like this guy, but I did have to sit in the lobby while they went through our van and had to answer tons of questions. If you're telling the truth it's not really a problem. If you're lying though, you'd better be a damn good liar because they are trained to try to trip you up.
I was telling the truth the whole time, which is why they ended up letting me travel that day. But let's just say that the next time I crossed the border, I had a mountain of paperwork that proved that I was employed by a Canadian company, that I was paid in Canadian dollars, that I had a return ticket booked & paid for as well as lodging, and a letter of work and an agenda indicating what I would be doing in the US while I was there.
...but you have enough that you're not going to need to start working to support yourself.
Border Patrol: What is the purpose of your visit?
Liar: I'm helping my friend move
Border Patrol: How long are you staying?
Liar: Heading back on Monday.
Border Patrol: OK, have a good trip.
The problem is, well, primarily that he chose to lie when crossing the border. But, more specifically he chose the wrong lie to tell. If you're crossing the border and planning to lie about the purpose of your visit, you'd be better off making it easy on yourself and lie about the length of your stay instead.
I don't mean to suggest to anyone that you should lie at all - it is much smarter to just tell the truth. I'm just saying that if you are planning to lie because you have the wrong visa type or whatever, then at least be smart about it and think of better story. Otherwise you wind up trying to explain to a border patrol why you are entering the country with no return date and staying for 3 months just to "visit California."
The border agents don't like one-way flights. My sister was turned away at the border because she had a one-way flight to visit her boyfriend and they figured she was going to visit illegally. She also had "suspicious" things in her suitcase like a cookbook: "So you're going to take an illegal food service job?"
Make sure you can prove you have enough money to support yourself. The guy in line in front of me got sent back once because he couldn't prove this.
Avoid hard-to-explain travel arrangements, such as travelling in the US, crossing the border back into Canada to visit someone, then crossing back into the US to catch a plane. My best friend got stuck in Windsor because of this, although his scary hair and beard probably didn't help either.
If you have a green card, don't leave it at home by mistake. I got taken into the little room and had to pay a $265 administrative fee because of this.
Make sure you have documentation for everything. When my friends drove through the US to a wedding, I told them to make sure they had the invitation, hotel info, etc, to show customs so everything went smoothly.
Don't have a complex story that makes no sense. I'm sympathetic to the original author, but reading his post I couldn't figure out what he was really doing in the US and I'm not surprised he got turned away.
The strangest questioning I had crossing the border: "Where are you visiting?" "What's your father's name?" "What does your father do?" "A teacher? What school did he teach at?" By this point, I was wondering where this line of questioning was leading. But then the border guard said, "I know your father. He taught me in Grade 11."
While I'm on the subject of border crossing, I've opted out of TSA body scanning several times. I've seen complaints from others, but the patdown has always gone smoothly for me.
Border guards are trained to make you feel uncomfortable, because they need to be driving with you to in a reactive state. They adapt to build psychological pressure. Don't get too hung up on them "singling" you out or targeting you, a lot of it is carefully choreographed and rote.
I've also heard from a cabbie that crosses the land border often that sometimes the guys in the booth will send someone inside, then come inside and request to deal with that person themselves. This allows for massive amounts of abuse for assholes on power trips. If it has to go through multiple people, there's at least a chance for one officer to say, "WTF" if another is out-of-line.
Some people are super-nice, and others are complete assholes. This is not by design. If it was all choreographed, then the experience would be very much more homogeneous.
That said, there is a difference between a 'stern line of questioning,' and making an ass of yourself. Conversations like:
Me: Answer, because...
Officer: Stop trying to qualify your answers! I'm asking
the questions here asshole. Just answer *exactly* what
I ask you, are you stupid or something?
Later I found out its a common ploy they use to illicit an emotional response and they watch for tell tale signs that I would give myself away if I was lying.
Unfortunately for the lady the holiday was roughly a week of heavy drinking on yatchs and partying all night, so I was absolutely exhausted. So I let out a rather unrepeatable hail of abuse at how stupid she was and the poor woman didn't look up to meet my angry gaze and just stamped my passport... and I walked off nervously, full of guilt, expecting a security guard to escort me off for questioning or something but no one did thank god.
So they have all sorts of things up there sleeves to try and read your intentions from the get go, I've never had any abuse myself though, but then I've never travelled into America before either.
Case in point, my co-workers and I would always have difficulty going through US customs (which, is located in our Canadian airport) when questioned by one specific agent.
If we go through US customs and get any of the other agents, 9 of 10 times there would be no issue at all.
When I landed in Helsinki en route to Osaka, I was stopped by a border agent because my passport was not stamped. I was led back into a downright skeery waiting area for what looked like one of those good-cop-bad-cop, beat-the-crap-out-of-the-suspect interrogation rooms you see in cop shows and movies. She also had a pistol on her hip. No mere paper jockey, this one. She had to be ready to shoot a motherfucker.
Now as it turns out I landed in France, and to the French, it seems, stamping your passport is something of an optional administrative detail that may be overlooked. So my passport was looked at but not stamped. That raised some WTF alarms when I landed in Finland. (Good old EU! A model of international cooperation!) I tried explaining this in the best way I knew how, me not knowing WTF was going on either since this was my first European landing, and waited, tensely, for 15 minutes while they decided whether to do the old good-cop-bad-cop routine on me.
Thankfully, they said I could go. But I was on pins and needles there for a while.
It was actually cheaper if I went that way around the planet via Finnair.
1. Enter via private plane. The staff at airfields handling private air traffic tend to be less stressed and way more relaxed. I've taxi'd right past the allotted space (Found it eventually) as well as made gitmo jokes with BP - they just laugh.
2. Cross by car at a smaller crossing. Again staff tend to be less stressed and more accommodating.
3. (I took CS!) Have all your ducks in a row before heading off. Really. No really, work it all out beforehand. Even if just going for lunch (Which is easy. "I'm going for lunch sir, I'll be leaving in 2 hours")
This can be a serious advantage if you do a lot of business within 1000 mile range of home base.
One memorable occasion: Just over a year ago I booked a ticket at the last moment, traveling one way and by myself to join my wife for New Years. I couldn't find my passport but with nothing to lose I gave it a shot with no picture ID on me except a 19 year old expired passport and a Costco card. Shockingly, through massive understanding and goodwill, I was able to pass through both Canadian and US security and immigration, albeit not without a few extra questions. Did I mention my mixed background is often mistaken for Middle Eastern and I have a scary drifter beard that sometimes causes my neighbors to politely decline riding in the elevator with me (lest they be mugged or assraped apparently).
So yeah, when I read this article, my impression is the whole story might be a little different. If you could also get the story as told by (1) the guys he was traveling with, (2) the guard, (3) the guard's wife and (4) the spirit medium well might be a cool movie in there.
At least he didn't do anything stupid enough to get banned for ten years.
Next time: Try being nice to the border guard. Let them do their job but at the same time try to engage in some conversation that is of interest to them. Don't try to engage to much. Social engineering goes a lot further than the rule book.
Don't forget border guards know how to use the the internet and read his blog/website/Resume. Which leads to the question, if he wasn't working for upverter anymore, what exactly was he wanting to do in the US.
The process was ridiculously stressful and daunting. My company is not exactly a huge economic driver in Canada (right now I'm bringing about $500k per year in local economic investment to BC), but it's amazingly time-consuming to get all the paperwork right and get a work permit.
After going through this process to enter Canada, I am considerably more sympathetic and tuned-in to the discussion of immigration reform in the USA. Zak may have technically been in the wrong here (and the border officers may have been correct in turning him away according to the law) but I think the law is profoundly sub-optimal, and it saddens me to see that my native country is this economically backward.
Having done business across this border before I'm sorry to say this is a very typical story. Recreational travel across the US/Canada border is quite simple but both sides are sticklers for business travel. People have crossed 50 times to go skiing or visit family without a problem and get used to that process, and then show up the 51st time saying they're on a business trip and end up getting refused because they don't have the right visa.
I used this guy's website to successfully (and without hassle) get a US work visa: http://www.grasmick.com/
I'm constantly back-and-forth between the US and Canada, on a variety of visas. Generally, US customs officials based in Canada are far nicer. It's good to try and minimize the possibility that they'll be cranky or see you as suspect. I never feel like I have a right to enter the country I'm not a citizen of.
Also, if you're frequently back-and-forth between the US and Canada, you might consider getting a NEXUS pass. If you're Canadian it's just $50, good for five years, and should minimize border agent hassle.
Now, I think the behaviour of some of the border patrol agents seems unacceptable, but he was trying to enter the US for 3 months with no proof of ties to home and no return flight.
Putting the business visa aside, that alone is enough to be rejected. If you have no job, and do not own a house or have a mortgage, and have not booked a return flight home (and I don't believe he had any documents to prove he could afford one) you are going to be rejected.
Normally I wouldn't side with border patrol but despite the poor treatment he received he brought a lot of it on himself through poor planning.
The one time I did go to America was precisely through the port the OP did - from Niagara into Buffalo. I got asked some pretty awkward questions and made to feel quite uncomfortable - at the time I thought they were massive bunch of assholes.
He really didn't understand that we were just going over the border for 2 hours to eat chicken wings!
Throw in Mexico, Canada and Alaska and you are up to 6 times the area, with 3 borders (and the Canada-Alaska border is sort of its own thing).
"It's a big place" doesn't really relate back to border control policy, but the borders of the U.S. and Canada aren't really all that similar to the borders of countries like the Netherlands or Spain.
They used to be.
I imagine it would be far less expensive for the U.S. and Canada to just open the border and spend some of the savings on policing any problems from that, but I don't really expect that to happen in the near future.
A former colleague of mine tried to get his American girlfriend to the UK and they had massively different stories when she arrived. She got a 1-month holiday visa and a severe threat that both (he was a US citizen) would be deported if she overstayed by even a single day.
The onus is on the person crossing the border to know what they're doing. There's plenty of info, particularly on going to the US and no excuse not to prepare, especially if you're going for work not a holiday.
Yikes. You really walked into that one. The more I kept reading the more I was cringing. The good cop, bad cop routine, letting you sit for hours, "let me talk to the supervisor" thing.
Punctuation exists for good reason.
We can debate whether or not the ordeal was deserved or not, but I don't think many of us can honestly deny that he lived through a tough experience.
To those downvoting me, that's fine. But please realize that I was trying to uphold one of this community's core tenets, which is don't write things you wouldn't say to someone in real life (paraphrasing). I don't know groggles, but I'm guessing that he/she is an emotionally-mature adult, and so I can't imagine him/her saying to someone who just described being jailed and harassed by customs, "Please enunciate better when you talk -- I had a hard time understanding you". To me at least, this kind of attitude represents a major reason for the decline of online communities. Sometimes I just can't watch it happen without saying something.
Secondly, no, emotional situations don't excuse the delivery. Unless he was literally writing a cry for help from confinement somewhere, he can take the time and respect readers by putting in some semblance of appropriate formatting. If it's just a rant then so be it, but it doesn't belong here.
Thirdly, HN isn't a support group. I'm not going to bother with comforting words because the parts I could decipher give the image of a very naive, assumptive, flippant person. So many mistakes were made -- on their part (at the very outset by proclaiming a right to enter another country -- that I'm surprised that they spent the effort seeking sympathy.
I don't think any one begrudges countries their border paranoia. But what is utterly un-necessary is the rude, psychotic, OTT behaviour of the border people. Fine that they want to check people out, but to scream, shot, and abuse people visiting is frankly outrageous.
I've rarely left my country, and every time it was no pain what so ever. But after reading that, which confirms all the negative press, has confirmed that I will never ever travel to the USA. Why would any one want to risk that?
This reminds me of the difference between Australia and the US in regards to the right to withhold comment. With similar legal backgrounds, there are similar rights about being questioned, but there are subtle differences.
In the US there's the good old 5th amendment that everyone knows (from TV if nowhere else). You don't have to comment, and your unwillingness to comment cannot be used against you in court. However the police can quite freely and happily lie to you to get what they want.
There are subtle differences here in Australia. You can reserve the right not to comment. You don't have to speak, but depending on circumstance, withholding comment can be used against you in court (I guess for things like "I refuse to say where I was on the night of my wife's murder" kind of stuff, I don't know for sure).
But on the other hand, when questioned by police, they have to tell you what they're questioning you about at the start of the interview. If they're questioning you about a robbery down the street and you let slip that you have illegal drugs in the house, it's not connected to their reason for interview and technically they can't use it. There are exceptions for very serious crimes like murder, of course.
It means that authorities do not have the right to go on 'fishing expeditions', though I don't know whether it applies to border control.
disclaimer: I don't follow law in much detail, just read the above from an Australian law site when I was wondering what our version of "the 5th" was...
I'm from France and I can travel everywhere in Europe without having to show any identification and without having to prove something...
Right now I'm near Toronto and planning to go to the U.S. in a couple of weeks... Heard so many stories about other students buying their plane tickets and then being stucked at the border, and now this rant, I'm shitting myself.
Enjoy your trip!
The border officers ask generic questions and try to see how you respond to them. This is good because the response will reveal more than your words.
However, the caveat is that if you honestly enter with a reason that is somewhat out of ordinary then you just make it more complex the more honest details you spit out. On the other hand, if you manage to appear like the thousand other people who went across the border the same day, you can have lots of things that you never need to or want to explain.
So, it comes down to playing a role. Rehearsing answers to likely questions helps not because you'd want to learn to lie to the border officials but to keep the process smooth by sticking to its rules. Unfortunately, the same rehearsal will allow you to cover a purpose of the trip you don't want to reveal.
That's why they call it "security theatre".
Seriously folks, this isn't like walking to the corner grocery. Know what documents to have, what to say, how to act -- everything -- before you cross the border. There are lots of people who get paid everyday to "protect" their country, and they would like nothing more than to have an excuse to fuck with you.
Now you may not like that. I do not like that at all. As an American, I really wish we could be more friendly about these things. I love my country and am proud of it, but I am also ashamed about it in many ways. This is one of them. But whether we like it or not or whether we're ashamed of it or not -- you still gotta know what the hell you are doing when you go to cross a border.
I wish I could upvote this, but sadly it's just too much like a bunch of other articles.
It's a pity that the first welcome people get amounts to "we don't want you here".
I still think we should have agreement with Canada and people should move more easily.
e.g. most border guards believe you need a 9-5 job for life and if you don't have that you are probably up to no good. So answer with that in mind. Don't include irrelevant details that don't fit what they can understand.
The more stuff you say they don't understand the worse off you will be.
Another post mentions money: they just want you to have enough till you get out and not be a burden. They asked me what my parents occupation was (they were my backers), and I did have documentation as to that (their payslips), not that they cared much.
FYI: If a visitor from a friendly first world nation tries to enter your country carrying a valid passport, the appropriate response at the border should be: "welcome".
The one in a million who wants to enter the country with the intention of outstaying their welcome can do this so easily by booking a hotel and having a return ticket that is is really not worth harassing all the other visitors for.
Yes I know there are worse places in the world but that doesn't mean we have to be a-holes ourselves.
And stop apologizing for border guards - they don't take that occupation to do anything noble, they take it because they get off on it.
I've seen people go YVR-YOW-ORD-... just to avoid going through either YVR or YYZ.
TNs are best requested when you don't have a plane to catch in an hour.
If you're a foreigner starting a corporation in the US and planning to come over for 3 months: corporation lawyer AND immigration lawyer.
(Aside: seems like the kind of thing guidance a early-stage startup incubator could very usefully help with.)
Practically, there are a few exceptions to this, eg 4th amendment rights are suspended from everyone at the border and within 100 miles of the border.
When detained at a border, a person is not considered inside the US.
>Theoretically, the constitution applies to all people in the united states jurisdiction
That is absolutely not correct. When I enter the USA on the visa waiver program, it very, very clearly says I have no rights while in the USA. No right to a lawyer, no right to appeal, no right to anything. I must sign that to be allowed in.
No, it does not.
I've traveled to the US on the visa waiver program around 20 times or so, and your claim sounded bizarre, so I actually checked the form to see whether I could truly have misremembered it that badly.
The visa waiver - form I-94W contains no language even remotely as extreme as what you portray it as.
It does contain a waiver of rights that states that you waive any right to appeal or review a US CBP officials determination of whether or not to admit you, or to contest deportation other than on grounds of a request for asylum.
In other words, you only waive rights related to preventing them from refusing you entry and sending you back. Once you're in, you're still subject to most of the the same protections.
If what you said is true and they made you sign that form it doesn't matter because the Constitution is still paramount and trumps your signature.
Despite all the rhetoric about Guantanamo Bay and the 500-mile "Constitution-free zone", the government still has to charge you with a crime to detain you. And to punish you, they have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are guilty of the crime they say you are. The Constitution applies to all "people", not just citizens.
you're absolutely wrong on that i'm afraid