Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I'm a Japanese citizen/resident. I use the Visa Waiver program to get into the US which is a green form that gives you a 90 day visa for entry into the US. The US DHS officer will staple the departure card half of the visa form into your passport that they collect when you leave the country.

When I was leaving LA for Toronto a few days ago, the agent looked at the visa and said, "OK. You have a visa and it is valid through your return." She didn't take the card and sent me to a 1 hour wait security screening line... anyway.

I just past through pre-sreening in Toronto on my way to the US. With Canada to US flights, they do customs and immigration when you leave Canada. A US officer frowned when he looked at my passport.

"You need to return this visa waiver when you leave the US."

"The gate agent didn't take it when I left."

"It is YOUR responsibility to return your visa card. The airlines do it out of courtesy to you, but it is YOUR responsibility."

"But... where..."

"It is YOUR responsibility. Although it visa SAYS you have 90 days, you must return the card and get a new one each time."


"It is YOUR responsibility, not the gate agent."

(stern look from officer)

"Yes sir.. no sir.. yes sir... OK..."

I've had gate agents not take my card when I exited in the past. I don't know what the penalty is, but for anyone traveling on Air Canada to Canada from the US. If they don't take your thingie from your passport, I recommend you insist that they do.

UPDATE: Although... according to the FAQ it says that you can travel and come back when you are on the Visa Waiver Program to Canada or Mexico. So if you have to give your stub back, I wonder what you give back when you're leaving the second time. I doesn't say. Hmm...

Q: Can a VWP applicant for Admission Be Readmitted To the United States Follwing a Short Trip To an Adjacent Island, Canada, or Mexico?

* Generally, VWP applicants admitted under the VWP may be readmitted to the United States after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands for the balance of their original admission period. This is provided they are otherwise admissible and meet all the conditions of the VWP, with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier, in which case the inspecting officers have the discretion to grant the applicants entirely new periods of admission.
* The VWP applicant is admissible and may be readmitted to the United States under the VWP after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands provided the person:

1. Can identify an authorized period of admission that has not expired,
2. Plans to depart the United States prior to the expiration date of their period of admission,
3. Presents valid, unexpired passports which reflect admission to the United States under the VWP, and
4. Continues to meet all criteria set forth in 8 CFR 217 and section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act), with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier.


The last time I was in the United States with a quick trip to Canada, I had to keep the card because I was going to exit through the US again. At the US border control (which is located in the Canadian airport, in my case Montreal) I just presented my passport with the green card attached.

I think one explanation is that trips to Canada and Mexico are included as part of the 90-day limit, i.e. the clock is not reset when you re-enter the United States from Canada.

Hmm, yeah, US security is nuttier than a fruit cake sometimes. You could always marry a nice American woman Joi, get a US Passport and you'd be all set ;-)

I think you will find that the officer at the port of entry has a good deal of disgression.

this includes the disgression to give you a hard time ... note the use of the term "generally" in the FAQ. You did not say, but I assume he let you pass anyhow.


I don't want to be harsh, but I've had bad experiences with Air Canada staff in the past... there's not exactly a 100% committment to customer service. :)

Wait.. so according to the update, and correct me if I'm wrong about this.. DHS doesn't know it's own rules? Sheesh.

Living in Canada, I have the displeasure of flying Air Canada often, customer service doesn't seem to high on their list of priorities, especially compared to WestJet. I interviewed for an Air Canada job a couple of years ago but didn't accept it after even the recruiter badmouthed the company.

In all my experiences in entering/leaving the US (which is a lot...and I am not a citizen) the custom/immigration officers in Canada (you know the ones you have to go through before returning to the US) are by far the worst, meanest, rudest of any airport/border bar none. There is nothing you can say to them except sorry it wouldn't happen again.

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I got burnt by this too, even worse: I left St Louis for Paris (I'm an Australian citizen) - the visa waiver did not leave my passport. Anyway, go through Paris, no passport stamp. Spend about six weeks there, and return. St Louis airport, same as you - "Your visa waiver is in your passport Sir, there is no intermediate stamps in your passport, and yet you have just stepped off a flight from Europe. Would you come with us for further questioning?" Not quite the rubber glove treatment, but I /was/ grilled for a good forty five minutes, including where I stayed on completely separate prior trips, and so on and so forth. And then the stamp for this entry was made, but 'admitted' was crossed out and flagged 'paroled', which of course was good for raising the eyebrow and curiosity of any subsequent border officer.

There is a lot going on when it comes to the return of these visa waivers and the i-90s. You are correct in that most airline employees pull them out, but at some airports (SFO comes to mind) there is supposed to be a new machine in which leaving passengers are suppose to surrender the cards. There is also a procedure if you find yourself back in your home country and that is still attached (which includes mailing the form along with a copy of your airline ticket to prove your departure).

My wife (Japanese) has had that sheet left in her passport a couple of times. Our strategy is to take it out and throw it away before we go back for another visit. So far the mighty DHS computers haven't noticed that the ins and outs don't match up, so it seems to be a pretty good strategy so far.

But have you ever overstayed your 90 days period? Just wonder if the mighty DHS can really find out that sort of thing.

As for whether you need the stub removed to go to Canada. I assume that you're supposed to have it removed, considering the insistance of the officer in Toronto, but it's still not clear to me how you get back in on the same visa and then exit again. Can't seem to find information on the page.

I wrote about those US Visit kiosk awhile ago and since then I try to hunt them down before I leave.

It is just disconcerting when many of the rules seem to be undocumented or grey in an age where technicalities can land you on lists that are hard to get off of...

...or land you in one of Halliburton's new concentration camps for illegal aliens.
Be careful - things have gotten weird over there.

I think, having finished the Cliff Notes for Orwell, they may have discovered Kafka and Joseph Heller...

Nuts to coming here. I'd do everything via iChat. I'm over the U.S. imperialistic turn on immigration and nationals traveling here. When I get my degree .. I'm gone. America is too much for me.

To just correct one of the commenters above: Joi's prollem was with a DHS/U.S. Customs person, NOT Air Canada staff.

Also, I cross the U.S./Canada border a lot and have done so all through my life (last 31 years.) I can say this: US customs are by far the worst of any I have ever gone through in the world, and I have gone through 3rd world dictatorial countries. Things got exponentially worse after 9/11 (hello! TWO fingerprints AND a photograph?), AND due to pressure from the US government, that bad attitude rubbed off on Canadian Immigration... and the rest of the world's...

Cattle herders. Both countries are run by goddamn cattle herders now. ;)

Well, if I was in fact supposed to give my stub to the Air Canada agent, it would have been nice for them to tell me and take it. They must get VWP people entering Canada every day...

There's a machine - near most gates etc - where you can scan your passport and get another stub printed out, when you're leaving the states. That seems to remove the need to surrender your stub at checkin.

It's totally crazy. Sometimes, when I go to Canada for a few days within my 90 visa waiver days, I go back to the US and I stay within the same 90 days. But other times they give me a NEW 90 days. It's just weird. And scary.

Suresh, I think you're talking about the US VISIT machines... If so, those are just receipts of logging your departure. The VWP stub is a green thing stapled into your passport... I've never seen a device that prints one of those for you.

Wow! I left a comment on a 2003 post on your blog, Joi, on the same topic. And I came to your front page and saw this post. I've said Goodbye to America for now. They googled me at a border near Toronto and found something not to let me in:,1895,1894227,00.asp

Wow Hoder.

Joi, look back on what the guard actually said. If you have recounted it accurately, he never said that you weren't entitled to exit and reenter. Neither did he say that you had done anything wrong. He just hinted at it. Then he got you to blame the airline for something or other (which never really happened). Then he had you where he wanted you.

Of course the guy knows the rules re Canada. He's working on the frontier with Canada and talks to at least 100 people coming from Canada every day. Canada is America's closest ally and trading partner.

INS are famous for playing the odd game. They seem to be trained to do it to some extent, to see how you react. A friend of mine, who got a green card only after he married his New York bride had an INS guy say to him 'So you had to get married to get this?' at the frontier once.

But don't get me wrong here: DHS are great folks! Hello if you're a DHS man or woman googling any of us to decide whether you are going to let us into your country ... honestly we talk a lot, but we're harmless really ...

As the realator said to the stormcloud: "Mr. Tempest I think you are just going to love this new teacup shaped appartment!"

Joi, I think this is just simple basic border hassle like anywhere. I've had my share of it at Narita, Sydney, Singapore and Frankfurt with an extra large helping a couple times in Seoul. Were you wearing a necktie? I've found that it helps and I now keep one in my carryon for international travel.

Hoder, bummer, but "good bye to the USA"? Is that one of those things like "she didnt break up with me, I broke up with her"?

I have doing this like Peter [18] and i have no problems. it/

I've driven from US to Canada and back by car once on the Visa Waiver, and there was no talk about taking any of the stubs from my passport or anything like that.

Of course, its different when it comes to flights, but I am sure that visa rules are the same in the air as on the ground...

It feels to me like the agent was confused, tired or annoyed. Or all three... heh

Hi Joi,
This kind of story just makes me feel like apologizing to the rest of the world for US "border security (among other things)." It would be a joke if it didn't affect so many people so negatively so often.

Total newfer to the talk here, but, nicely high caliber kind of agree with Chris_b- it is all a hassle - what probably would rankle me is the lack of choice...wanna's a no choice deal?

I am in the middle of writing an paper for my CIS class and am using this site as a refrerence for blogs and international business, but even though I should be finishing this paper (that has to be submitted in 1 hour and 15 minutes) I thought that I would make a quick comment. Border Securtiy is a joke, albeit a very bad joke and the travelers end up being the punchline even if they are US citizens.

Richard Kelly, the director of Donnie Darko and writer of the Domino Harvey movie was not able to go to Cannes (or at least delayed according to to screen his new movie because his name was too similiar to a James Kelly that had been flagged. Seriously how many names in America are similiar to James Kelly, a million? I was pulled out of the re-entry line to the US for what I can only assume was because my name was a close match to someone elses. God help you if your name is John Smith because they may never let you back in.

Joi, sorry you had the problem but it is only going to get worse for everybody I am afraid.

Wouldn't it be nice if Border Patrol agents were more courteous? Yes, they've got to be suspicious, it is their job after all to scrutinize you and your intentions towards you stay. But really, a bit of courtesy on that guy's part would have been appreciated. More training for policy knowledge would be fantastic, too, but I'd settle for courtesy.

Note, last time I went through Japan, the passport agent at customs was pretty quiet. There was a guy outside at the line reminding people to fill out the correct form and to sign the back. All in all, a fairly painless visitor process compared to what you went through.

You're owned, just like everyone else, Joi. If you were indeed a freeman you would be free to travel wherever and whenever you like without any police state issued documents.

Most people in the developed world have been systematically indoctrinated from birth via 'education' and mass media programming to believe they were born free. It's a lie.

Didnt Chicken Little have something to say about this?

Crazy immigration rules for sure. Makes no sense.

i've slipped up with that piece of paper as well before. not pretty. but my worst experience was coming back from costa rica via the miami border (i'm a canadian citizen). i forget a piece of documentation, and the border guards felt they could treat me in an abusive and racist way. i felt victimized and powerless afterwards. writing it up really helped me, as well as support from friends.

I know all too well what the penalty is - I had a gate agent NOT take the damn card back in 1997 - and nothing happened at all until about 2002, at which point I got hauled into secondary screening every time I went to the US, which was about once every five or ten days. The cause, I eventually established, was that immigration thought I had overstayed the 90 day visa waiver back in 1997. No kidding, it took me 6 months, roughly 20 hours in secondary screening, and a whole stack of documentation to prove that had not overstayed. Bank statements, meeting reports, the whole thing. Unbelieveable_hassle. Sure, the gate agents do this as a favour, but Joi, the problem is that there is no immigration in departures. Go figure.

Huge sympathy to anyone caught in this particular trap.

thanks for highlighting this! you get told one thing one place and one thing another, then they turn around and say - its YOUR responsibility to know the rules, not OURS to enfore them correctly..

Can the visa waiver be renewed by going to Canada a few days before it expires and re-entering several days after the original expires? Any possible problems with that?

I really think it depends on the mood of the Customs Officer at the time they are 'serving' you.

I am a Canadian resident alien and just had a trip to Europe, entering through from Frankfurt into Denver. I had not handed in my I-94 but the officer just took it out, asked me when I left the country and just collected it after writing in the date -- along with a non-threatening and helpful tip of "You're supposed to hand this in when you leave."

Being Canadian, I've not had to hand it in when I went home but they did not collect my I-94 when I departed L.A. for this trip, so I was not really sure. I guess I was lucky on the way back in by having a friendly officer.

As a funny anecdote, I have run into a certain officer in Toronto that gave me a hassle when I first entered the U.S. -- maybe you got the same one, Joi. I had already shipped all of my belongings and so he was giving me a hard time:

"You shipped all of your stuff??!?"
"Yes. (i can't carry all of my crap on the airplane)"
"You really shouldn't do that, what if I deny you right now."
"... (why is he giving me a hard time, can i go now?)"
"Next time don't do this, you could have been stuck here while all of your stuff would be in the U.S."
"OK. (like i will be doing this again)"

I think he was laughing on the inside while I was squirming uncomfortably in my seat, leaving me to wonder if I'd be denied or not. It's not fun stuff.

Thanks for your reply Zephrantes!

What are customs procedures like on trains to Canada from the US? (e.g. NYC -> Montreal) ??

Do you have to get off at the border and go thru a checkpoint?


Ever read the back of the I-94? It says "surrender when you depart". Don't know how much more clear that can be stated. It does not say 'please insist that the airline representative removes it'.

It seems some people never want to assume responsibility for themselves. What's the deal?

For the I-94 form, my friend last time followed the phrase "surrender when you depart" and return it to Canada customs after a day trip through the land border. Next month when she was going into the US through land, the officer asked "Where is your I-94 form? You need to get another one," and was sent to secondary inspection. Then, the officer inside advised her that "the I-94 form is good until XXXX (the expiry date). Don't let the Canadian people take that away from you AGAIN." And on subsequent entry, it was all fine through the land border. I don't know what to follow now for my friend.

I recently returned from a two week trip in the US back to the UK and was unable to hand in my stubb, does anybody know the procedure to hand it at the US embassy in England? or what to do next?

I still have the I-94 or I-94W in my possession. What should I do?

Under U.S. law, all travellers to the United States must return the I-94 or I-94W departure record cards to the appropriate authorities before departing the United States. A traveller who fails to do so may be recorded as making an untimely departure from the United States. Without an accurate record of your departure from the United States, the Department of Homeland Security may conclude that you overstayed the period of time granted on admission.

If you are still in possession of the I-94 or I-94W it is your responsibility to ensure that it is surrendered to the appropriate authorities to correct your record so that you do not experience problems during future travel to the United States.

You are required to complete the back of the card listing the port and date of departure from the United States and the carrier/flight information. The I-94 or I-94W together with a letter of explanation and evidence of your departure from the U.S. should be sent to

P.O Box 7125,
London, KY 40742-7125,

An I-94W is not a "Visa". When a person enters the US from one of the countries eligible for the Visa Waiver Program they do not need to have obtained a Visitor Visa from the Dept of State at a US Embasy or Consulate in there home country. This is the process for any other country not listed under the VWP agreement. The I-94W issued by the CBP officer is a term of admission showing entry as a WT, visitor for pleasure or WB, visitor for Business for 90 days. On every I-94W issued by CBP the instructions are clearly written on the reverse concerning there return upon departure, even listing officials you surrender them to. If the CBP officer needed to explain or read the reverse of the form to every individual in line it would take you 5 hours waiting in line before speaking with an Officer. Maybe a Visitor to the US should take the 2 minutes it takes to read the Document given to them instead of complaining on this site to there mistreatment by US officials for their lack of knowledge, or worst laziness to read a few short paragraphs on your entry form. When you leave to go to canada from the US for a short trip you must return your I-94w. When you return to the US the officer can find your stamp in your PP and give you the remainder of you 90 days on a new I-94W, once again not a visa, or the officer at his discretion can grant you a new 90 days. Failure to do your part as a visitor to the US is your fault, not the US officials, who job is to determine in the less than 1 minute if you are going to become an illegal alien. If you fail to do something as simple as to return your Departure form you make it more difficult for yourself as you need to prove to the US official that you did not violate or stay longer than authorized on previous visits.

The Arrival-Departure Record, CBP Form I-94W (green form), must be completed by all nonimmigrant visitors seeking entry to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Applicants applying for admission to the United States using a Form I-94W are exempt from having a visa. Contact your travel agent, airline, or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for more specific instructions regarding U.S. visa requirements.

In addition to the Form I-94 standard requirements, the Form I-94W includes specific questions related to inadmissibility issues. If the applicant answers “yes” to any of the questions on the reverse java side of the Form I-94W, the applicant should contact the United States Embassy/Consulate in his/her country to obtain a visa prior to travel. The applicant must sign and date the Form I-94W, which indicates agreement to waive his/her right to a hearing before an immigration judge, if found inadmissible.

After the successful completion of processing the applicant, a CBP officer stamps the applicant’s arrival and departure portions of the completed Form I-94W, the passport and the CBP Declaration, Form 6509B. The CBP officer retains the arrival portion of the Form I-94W and returns the departure portion of the Form I-94W and passport to the applicant.

my assistant was searching for CBP I-94 several days ago and was informed about a company that hosts lots of sample forms . If people are requiring CBP I-94 as well , here's a link "".