Monday, October 24, 2011

Yep, this ticks me off

Ever since the United States changed the rules for Canadians to cross the border I had intended to get myself an updated passport.

One day someone mentioned something called a "Nexus" card which is supposed to be like a passport for travel between Canada and the US and was cheaper than a passport.

Several months ago I looked into it and decided to go for it.
I filled out the online application and waited for the initial application approval. When that was completed a few weeks later I went online to book an appointment for my interview at one of the border crossing locations listed.
The Houlton, Maine location was the closest to me a short distance from Woodstock, NB.

I work in Woodstock. It would have been convenient to book the appointment on a workday and take my lunch hour for it but it worked out the closest appointment fell during the week that I had booked vacation time.
Oh well.

On the day of my interview B and I headed out fairly early for the 1 1/4 hour drive to the Houlton customs office for my interview. B wanted to come along for the ride to keep me company.

I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly and helpful the young lady at the front desk was.
I was equally impressed by the friendliness of the officer who conducted the actual interview too. He was quite easy going and the interview went very well.

At the end he asked me if B was there for an interview too. He told me that kids under 18 can get a Nexus card for free if a parent has one.
That's a pretty sweet deal. Additionally, once my guys have cards they can use them as official photo ID.

When I got home I headed to the web site and filled out the initial applications for both boys.
We were hoping that perhaps we could have the process done in decent time and be able to hop over to Maine for a day trip while it was still summer but as it worked out the initial conditional approval didn't arrive until almost a month and a half later.

From there I needed to go to the web site and book an appointment for their interviews.
We preferred not to have the boys miss any school so I booked them for their next school professional development day on October 21.

Over the next few weeks we assembled what we needed for the interviews.
The problem we had was that we couldn't find T's birth certificate anywhere in the house. I still don't have a clue where it could be.
We tore the house apart looking for it with no luck.

On October 16th I went to the Government of Ontario web site to see what could be done to get T a replacement certificate.
At this point I didn't even know if this was possible but happily found out that replacing it was very easy and only cost $35.
I completed the transaction. A message came up stating that the replacement birth certificate should arrive within 15 days or so.

Unfortunately our appointment was only 5 days away and it wouldn't arrive in time for that.

I was wondering if there was anything else that we could use for T for his proof of citizenship.
If there was no other option I would have to reschedule the boys for a different day. I didn't want to take separate trips all the way to Houlton for this. That would be a waste of time and wasted gas.

I tried several times to contact the Houlton office to ask but every time I tried to call that day the line was busy.
I had an appointment not too far away from there that afternoon so I took an early lunch to drop by and speak to someone in person.

I told the man at the desk my predicament and asked what my options were.
There was nothing else that we could use. It had to be his birth certificate.

When I mentioned that a replacement was on its way, the man told me that the officer could conduct the full interview for T and once the new birth certificate arrived I could head over so they could scan it to complete the process for T.
How sweet is that? That was perfect.
We could still do it on the boys' day off.

A couple of days later I called the Nexus place again to confirm that it would still be okay to drop off T's birth certificate later and that I didn't have to have it with me.
The man on the phone was the same one that I had spoken to when I was there and he confirmed what he had told me before.

Great. We were all set.

On October 21 the boys and I headed out fairly early for Houlton to make sure we got there in time for the 9:30 interviews.

When we entered the man at the desk was the same from my last visit and when I called a few days prior.
I gave him everything we had for both boys and he took it over to the officer who was to do the interviews.
I found out that the person who conducts the actual interviews is a US customs officer.

He called B and I over to do the interview. I had to answer most of the questions since I am the boys' guardian.

It was pretty clear from the beginning that this dude was not as friendly or easy going as the one who interviewed me.
He hardly looked at us and was rather abrupt and snarky at times.
No matter, we breezed through the process in a few minutes.
He took B's picture for the card and that was that.

Then it came time for T's application.
He asked me where T's birth certificate was. I told him that we had misplaced the original but a replacement was being mailed from Ontario and that I would drop by as soon as it arrived.
He said that I would have to reschedule T's appointment when I had his birth certificate.

I mentioned that I was told that we could do the interview without it and I would be certain to bring it when we received it.
Nope, he said. I had to reschedule. There was no other way.

Talk about feeling like being kicked in the stomach.
I didn't pursue it any further. It wouldn't have done any good if I did.

We went back over to the main desk area where the first guy was and I told him what the other officer had said.

He just looked at me.
There was no "Geez, I guess I was mistaken. Sorry about that pal."

I said that I would call and make a new appointment.

As we drove away I was so frickin angry.
T seemed resigned to the facts and took it in stride. Much better than I did.

How could one person who works there tell us something, TWICE, and be wrong like that??
Don't you think they should be on the same page to avoid this?

Anyway you get the point. I was steamed. I won't go on about it any more.

Guess what arrived at the house that afternoon? Yep, the replacement birth certificate was delivered by courier only 5 days after I ordered it.

I've booked a new appointment for T's interview.

Wish us luck.

Stay well,


Wanderer said...

I wonder if the guy you originally dealt with WAS wrong? It seems the people who work at border crossings are able to apply the laws at their whim. As a musician crossing into the states many times in the past, I have seen all manner of treatment from experienced and inexperienced guards. One experience confirmed my suspicions that the person you deal with is in control of the situation, no matter who might recognize you. If you'd dealt with the young man you had originally encountered, I have no doubt T would have his card in his pocket now.

Train Geek said...

Customs... hate 'em. They are inconsistent. I think a lot of things are left to their discretion and thus you get treated differently depending on who you get. Having crossed over to the USA quite a few times last year, I got to see most of the US officers here in Winnipeg. Some were very friendly, some very brusque, some in between. One was kind of a dick.

I considered getting a NEXUS card but I didn't really see the need for air travel. In Winnipeg you would only save a few minutes. I can see its use in busy border crossings like Houlton, though.