Making a living travelling the world is truly a dream come true, but the reality of crossing boarders and working in other countries can be a little less romantic.
This post will share with you my personal “almost horror” story and the basics of the Visas you’ll need if you’re working in the U.S as a non American Citizen/what you’ll need if you want to travel between the U.S and Canada in between your contract.
This seems simple, but it’s a far more complicated process than one would presume. Below is a brief overview of the Visas I have used so far and my personal tips regarding traveling with these Visas. For those of you looking for some entertainment, scroll down to my “almost horror” story.
This is what you will need to be working in U.S. territory on ships. You MUST enter and exist the U.S. on this Visa, otherwise you will not be allowed to work or enter the country. This means if you want to visit the U.S after your contract you will have to depart the U.S on your C1/D Visa and than re enter on a Visa Esta.
How to get one?
Visit your nearest U.S. embassy, make an appointment and have all the appropriate paperwork.
This is what you need to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days at a time. You can’t legally work in the U.S with this visa but you can comfortably enjoy your vacation, but be warned. If you overstay the 90 days by even 30 mins, you could be in prisoned and lose all rights to work or travel to the U.S. again.
How to get one?
Head to: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ and create a new application.
This is the visa you will need to enter Canada if you are not an American or Canadian citizen.
How to get one?
Head to https://www.canadaetavisa.com/ and click “apply”.
Isaac’s 3 key tips
1. Know your rules before booking your flights! Simple google search will do.
2. Print out all your confirmation/approved paper work and have it saved on your phone laptop and other devices for safety.
3. Assume you don’t know the rules, the change frequently and aren’t always logical or practical.
My “almost horror” story
It’s dark, the air is cool and refreshing, I’ve just finished my 7 month contract, said my goodbyes to my close friends and colleges and am approaching a travel time of 32 hours….and yes, I have not slept the night before at all due to celebrations and sentimental goodbyes. My plan, St juan – Philadelphia – Toronto and than bus to Detroit.
After arriving in St Juan Airport with much anticipation to commence my travels, my first hiccup gently appeared. While trying to get my boarding passed processed in one of the self serving machines, I was met with the “not so welcomed” message stating I head to the overflowing line towards the help desk. Oh the joy of the help desk…
About an hour and a half later, I was greeted by a deliciously patient woman (how did that happen!) who was more than happy to help process my boarding pass and seemed confident it was the machines and not my problem. So I entered security and naively continued my journey presuming this was a mere hiccup, not a hint at the storm brewing.
It wasn’t until I reached my planes gate that the same declined message came up and I was back at square one. I explained the situation and after some stressful button bashing by the agent, I was boarded and allowed myself to take that awaited sigh of relief. I mean, I was on the plane, my luggage was with me, what else could go wrong now? Oh the joy of ignorance…
Not long after I finished watching the planes safety videos in both English and Spanish, I was dramatically pulled out of the plane from the agents who were stressfully announcing I could not fly….
To say I made a scene is an understatement. I had already made the entire plane wait for me to board and eyeball me as I did the “walk of shame” down to my seat….and now I was getting pulled off the plane like a terrorist. I was embarrassed, confused and concerned as my luggage was comfortably heading towards Toronto while I was awaiting the news of what’s going on with my bloody ticket!?
So let me indulge your imagination. I am stuck in an airport with no internet access, alone and communicating with agents where English is their second language….and I have no way of letting anyone know where I am. So I borrow the agents phone again, get calling and try to regain control of my situation….
So, the jury was in, and apparently I needed an ETA before boarding as I was going to enter Canada….this was news to me….(What the flip is an ETA….and how can I get one fast!) Thankfully the agent continued to share his phone and so I began swiftly applying for my ETA whilst navigating everything in Spanish and waiting for it’s approval which would be emailed to me sometime in the next 72 hours….of course this meant I was mentally preparing to be staying overnight in St Juan and for maybe even 2 nights, to put it lightly I was pretty devastated, but then my luck turned….
The ETA was approved and the agent put me on the next flight to Miami which connected to Toronto. I was utterly exhausted and was still currently in the same city as the ship….Just not on schedule…Oh the joy of expectations…
In the end I made it to Miami and with time to smash a mini pizza and board my plane to Toronto. Little did I know that the seat I gave up to let an elderly woman stay with her son, would lead me to sit next to a crying baby! And I don’t mean cute crying, I mean down right ugly raspy crying that pierces the ears like nails on a chalkboard. Sleep remains a dream of mine and something my eyes are painfully craving with the planes bright lights and air conditioning leaving them looking like a boy who just spilt his favourite flavoured ice cream on a dusty floor. Remember, I still haven’t actually slept yet…
Upon arriving at Toronto Airport (post crying baby symphony) I was prepared to catch a bus all the way to Detroit and finally be at my end destination. But….of course the bus is not on time, It’s actually running so late that I will miss my connecting bus…
Since I was the only one with a phone watching the buses schedule (thanks to my dad sharing the link with me), I approached the group of people waiting for the same bus and informed them on the situation. Before long they were all looking to me for advances on how to resolve this problem, and I was apparently considered the leader of the pack. So I began instructing everyone to head to the taxis and sorted them in groups that seemed appropriate based on luggage.
A further $30 U.S. down (the cost of my entire bus travel) and I am now at the station ready to board my final bus to Detroit – only six hours away! To be honest, the bus was not bad at all. I got some sleep in, I had no one sitting next to me and the rain outside the windows were comforting.
I reached customs and was obviously questioned hard as to why I would fly from St Juan to Miami to Toronto and then Bus to Detroit. I was also aware that my luggage had been waiting at Toronto airport for me for hours and I had yet to check whether anything had been removed or more importantly…added to my luggage. All in all, the customs experience was not a gentle one or a simple procedure, lasting a good 45 mins.
At the end of the day, that officer has final say and has the power to decline my entry so it is a very intense situation. But…I survived, and I am safe and in Detroit and I have all my luggage. Yes, I am physically and mentally exhausted, but i am alive and I am ready to continue living it up with all my new lessons learned.
Thanks for listening, and please, don’t repeat this. Check all the visa info before booking flights, even Canada has them now!