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Discussion: Foreigners Volunteering in the US

in: Orienteering; General

Oct 1, 2019 7:32 PM # 
There was a previous thread concerned with volunteer mapping in the United States, where the individual wouldn't get paid, but the entity that wanted the map would provide compensation to an O club or something like that. The issue was foreigners volunteering to do something in the US that an American potentially could be paid to do.

From today's news:

"A Saskatoon man says he's been banned from entering the United States for five years after attempting to volunteer at an arts festival in Washington state this summer.
Kyle Kuchirka, 25, an actor and recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan's drama department, said he tried to cross the U.S. border between Abbotsford, B.C. and Sumas, Wash. on Aug. 29.
He's also a set designer and said he was on his way to volunteer his skills at the Sh'Bang Art Festival near Bellingham, Wash.
But he was questioned at the border by an agent, who then directed him to a side room inside the large customs building.
Hours of questioning later, he was handed a document informing him he was prohibited from entering the US for five years.
"You do not have work authorization," stated the document.
. . .
"Inside the customs building, Kuchirka said he was questioned for more than four hours. He said the guard told him he was taking American jobs.
Kuchirka replied that he was a volunteer, and his only payment was free meals. He was paying all of his own expenses.
The guard left and he said he was forced to wait another hour.
Finally, the guard returned with the document and his passport — with the words "ordered removed" handwritten on one page.
Kuchirka said he couldn't believe what was happening.
"They're going to bar me for volunteering and helping their country put on some art festival. Are you kidding me?" he said.
Kuchirka was told he can appeal, but isn't sure if he will. The application and legal fees will cost more than $3,000."

I can recall only once being asked at the border if I was going to volunteer when I said that I was going to an event in the US. (The answer was no. I was just competing.)
Oct 1, 2019 9:19 PM # 
That is crazy. But this is what the US has become right now. Sad.
Oct 1, 2019 9:27 PM # 
The prohibition on volunteering where it could be interpreted as taking a job away is nothing new. But apparently there have been far more of these 5-year bans issued recently. Seems to be a punishment way above the crime in this case. Usually they are issued when appearances are that the individual or family really has no intention of returning to Canada.
Oct 1, 2019 10:54 PM # 
This just comes off as ridiculous. Canadian banned from visiting the USA. Crime: Attempted Volunteering.

(All this really does is encourage people to lie, and say they're just going sightseeing.)
Oct 1, 2019 11:17 PM # 
I just saw the story on our national news. JJ is correct that he should have just said he was going for sightseeing but there were a lot of other things that would have raised red flags for the US border officials and he might have been turned back anyway. For instance - he had no home of his own, he had no job to return to, he had no proof that he would be returning home after the festival.
For all they knew he could have been on his way to being another starving artist in California.
But it is a warning to all you folks considering taking mapping jobs in the US - Have your paperwork in order!!! Don't try to sell it that you are volunteering to make maps. They have seen and heard that one before.
Oct 2, 2019 12:24 AM # 
As Gord pointed out, expedited removals are apparently quite common along the BC-Washington border currently. This was from yesterday's CBC news:
Oct 2, 2019 2:15 AM # 
Way back in 2010 (NAOC)I got hassled by a Canadian border agent while crossing from ID to BC, because it was (is?) apparently a red-flag to say I was unemployed; and then implying that I had access to money (by credit card, not cash). It took about 15 min to convince them I was only going to be in Canada for 10-days.

Two months later, I did NOT make the same mistake going to Ottawa for COCs. When asked what I do for work, I said I am a traffic engineer -- the truth because that is what I do when I work.

More recently I say I'm a retired traffic engineer. And I do say I'm going to do orienteering in Canada. Agents never bat an eye...
Oct 2, 2019 10:59 AM # 
Entering Canada on our way to Alaska in 1994, each of the four of us i(US citizens) in the car was taken in for a separate 15+ minute interview, where among other things we had to show them the money we were carrying.

I have a lot of weird US/Canada border stories, but I've always gotten through.
Oct 2, 2019 3:13 PM # 
I had an interesting experience crossing in to the States once for orienteering with my daughter who was maybe 19 or 20 or so at the time. We were taking the BlackBall ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, WA for one of the Cascade club races. You have to arrive at the ferry compound quite early and the guy comes by car to car as you wait in line. We showed our passports, and had a usual Q&A, then he asked my daughter if she could run some papers (he had in his hand) down to the office for him, which he pointed out. She did so, and my assumption was that it was his way of giving her the opportunity to say something to other officials outside of my presence, for example if it was a case of abduction/custody dispute.
Oct 2, 2019 9:25 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
This is really bad, particularly since I'm registered as an IOF volunteer, helping with mapping projects around the world. :-(

OTOH, since I do pretty much all of that work digitally, I can still truthfully explain when entering that I am coming for an IT conference. BTW, my next visit will be to Denver en the middle of November, for Supercomputing 2019. Any O races nearby?

PS. I have visited the Seattle area many times since my first trip in 1986/87, and for most of the time I have also had friends in the Vancouver area, but I have never dared to cross the border, suspecting that it might be a big hazzle to return.
Oct 3, 2019 12:55 AM # 
Soon it will will be much worse. It will certainly become the Chinese/Russian border and the guards will be volunteers and you won’t even be able to berate them because they’ll be millennials armed to the teeth.
Oct 3, 2019 3:32 AM # 
Don't be silly. Canada will never allow itself to be taken over by China.
Oct 3, 2019 6:56 AM # 
Australia welcomes volunteers from Canada (and USA) - see We'll even pay you enough to cover your airfare, put you up with a local family and give you free entry to events.
Oct 3, 2019 7:50 AM # 
Don't bring any fruit though, then you'll be in trouble.
Oct 3, 2019 8:38 AM # 
Bring any fruit? Hell the last time we arrived in Sydney my wife got her golf shoes cleaned for free as the customs agent I think did not want to risk any poa annua seeds invading your country's immaculate golf greens or something like that.
Oct 3, 2019 10:40 AM # 
Navigation Games is looking for volunteers from abroad to help us improve our programs for kids. This thread is helpful - we'll be sure to provide documentation about the purpose of the visit and the return plane ticket.

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