By Amber Easton
Earlier this year I travelled to beautiful Costa Rica with six of my family members from Canada. While planning for the trip, I double checked the document requirements for entry into Costa Rica and confirmed all that was required was our Canadian Passports. We were all set to go! Excited and eagerly anticipating the warm Costa Rican sun, we rushed to the airport with passports in hand.
After a week of amazing fun in the sun and quality time with family, we loaded into the cars and headed back to the airport for our journey home. All of my family members were returning to Canada and I was returning to the United States, where I have lived for the past 10 years. As I approached the counter to get my boarding pass, the airline employee politely asked for my passport and final destination. After learning I was a Canadian citizen landing in the U.S., she requested proof of my U.S. immigration status. Even before the words “immigration status” came out of her mouth…dread set in. I immediately realized I made a huge mistake and forgot my U.S. Permanent Resident Card (“Greencard”) at home.
What followed was something our family will never forget. I was not allowed to board the plane and my entire family had to leave me behind in Costa Rica. In order to get back into the United States, I would be required to travel to the U.S. Consulate (6 hours away) and obtain necessary written documentation permitting me to re-enter the United States. The entire process took nearly a week to sort out.
My experience in Costa Rica was a tough and expensive lesson. It was an important reminder of how critical is to always carry the right travel documentation – not only for entry into your destination country, but also for re-entry into the United States. Many foreign nationals will be traveling abroad this holiday season. In the hustle and bustle of it all, it can be easy to forget important details.
As a reminder, non-U.S. citizens are encouraged to consult with their immigration attorney prior to international travel. We also encourage you to review the list of basic documents that are required for entry to the U.S. http://www.dhs.gov/crossing-us-borders. If you require a visa, appointment scheduling and visa issuance times can be checked online at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html.
Don’t forget your documents! Happy Travels!