Extra Terrestrial

I had an encounter at the airport coming back to Toronto on Wednesday. For those of you familiar with my travel history, this should come as no surprise to you. I travel a lot, and as a result, I often have lots of stories to share. These stories are often delightfully fun for the listener, yet traumatic for the protagonist (me). They range from being interrogated in “the room” at the airport, to being told that the airplane “needs to be control, alt, deleted.”

Wednesday’s story was slightly different. No interrogation room, and no technical worries.

As I was going through customs in Toronto, I handed in my immigration form. On it, I had listed my home address as my home address here in Toronto – my parents’ house. This is the house I grew up in, the house where I “reside” when not in New York, and the house where I currently have a bed. It’s still home. Every time I’ve crossed the border, I’ve always listed it as my permanent residence. Seeing as my time living in New York has an explicit expiry date stamped in my passport (October 2011 I get kicked out of the USA!), New York certainly can’t be my permanent residence (although, I wouldn’t complain if it were.)

So I handed in my immigration form. Here’s the encounter that followed:

Canadian Border and Customs Agent (CBSA): “Were are you coming from, sir?”

Me: “New York.”

CBSA: “What do you do there, sir?”

Me: “I work there.”

At this point I was prepared to launch into the longwinded explanation of what I do, why it has to be done in New York, what exactly Jewish Camp is, and what the hell the Union for Reform Judaism is. I’m used it . But that didn’t happen.

CBSA: “So why did you list this address in Thornhill as your home address?”

Me: “Because that’s my home address. I’m a non-resident alien in the United States. I live there, but I don’t permanently reside there.”

CBSA: “Well that’s fine and dandy, but you don’t reside in Canada either, so you can’t list that as your home address.”

Me: “Pardon?”

CBSA: “You don’t reside in Canada. You can’t list yourself as a resident of Canada when you don’t reside here. This isn’t your permanent address.”

Me: “But when I cross in to the US, they don’t let me list my New York address as my permanent address, either… So where do I live?”

CBSA: “You’ll have to figure that out on your own. For now, I’m stamping you as a visitor to Canada.”

Me: “But I’m a citizen! I have a passport and a house in Thornhill!”

CBSA: “You don’t live there. You don’t have residency in Canada.”

Me: “Well shit.”

And with that encounter, apparently I became a drifter. An alien in the US, and a visitor to Canada. Although this seems humourous on the surface, I’m actually slightly troubled by this loophole. It creates a sub-status of individuals somewhere in between refugees and political deserters, and I am neither of those.

So here I am, an alien. Awesome.


  1. That’s fucked up. Though I don’t have citizenship issues, I’m just beginning to grapple with the idea that I may spend the majority of the rest of my life in the NY area, despite feeling fiercely Texan.

  2. Elyse says:

    oh, jesse. What another wonderful airport encounter. congratulations on once again making me laugh hysterically.

  3. Elliot says:

    Dude, we’re all strangers in strange lands. Though…your story is unique.

  4. jepaikin says:

    What does that mean? I don’t want to be a stranger in any land. I’d rather be a tourist in a strange land…

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