Arriving in Canada

After leaving Guernsey on Monday I travelled to London and stopped overnight with my good friend Amber. I met her when I was working in London during university and she’s now living out in Chatham, Kent. We did the stereotypical British summertime barbecue in the rain. Although good company and beers resulted in an enjoyable evening.

Tuesday was an early start as I had to get across London to Heathrow. Waking up at 6am I figured it was going to be a long day but would find out how long until later. Crossing London was a piece of cake, having worked there for two years. I arrived at Heathrow with plenty of time, which was handy as it all now self-service check-ins and the computer didn’t want to scan my passport for some reason. It accepted it eventually and with luggage handed over I headed through security. Again, this was painless.

The flight was 6 hours although two films and a riveting e-book on JavaScript made the time fly by. The only complication came when the attendants were handing out the immigration forms and assumed that I was travelling with the woman and children sat next to me. I had to call them back to get me own form.

And so we landed in Halifax. From Guernsey to Canada everything had flowed so smoothly that I naively assumed it would continue that way… until I hit passport control! I had not ticked Yes or No to the “importing unaccompanied goods” question as I wasn’t sure if my motorbike counted as an unaccompanied good. As it turns out that was a good move as it turns out the bike was an unaccompanied good. Then he asked me how long I was going to be in Canada: 2 months; where am and when am I going to be return home: October from Halifax; but that’s 4 months away – I saw the flicker of hesitation in his eye: yes, in two months I shall enter the USA for approximately 2 months then re-enter Canada to fly home. I finally got his stamp of approval but was told to report to the immigration desk.

At the immigration desk I was asked the same questions again but was also asked to demonstrate that I was able to support myself without need to work in Canada for two months, thankfully they have free wifi in the airport and with internet banking was able to prove my bank balance. At this point they seemed quite happy with all my answers but then they asked more about the motorbike I was importing: how old is it, how much is it worth and can you provide documentation to demonstrate that you’re going to be exporting it: S#!T. Alarm bells started ringing in my head. After explain my plans to the immigration desk officer I reluctantly obtained a stamp on my form but had to report to the customs search area.

The search of my bags was fairly simple. Did I pack it myself: yes. Do I know exactly what’s in it: yes. What’s this wrapped up package: erm, a birthday present from my sister. So I don’t know what’s inside it: well, I can probably guess. Thankfully they seemed more interested in my bike than my personal luggage so they let me off on the present.

Up until this point I hadn’t really considered the fact that how I was planning on getting the bike back home was going to play an important part in whether I was going to be allowed to import the bike. As the customs officer explained, and seems like common sense now, if a motorcycle is imported with documentation demonstrating it’s going to be exported again, or is old and only worth a few quid there isn’t a problem. However, if the motorcycle being import is nearly new, is worth a lot of money, isn’t approved for sale in Canada (European model) and doesn’t have export documentation the customs people are going to get a bit suspicious.

Eventually, after much questioning, discussions between officers and consulting managers they finally agreed to allow me to import the bike but only after paying a deposit that would be refunded when I submitted documentation proving that the bike had been re-imported to the UK. The deposit was to be about $1000CAD. By this time I was to do (almost) anything prove that I wasn’t planning to sell the bike in Canada, so agreed to pay a deposit even before they indicated how much it would be.

And so I got to see a fourth customs area in Halifax airport! As I dug around to find my wallet the customs officer either had a change of heart because my story was so convincing and consistent, and I was so willing to pay the deposit or she couldn’t be bothered to do the paper work for taking the deposit. Either way she gave my immigration form one final stamp and also processed all the paper work for my bike.

And so I was finally in Canada! Only thing to do next was go get the bike out of the Air Canada cargo shed… but that’s a story for another day. (It’s time to go get some lunch!)


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