As part of my job I have entered the US countless times, always using the visa waiver program and with my proper Electronic System for Travel Authorization.(ESTA). Every time I have been welcomed warmly and professionally by Custom and Border Protection officers: there is always a smile, a sense of respect and willingness to help, and some sort of coolness in how they work, despite the hordes of people, some of which do not even speak English.
When leaving Canada for the US, the US immigration is on the Canadian side. I was flying to the US to attend an internal company meeting, and I said so when requested by the CBP officer. Then she asked me about the nature of my job.and, in order to make things easier (I thought) I said that I am a consultant and not an analyst. I had used that term many times when requested by immigration officers around the world, including the US, and the only country that gave me troubles was Canada (but on the way in) as they are afraid that people may try to work illegally or maybe do something for which a national should be chosen.
When I said “consultant”, the officer changed attitude, saying that I should not enter the US under the visa waiver (funny, I’ve done that for my entire life). When I asked what would be the right procedure, she became rude and unfriendly, barking that it is up to my company to decide. I found that weird, so I asked whether I could do something with the embassy next time I leave for the US: I got the same reply, only in a nastier tone.
No problem, she was probably having a bad day and my passport full of stamps from all over the world, including the middle east, probably looks a bit suspicious. What I found disturbing, though, was the fact that she scribbled my name and passport number on a piece of paper, most likely for some unknown follow up.
This made me reflect about the CBP customer relationship management. How can I know what happens after yesterday and if the officer has triggered some case I should be aware of? Just a couple of weeks ago I had asked whether I could know when my ESTA approval expires and I was told that there is no way but apply again. Another time, when I had to return an entry form that had not been removed from my passport upon departure from the US, it was difficult to figure out what to do and I had to mail it to a rather mysterious address in the US (without any proof of receipt) rather than to an embassy.
I know that being let into a country is a privilege and I do appreciate that border protection is key to homeland security. However in all three cases I was trying to do the right thing, and in every case it has been like swimming upstream.
I understand I am not am American citizen but with all this talking about open government, can I enjoy a bit of transparency and figure out what to do?