Canadian PR vs American H1B Landing Story.

Place : Raleigh Durham Airport Immigration

Date : November 2014

My wife and I are returning from a family visit to London. At the airport, there are signs that are fairly ambiguous. Visitors on one line, and residents on the other. We figured, “Hey, we are residents, right?” We pay taxes, and we have been here in NC for the past 6 years. So we stand in the residents line

Immigration Officer : Passport or Green Card please. I tell her I am on an H1B and that Raleigh is home for me for the last 5 years. She looks at me and says and I will never forget this

“You have no right to stand in this line. This is reserved for US Citizens and LPRs. This is the only time I will allow you to enter through this lane. You are a LONG TERM visitor, and this is not permanent home. Your home is your country of origin.”

She then asks me when I am leaving the country. I again remind her that I work in NC full time. She asks me again, this time while reminding me that my last date is the one indicated on my I-797.

And for all the Yanks with their “ She was right “ jingoism , yes she was absolutely right but it shatters the illusion of belonging. After staying in a country for 10 years, a part of you becomes comfortable with the fact that you get to stay and live there. Moments like this shatter that illusion.

Edit: for every one who is saying I was being an “ Indian” and stood in the wrong line on purpose, please look up how Raleigh airport immigration area is set up. I did take lots of flights and never once stood in the wrong line. Like I mentioned , there were two lines , residents and visitors. In my world, after living for 2 years , You are considered a resident for

  • Tax purposes
  • University admissions

So no I did not go stand in the line on purpose. I just misunderstood that you are only a resident for tax purposes but not even for standing in a line for LPR’s.

Fast Forward to today : March 2017 (moved to Toronto in Nov 2015 as a Permanent resident)

Place : Toronto Pearson Immigration

I enter the country and look around. No officers for Permanent residents. I use a machine that asks me nothing but my Maple Leaf Card ( I call my PR the Maple Leaf Card). Not even my passport. The machine spits out a paper.

At the exit an immigration officer takes my paper, looks at me and says,

Officer : Welcome Home sir. How was your trip?

Those words, “Welcome Home,” something I have never heard in a US Airport make you feel so special. It just makes you feel accepted; you feel a warm invisible blanket of embrace when you come in. Something I only feel when I go back to India. The first sight of a Canadian flag in Pearson reminds you that you are home and safe, it is indescribable in words.

I love Canada, my wife, who questioned the rational of leaving a fairly stable life in the US and moving to Canada, now loves this country.

Canada really is the ‘True North, Strong and Free’; the last bastion of true freedom in the world; the most amazing country in the world.


From Surya Chaitanya Kari, Data Scientist at Independent Contracting, Quora.