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Resources for Travel to the United States

April 13, 2017

Political contexts continue to change, with executive orders impacting and restricting the movement of people from certain predominantly Muslim countries across the U.S. border. Ryerson HR has gathered information and resources on travelling to the U.S. to support faculty and staff.

Read President Lachemi’s statement of support in response to the U.S. executive order.

Support while travelling abroad for work or study

Ryerson International provides travel risk management on behalf of the Ryerson community in partnership with International SOS. The pre-departure processes listed on the RI website are mandatory for all student travelers, but faculty and staff are also strongly advised to take advantage of the services offered. See the Ryerson International website for full details.

Ryerson International is also working to document the effects of the executive orders on the Ryerson community. Please be sure to inform their team of any issues that you may encounter with travel to the U.S.

Crossing the U.S. border: What you need to know           

Crossing the U.S border: Ryecast video

On March 2, 2017 Eleanor Somerleigh from Rekai L.L.P., an experienced immigration lawyer licensed in U.S. and Canadian immigration, held an information session at Ryerson for faculty and staff. She spoke about rights and obligations of individuals at the U.S. border. Log-in using your Ryerson user-id and password.

Please be advised that the information in the video and on this website may change in its completeness and/or accuracy depending on further developments in relevant law, policies and practices.

Frequently asked questions

The following FAQs highlight some of the key points from the Crossing the U.S. border presentation, along with other information collected from Ryerson sources and U.S./Canadian government websites.

Rights and obligations at the port of entry (POE)


Individuals attempting to enter the U.S. from a Canadian airport have an advantage - because the airport is on Canadian soil, Canadian citizens cannot be issued an expedited removal if entry to the U.S is denied. An expedited removal is a bar of admission to the United States which could be up to 10 years depending on the infraction.

Unlike at the airport, a land border crossing is on U.S. soil, and therefore border officers have the authority to issue expedited orders.

U.S. border officers have the authority to detain individuals both at an airport or when seeking admission to the United States at a U.S. land border crossing.

Only citizens of Canada and certain permanent residents who are citizens of a “visa waiver” country have the option of applying for a visa/requesting admission at the POE. All other individuals must apply for a visa in advance through a U.S. consulate.

It is important to bear in mind that even if you have a visa, the Customs Border Protection (CBP) Officer has discretion to deny entry and cancel the visa on the spot.

Under U.S. law, foreign nationals do not have the same rights as American citizens. When crossing the border via land, water or air, you are being evaluated by U.S authorities on your admissibility. Your belongings and your person can be subject to search, including your electronics.

You could possibly be held for an extended period of time. If you wish to no longer proceed with your request to enter the country, you cannot simply choose to leave; you must ask permission to withdraw your application. If deemed inadmissible to the country, there may be more delays before you are returned to the point of departure or your country of nationality.

CBP officers look at several criteria to determine admissibility. Some of these include whether individuals have:

  • a home, job, family, etc. to return to

  • the resources to fund their trip

  • a clear reason for their travel

  • a concrete date of return

To prepare for their evaluation, you should have on hand print outs of concrete and accurate documentation that provide evidence of the reason for the visit. For example:

  • conference and hotel registration if attending a conference

  • if visiting a family member, proof that the family member has legal status in the U.S. (copy of their green card/citizenship, a letter from them that they are expecting you, etc.)

  • if visiting an ill family member, consider showing a letter from their doctor as well as your concrete plans to exit the country

In order to receive permission to enter, you must comply with the questions and instructions of the CBP officers. The officers have a wide range of authority in making their assessment, including but not limited to:

  • asking questions about nationality, purpose of visit, intended length of stay, and anything else despite how offensive, intrusive, irrelevant, etc. the questions may seem to the individuals being asked

  • sending individuals to a secondary inspection for additional questions

  • conducting a body search (wand search and a pat down are the more common forms)

  • collecting fingerprints

  • conducting a search of individuals’ personal items including asking for passwords to electronics and accounts

In addition, foreign individuals requesting entry can be detained for any reason without access to an attorney. U.S. citizens can also be detained however they have the right to an attorney.

Once in the POE, individuals do not have the right to unilaterally decide to withdraw their application and leave. They must seek permission to withdraw their application to the U.S. If permission is granted, this is not considered a denial of entry.

While the permission to withdraw will remain on record, the individual will not have to indicate that they were ever denied entry in their next application.

Canadian citizens in need of emergency consular assistance while abroad can request emergency assistance, external link from Global Affairs Canada. See also the information above regarding International SOS for Ryerson students and employees.

If detained at the airport, immigration officials have the authority to videotape the interview and to take transcripts, which individuals will be asked to sign to confirm accuracy. If this happens, it is important to understand that the opportunity to confirm the accuracy of the transcripts is available only while the individual is still at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at the airport. You will not be able to amend it later.

You should consider whether you have substantially different information to satisfy the CBP Officer’s original concerns. For example, if the concern was that you would not leave the U.S. after being admitted, be prepared to provide concrete information about your family, employment, etc. that will help satisfy the criteria for admission. There is no particular period that you must wait before making another application, however, the second application must have solid evidence to address the concerns that led to the first refusal.

Individuals who are concerned about frequently being flagged when travelling to the United States may request a U.S. Travel Redress Inquiry Process, external link. This may provide the reasons for being flagged or may lift the flags.

Privacy and search of electronics

All international travelers arriving to the U.S. are subject to inspection. CBP officers have the lawful search authority, external link to inspect your person and your belongings, including devices. If anything seems amiss they may decide to refuse you entry, confiscate your devices, or detain you (many other countries have similar provisions). This inspection may include electronic and communication devices regardless of whether these items have confidential or sensitive information. This may include:

  • computers

  • disks

  • drives

  • tapes

  • mobile phones

  • cameras

  • music

  • other media players and any other electronic or digital devices

If you are a U.S. citizen travelling from Ryerson to the U.S., CBP officers will let you into the U.S. but you are still subject to the same search authority as noncitizens, and you do not have an inherent right to refuse access to your devices. For non-U.S. citizens, if access is requested and you decline, you will likely not be granted entry to the U.S.

Ryerson faculty and staff have a responsibility to protect Ryerson student and employee personal information from unauthorized disclosure as described in our privacy policy and by Ontario law (FIPPA). Faculty may also have additional responsibilities to safeguard research data, particularly research involving human subjects.

However, when you are at an international border, such as the Canada - U.S. border, CBP officers have the right to search any devices or belongings with you, which may possibly put you in conflict with your privacy-protection responsibilities.

There are many articles online that advise on how best to protect your privacy before seeking entry to the U.S. This advice often includes sanitizing files, photos, social media and email accounts on your devices; encrypting files; or removing email and social media from phones before crossing the border.

Non-U.S. citizens may consider leaving devices at home, or carrying essentially empty or blank devices with them, but there is some risk in how this may be perceived by the CBP officers. If you encrypt files, or password protect your devices, you may be asked to provide these passwords or unlock the files. Failure to do so may result in denial of entry.

Ryerson has established records management, privacy protection, and information security best practices, procedures and policies in place that support your privacy protection requirements for Ryerson personal information. As a Ryerson staff or faculty member traveling to the U.S. with Ryerson University data (e.g. student files, administrative files, etc.) or teaching or research data with you, consider the following best practices for securing sensitive data:

  1. As a starting point, it is not recommended that you store any files containing personal information on mobile devices (phones, flashdrives, or laptops). The university provides more secure alternatives including CFAPS and Ryerson’s Google Drive, which you can access securely through secure and encrypted links to these files (VPN for CFAPS, https for Google Drive).

  2. Limit the Ryerson personal information in your custody or accessible through your devices to that which is reasonable for the purpose of your trip. If you do need to bring Ryerson personal information in files on a mobile device, the information must be safeguarded appropriately using encryption.

  3. Access to systems or applications where you store Ryerson personal information should be protected using two-factor authentication.

  4. If you need to email sensitive information, send the information as an attachment rather than in the body of the email. Encrypt and password protect the attachment. Provide the intended email recipient with the password using a separate method, such as voicemail.

Before embarking on your travels, consider the following:

  1. In advance of travel, review your email and any files stored on mobile devices to identify any Ryerson files containing personal information or sensitive data or representing other kinds of risk. Determine whether to remove these files, keeping in mind Ryerson’s record retention schedule or move them to another storage location such as Google Drive.

  2. If you are travelling to the U.S. to meet with research colleagues and the research data contains personal information or other sensitive data, we recommend you share the data with your colleagues in advance of the trip using secure file sharing through an approved mechanism. For example, Ryerson has approved the use of Google Drive for most circumstances; Ryerson has not approved Dropbox or iCloud for any circumstances. Alternatively, you could send an encrypted and password-protected flashdrive to your colleagues in advance of your trip. When your colleagues receive the flashdrive you can provide them with the password over the phone to decrypt the files. The means of sharing sensitive research data across borders should be discussed with the appropriate research ethics board.

  3. Keep a backup of all data in a secure location at Ryerson in the event that your mobile device is seized.

  4. Be aware that while file or device encryption will safeguard the data in the event of device loss or general unauthorized access, at the border CPB officers can ask you to unlock these files. Failure to do so may result in the CPB officers deciding to hold your device for further examination, detain you, or deny you admittance to the U.S.

  5. Should you be asked to provide passwords to Ryerson applications or files, change the passwords immediately once you have crossed the border. Promptly notify both your manager and the Privacy Office at If you notice any unusual activity in your accounts, notify Ryerson’s information systems security officer at

  6. If you are travelling for personal reasons, and where it makes sense to do so in light of your employment responsibilities, do not bring Ryerson devices, or devices with Ryerson information. If you do need to bring some Ryerson information or a Ryerson device, follow the advice above.

Citizenship, Visas and Passports

Permanent Residents of Canada from one of the countries identified in the executive orders and who hold a visa allowing them entry to the United States should consult the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Frequently Asked Questions on the executive order for information on entry requirements.

The decision to allow entry into the United States is made at the discretion of the U.S. immigration officer. Expect delays during the clearance process due to possible additional screening measures. Contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection, external link or the Embassy of the United States of America, external link or one of its consulates, external link if you have any questions.

The Government of Canada has been informed that Canadians travelling with a Canadian passport, including dual citizens of the following six countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) will not be affected by the ban.

Permanent Residents of Canada who are travelling with a passport from one of these six countries are eligible to apply for a visa and a waiver to the executive order from within Canada. Those in possession of a valid visa may be granted entry. For more information visit the U.S Embassy & Consulates in Canada website, external link.

The Canadian passport should be used. Unless otherwise asked, the passport for the other country of citizenship does not need to be provided.

Landed immigrants of Canada (not including refugees) who hold passports of a restricted country are eligible to apply for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa and coordinate a waiver to the United States. To do so, the individual needs to present their passport and proof of landed immigrant status to a consular officer. These applications need to be made at a U.S. consular section in Canada.

The NEXUS program, external link is a trusted traveller card that is available to Canadian citizens and permanent residents after being thoroughly vetted by Canadian and American immigration officials. It offers a simplified and expedited border clearance process to low-risk, pre-approved travellers and is normally effective for a period of 5 years.

The benefit of a Nexus pass is that it allows individuals to seek entry by scanning the pass rather than having to be assessed by a border officer, however this is not guaranteed. Even those with a NEXUS pass may be questioned.

For more information on eligibility, visit the Canadian Border Services Agency website., external link

Any individual whose visa was marked as revoked or canceled as a result of the January executive order is entitled to a travel document confirming that the individual is permitted to seek entry to travel to the United States. This application is made through a United States Consulate located in Canada.

Individuals who have recently visited one of the restricted countries should be prepared to provide an explanation (along with any supporting documentation) for the visit to the country in question.

Be prepared to answer questions about the visit such as dates and reason for the travel. For example, if the visit was related to attending a wedding, photos, copies of the plane ticket, etc. could be provided as evidence.

The same rules apply as when seeking permission to visit the United States.


David Begg
Coordinator, International Engagement
416-979-5000 x4078

External resources

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, external link

Information for those traveling to the U.S. including for Canadian and Mexican citizens, external link and international visitors, external link

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, external link

Lists the executive orders and presidential memos related to the travel bans

Government of Canada Emergency Assistance, external link

Service for Canadian citizens in need of emergency consular assistance while abroad

Travel and Tourism Canada: United States, external link

Government of Canada website with up-to-date information on entry/exit requirements, risk levels, and laws and culture.

Toronto Pearson Airport departure guide, external link

Important advisories and information for those traveling to the U.S.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: Your privacy at airports and borders , external link

Information on privacy issues and considerations when traveling to the U.S.