American applying to sit in Canada

I have 2 years, 11 reviews as a THS sitter. My first year, during covid, I drove up from Florida and sat in Nova Scotia. It was a wonderful experience. This year, I have applied to 3 or 4 sits on Vancouver Island, met all the stated specifications, and was declined overnight by all owners, even when they had low applicants, with no followup. Is there a legality concerning Americans sitting in Canada, even though there is no pay? Do we have a bad reputation? I am seriously asking, as I almost always am asked to have a virtual chat and invited to sit. I don’t want to keep applying if there is some non-personal reason behind the declines. I do travel in my minivan, but have never cancelled or been delayed, and have excellent reviews. I live in Florida and want to go north for the summer. A reverse snowbird.

I could be wrong but don’t believe there are legal concerns, just an unfortunate luck of the draw for you. I applied for a couple and had friendly conversations before realizing it might not be the best fit/timing given my travels.

To be honest, those homeowners are likely more concerned with your long trek from Florida to Vancouver Island. There is a large THS user base in the mountain west + PNW so many decide on going with folks who don’t have to travel as far.

My best piece of advice would be to line up sits across the US on your way to the PNW then use that in conversations with prospective sitters in Canada. If you end up getting to the PNW without landing any Canadian sit(s), there would be plenty of options across the western half of the states as alternatives.

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You might want to check out this thread. No question there is are risks: risks: Challenges with Border Guards - RE the Laws - #200 by pietkuip
Maybe get in a few days ahead of your first sit and stay in a hotel which you have reservations for that you can share at the border?

I did one sit on Vancouver Island - flew to the sit, entered Canada in Calgary on a flight via MSP then on to Vancouver Island. Departed Canada on the train from Vancouver city to a sit on Whidbey Island in WA, then onward to a sit in the SF area east bay. No immigration issues at either end. Used HO’s car for all 3 sits. All 3 sits were delights!

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You’ve probably picked one of the most challenging places in Canada to get a sit, even for other Canadians. There are HOs all over the world who prefer local sitters, but I think you’ll find on the island that percentage is even higher. I lived there for a few years and there are legitimate reasons for their concerns, such as the ferries being notoriously challenging in the summer, but there are also just silly insular reasons, too.

Have you assured them that you know how long the drive is? Have you acknowledged the ferries and how you plan to deal with the logistics of them? Which route you will take and what you will do if you can’t get a reservation?

I suggest that you look at previous sitters before you apply for a sit. If all the past sitters are from the island (and this is quite common), then it’s fairly unlikely that you will even be given a chance. Try applying for sits where they have at least had a successful sit with someone from elsewhere in the past.

All that said, entering Canada in a van, rather than with a return airline ticket, well, you could find crossing the border to be very challenging. If you are young, that won’t help either. It’s just a lot of red flags and you can’t say that you’re housesitting.

I agree with the previous advice to get yourself some sits in Washington or Oregon first and then apply to Vancouver Island. It will alleviate some concern as you’ll at least be in the area. And definitely book a night or two at a campsite on the island if you can to show at the border that you’re going somewhere (although booking camp sites is also extremely challenging in the summer).


Yes, there are issues with border control:

So don’t give them the THS letter! In almost all cases, just being a tourist will keep you out of trouble.

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There are plenty of examples of sitters entering without a problem, even mentioned within this thread. Issues with border control don’t constitute legal concerns, a sitter might just run into an officer going on a power trip. Suggesting there are actual legal concerns is misrepresenting the issue in my opinion.

As always when traveling to another country simply do your research and ensure you prepare short, concise answers at point of entry so you don’t give border control reason to interrogate you.

No, those people are acting according to instructions.

I would be more concerned about US border control agents, actually. Not because of them power tripping or anything like that, but because they seem to have very little discretion to take reasonable decisions.

It is those THS letters that are the problem.


There ARE legal concerns. Many jurisdictions consider that pet-sitting, even without pay, is “working” and is therefore inappropriate on a visitor visa/status. Lots of sitters cross borders without any problem, but that doesn’t mean that there is no reason for concern.

This is not just my “opinion”. Normally I hate when people here keep mentioning their high-powered, super-important (in their opinion) job, but mine is relevant here: 25+ years practise as an immigration lawyer.


If crossing a border as a ‘tourist’ when indeed you’re actually pet/house sitting would this then make any personal/public liability insurance void also cancelling any medical insurance due to misrepresentation of your purpose?

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Interesting question. It would depend on the terms of the insurance policy. Luckily, my sits have all been in countries where I have work authorization, as a dual US and EU citizen. Pity that Brexit banjaxed your EU work authorization!

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I’m now thinking about my plan to pet/house sit in Australia as we enter there on a retired/parent visa and our medical insurance where we have to state purpose of travel/visit- I always truthfully put visiting family and friends.

@BonnyinBrighton I don’t know if this helps or not, but my mom came to visit us in Australia and took out travel insurance. We were housesitting and arranged a separate, shorter sit for her as well. She got bitten by the cat and had to spend 6 days in hospital. The insurance covered this and didn’t ask why she was there in the first place. I guess if push comes to shove you were visiting friends and their pet bit you. As many of us mention here, by the time you actually show up for the housesit, you might have been in contact with the HO’s quite a lot and feel like friends already. :woman_shrugging:


Thanks for your thoughts. I do try to minimize my home being in FL and stress how I have done the coastal drive quite a few times and how I already have confirmed sits all along the way. It probably is the distance I travel. I didn’t realize there was such a big group of sitters on the west coast. I do think THS increased their sitter clients much more than owner client this past year!

I know this has strayed from the original thread but @BonnyinBrighton while you are in Australia, you can access essential and urgent medical care through the UK-Australia Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement. Essential urgent hospital treatment is free but there is a charge to visit GPs and received prescriptions.

I had to seek immediate treatment in England when a squirrel gave me a very nasty finger bite as I was rescuing it from one of the cats I was looking after! I headed straight to the nearest medical clinic and received a tetanus shot and antibiotics and it cost me nothing under this Agreement.

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I’m currently doing a similar trip except I started west coast canada and am headed east coast US. I personally haven’t had issues finding sits yet. I wrote in my sitter profile TITLE that I’m currently roadtripping the US West → East until Sept. I’ve also been changing the location on my profile to the next state that I’m looking for a sit in so that homeowners can find me there (and so that they know I’m not coming all the way from western Canada in one drive). I’m guessing it also helps that the owners can see my previous reviews in order of Colorado, California, Nevada, Alberta and BC, so it’s clear I am making the drive that I claim I am lol
When I talk to the owners, I just make sure to explain that I am driving my own vehicle and will be in X state by X date, or that my schedule is flexible and I can be there sooner etc. You may just be getting unlucky because BC is very desirable allllll the time though!