Challenges with Border Guards - RE the Laws

Mmmm, grilled @Cuttlefish :yum:

That is pretty much the law in most (all?) countries.
If you do not have the legal right to work in a country, doing house/pet sitting in exchange for a place to stay is a violation of the law.
Is it enforced? It can be.
I know of people who have been refused entry to a country because of this, and I have heard that the EU is starting to crack down.
When it comes to entering a country, border personnel CAN and MAY require that you disclose the address where you are staying and under what circumstances.
Will they ask? My guess is it’s all about how you are perceived.
We are lucky: as a couple we have the legal right to work in the countries where we do sits so it isn’t an issue for us.

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Agree this is VERY important because if a sitter is refused entry: that may create a huge problem for the HO.

My experience (off the top of my head) is that Egypt, Germany, Switzerland, Malta, China are all much tougher than US/Canada (BTW the land crossing between BC/Washington State is my usual point of entry).

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That’s weird. We fly in/out of London at least 2-4 times a year and all I’ve encountered is friendly personnel who are often jokey with us.


Saltrams - I think that’s pretty much true of most if not all countries’ laws. And BTW, we find the UK immigration officers are very friendly & nice to us (of course we’re Middle Aged Middle Class North Americans so …)

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Been doing international sitting almost 7 yrs full time. I always say I’m a tourist and/or visiting friends. I learned the hard way right after the pandemic was declared.
I rarely spend time in North America now, but when I used to cross from US to Canada by car, the Canadian border guards were always tough. I was a photographer and they asked if I am coming to shoot a wedding. Totally caught me off guard because I used to work shooting weddings but this time, I was just touring.


We live an hour from the border and have had Canadian housesitters several times. One of them (a repeat THS sitter) was denied entry on the day we were leaving for a ten day holiday. That was extremely upsetting for both of us. Now, when we do a meet and greet on zoom with Canadian’s, we discuss this and make sure that the sitter says they are visiting friends.


Do you know why that repeat sitter was denied entry?

I wasn’t aware that these letters were available but grateful that they exist. I’ll be heading to the US for a 3 month sit later this year and I’ll be sure to include it in my paperwork. Although on previous occasions when asked the ‘reason for my visit’ I usually say vacation because that’s the role that TH plays in my life -opening up opportunities to see the world and live like a local. The pets are an added bonus.


Yes, I was an American hockey mom for years, crossing back and forth to Canada many times. It’s luck of the draw. Some guards really, really take their job seriously, too seriously. We learned not to talk or offer information that wasn’t asked, never joke. We learned the rules. We also learned to make it very obvious our son was a hockey player - sticks and gear in sight!

When I went to EU I was so worried I would have this issue but nobody asked beyond my answer of traveling for “holiday” thank goodness. I had addresses and names of the HO and warned them the border patrol might call to confirm I was staying with them. “Staying with locals and in airbnbs.”


We would not lie so so we were denied entry at the Belfast border, spent nearly $3000 to get airline tickets back to the US within 24 hours, and our homeowners were left to make adjustments; all causing much stress. We love the UK, but are hesitant to return. We did nervously pass through Gatwick for a pet sit on the Isle of Man; albeit with visas after this incident. The kind IO said it was essential that we had taken this step and let us through. We have spent several years attempting to determine if visas are needed for any future travel to the UK. Can anyone speak to this query?

Well, I wouldn’t say you’d be lying by saying you’re travelling. If pushed further as to where you’re staying it would be with friends and hotels/airbnbs etc. As I and others have said after much communication and video calls with home owners I feel they are friends. Having read about the hard time people have been given in the US I can’t imagine entering the UK is anywhere near as bad, but I’m from the UK so obviously don’t have a problem entering.


I’ve never had to get a visa to visit the U.K. as a U.S. citizen. Never had problems entering, either, over many trips over the years. Most recent trip was in May, during which I sat and did sightseeing after the sit. I’ll be returning for two sits soon.

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Hi @donw , sorry to hear you had this problem. Like the others, I say I am visiting friends and have never had a problem. THS has a form letter they provide that you can present at Customs that explains the THS concept but I prefer to skip that and keep it simple.

No visa has been required in the past but if you’ve read the news and seen the posts here, come 2024 we will all need visas (called EU Travel Information & Authorisation System (ETIAS)) to visit countries in the European Union.

The UK will also require a pre-authorization form:

From Conde Nast Traveler:

  • U.S. visitors—as well as visitors from Europe, Australia and Canada—will soon be required to apply for permission to enter the U.K. through a new scheme known as Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA).

The U.K. government is in the process of fully digitizing U.K. borders by the end of 2025—and the ETA scheme will play its part, allowing “individuals, and carriers, with more assurance at an earlier point in time about their ability to travel to the U.K.,” the government said.

Whenever we’ve crossed a border (US, UK, France, Italy mostly), we are usually asked why we are entering and how long we are staying, and where we are going. We always say we’re on vacation and sometimes add in visiting friends as well. Both are true IMO. Housesitting is a vacation for us and the homeowners are friends.

ETA: We always carry the home owner’s (our friends’) address in case we are asked where we are staying, as well as the names of any hotels etc we have booked. So far, no one has asked.


That’s good to know as we’re in Vancouver and just did our first sit in Bellingham last month but had no problem crossing but plan to do more sits across the border.

At this point we are just looking for anyone who has experienced an entry refusal and/or can give us information that we asked for concerning the continued necessity of visas.
Thank you.

I’m busy this morning (BST+1) @donw but, as I’ve been an Entry Clearance Officer for the UK, processing visa applications in various countries outside UK, I will later compose a reply that might address your questions.
I hope I can assist, I hope you’re OK with waiting :wink: