Challenges with Border Guards - RE the Laws

It’s even more important to recognize that THS is actively adding to that risk by offering these letters that get used by naive/trusting sitters!


I even delete the app from my phone crossing borders i think could be an issue. I also hide any recent social media posts mentioning house and petsitting and bury my WhatsApp conversations with pet parents. The less explaining I have to do to immigration the better. We keep conversations short and sweet. Tourist. Visiting friends. Vague itinerary. A night or two accommodation where relevant or the sits/friends address. Bank statement if needed. Date out. Often not a flight as we prefer traveling overland but I know the relevant ferries/bus/train details and we are often on touring bicycles like @pietkuip That usually gets a smile from them as we are in our 50s/60s and definitely dont look like your typical cyclists. It also makes having a set itinerary less suspicious.

The letters are meaningless and provide false hope. They aren’t signed by anyone, no lawyer or law firm is identified. They should not be presented to any officials. You will be required to undergo secondary questioning following long waits every time you try to enter the U.S. They will make it as difficult as possible for you. Stick to pet sitting in Canada to avoid problems and putting pet owners in a bind if you can’t show up.

Did CBP allow you to withdraw your application for admission or were you “removed”(deported).

What type of waiver do you think you need?

The US does not have open borders in any case. Lots of people enter without the correct documents, but that doesn’t mean we have “open borders”.


I know this is mostly about entering the US, but US citizens should know that many countries have similar rules. The destination I, and other US travelers I know, have had the most difficulty entering is the UK. I was specifically told when entering the UK that on a tourist visa I cannot do paid work, unpaid work, or volunteer work. Please carefully check the laws of the country you are entering and be careful what you say.

Also, they typically ask the purpose of your visit. When I’m travelling to a country, my purpose for visiting is to see the country, do tourist stuff, etc. Staying with pets is a great bonus, but isn’t my main purpose for visiting the country.

Yup. There was this video series on border screening and it involved multiple countries. (I saw a bunch of them on Facebook and they’re probably findable elsewhere on social media.)

They all had similar laws and regulations with people entering the country. Lots of rejections for the obvious stuff. They also rejected various folks who were doing volunteer work and such. The only exceptions they showed were for some farm work program and you had to have documentation for that. It wasn’t for house or pet sitting.

They did, yet conflicting information, called back pre clearance at YOW US CBP, they confirmed I would still need to file a Waiver, lawyers saying no, and a Waiver Analyst in Surrey BC stating you will need one. One Cdn lawyer in Florida, states you can try in a year yet a Waiver will guarantee rentry

I don’t understand that reply. It doesn’t answer either of my questions, which were more specific. I’m a US immigration lawyer, so that’s why I am asking for specifics.

Finally something I feel I can confidently weigh in on. I am a Canadian citizen with a US green card. My wife is an American citizen with Landed immigrant status in Canada. We travel seamlessly across the US/Canada border anytime we want to. Having said that, it is important to understand that the actual customs/immigration agents on the border have the freedom to interpret their countries policies any damn way they want to. From personal experience, I can also say that they resent anyone reading or quoting what they feel is pertinent documentation to their job. Best rule is to truthfully answer whatever specific question you’re asked and don’t embroider. I’ve seen a lot of people told to return to their home country because they just wouldn’t shut up. Americans are paranoid about possible terrorists and Canadians are paranoid about illegal unfunded immigrants. It’s an imperfect world, suck it up and plan ahead.

I have been a member of THS for 2 years and only recently ran into the problem of a couple from British Columbia Canada being denied entry into the US for a housesit that is coming up in a week! This is a real shame and has nothing to do with immigration or work visas. I contacted my two US Senators.

@JaneBW Do you know exactly what happened? Had they shown the THS letter?

I would never do that at the US border, it would not help my chances of getting admitted I think. When asked for purpose of travel, I would just say “tourism” or “getting away from the cold” etc and not mention pet sitting.

The border guards were probably just doing as instructed.

This post is so helpful! I am considering becoming a pet sitter in another country in the future! Learned a lot from here!

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Many countries don’t allow any kind of work on a tourist visa. That includes paid work, unpaid work, or volunteering. It’s not just US thing.

Agree. It’s not a casual chat. Treat it as you would being pulled over by a cop. I’ve been interrogated entering the UK. Entering the US, as a US citizen, I usually have no problems. One young agent, however, made a nasty comment about my having dual citizenship (Australia) and glared at me (I’m not a “patriot” apparently). I had to remain implacable and not let her get to to me; any backtalk/reaction would have resulted in a secondary grilling, just for kicks. Not worth it.

It does have to do with immigration/work visas though. Sounds like they freely offered the information that they were coming to housesit/petsit. Hope it doesn’t bar them from the US.

They are not working or immigrating. If they were friends they could be staying at my house without issue. Many of the house sitters become friends. Maybe it’s because they are not paying rent and adding to the economy.

In the eyes of laws and regulations in various countries, sitting is working. You don’t have to agree, but the border patrol and such enforce accordingly.

So that is what they should have said at the border, that they were visiting friends. They should then also be prepared to answer follow-up questions like the address, like how they knew you, like what you were working with and other stuff that one is expected to know about friends.

It is very unfortunate that THS provides that unhelpful letter. By now, they must be aware of lots of incidents. It is probably only a small fraction that are known on the forum.

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Not necessarily. If you answer that you are visiting “friends” you could open yourself up to a bunch more questions. Border guards might want to make sure these aren’t “friends” planning to employ you off the books, or have you work as a nanny for their kids, or marry you or do anything that might tempt you to illegally continue your stay.

Just as an FYI - it’s not all foods that are banned. You really have to read the descriptions of products.
This is from the Gov’t of CA website: "Hard cheese (e.g. cheddar) and semi-soft cheese (e.g. brie) are not subject to volume restrictions but cheese that is in a container with more than 100 ml of liquid (e.g. feta or mozzarella) must be packed in checked baggage.
Another example, I thought all live plants were banned. Nope, coming back from Amsterdam into YVR found out that tulip bulbs with a very specific Dutch government seal on them? Okey dokey. Otherwise, confiscated & destroyed.
Same with meats, etc.
However, it’s not just coming in that matters. Once I couldn’t get through security in Bordeaux with a can of rillettes in my carry on! Had to have packed in checked luggage.