Australian Man Held in the US for Overstaying Visa by 90 Minutes
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The travel industry has had a tough time staying out of the news lately, and for all the wrong reasons. If it’s not a news story on the travel ban or a primer on how to best protect your electronics when you need to check them, it could be a viral video of a bumped passenger being forcibly removed from a plane or a fist fight between travelers making the rounds.
The latest incident that has Twitter all atwitter is the story of Baxter Reid, a 26-year-old from Canberra, Australia, who was arrested at the Canadian border on April 24 after overstaying his visa for 90 minutes. Yes, you read that right: 90 minutes.
According to Heather Kancso, Reid’s American girlfriend, it all started when the couple was attempting to leave and reenter the US via Canada, as the terms of Reid’s five-year B1 / B2 visa require him to exit and reenter the United States every six months. With his visa set to expire at midnight on April 24, the couple drove to the Canadian border on April 23, where Reid’s troubles began when they arrived around 10:00pm. Kancso told news.com.au that Canadian border officials immediately began to give the couple a hard time, making them wait several hours and grilling them with “remedial questions.”
After being detained for more than four hours by Canadian authorities, Reid, who has served in the Australian Army, was eventually refused admission into Canada and the couple was directed back to US border patrol authorities. Unfortunately, during that span of time, Reid’s visa officially expired, meaning he’d been on US soil illegally for 90 minutes and was now a criminal.
It didn’t take long for news of Reid’s arrest to spread, especially once Kancso turned to social media for help. On April 29, she created a GoFundMe page with the hashtag #FREEBAXTER to draw attention to Reid’s situation and raise funds for his legal costs.
“Both [Reid’s] family and mine are trying to find nickels and dimes to help us out, but at this stage the estimated costs are unrealistic,” wrote Kancso. “This is going to make a criminal out of an innocent man. With this legal counsel, his options are still limited: either get sent back to Australia with no criminal record, or have us get married so he can be here legally—both of which we are willing to comply with. Without this legal support, he will be sent back to Australia not only actually in cuffs, but as a criminal not being allowed to reenter the US.”
In just five days, the page has managed to exceed its initial fundraising goal; at the time of this writing more than $9,800 of the $8,000 needed had been raised, courtesy of more than 204 donors. But then they hit another snag: GoFundMe froze their page until more information can be confirmed and those funds can be dispersed. “In order to protect donors, it’s not uncommon to get additional information about the campaign before the funds are transferred to the individual,” said Kelly Galvin, a spokesperson for GoFundMe told news.com.au.
Andrew David, an immigration attorney (who is not involved with Reid’s case) told The Sydney Morning Herald that it’s clear the US is taking a firmer stance when it comes to immigration violations, saying that the visa Reid has is usually reserved for people who frequently travel to the United States but don’t live there. “Some people who get this, will go: ‘Great, I’ve got six months, all I have to do is go out and come back in,’ and that’s where the danger happens,” David said. “There’s no hard and fast rule, that’s generally not how it’s supposed to work. They want you to do a bit of time out of the US. The concern in this situation is, well, it’s down to the minute.”
Still, David believes that an arrest was unnecessary in Reid’s case. “You’ve got this young kid that’s tied up in this ridiculous situation, it’s not good,” David said.
Despite all the roadblocks, Reid — who spoke with press from the Batavia, New York, detention center where he is being held — remains hopeful. “I have the best support team of friends and family that anyone could ask for,” Reid said. “I’m just hoping that I can return to the States and be with my girlfriend, Heather. And just hoping that life doesn’t change very much for me, and I continue to see all my friends in America again.”
Featured image courtesy of Fairfax Media via Getty Images.