Meeting at the Border Without a Visa: The Haskell Free Library and Opera House

Haskell Library
Photo by Jimmy Emerson

When one thinks of a border between two countries, one imagines large gates or fences, tight security, a number of border officers and line-ups on either side.

However, this border is different.

Located at Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vermont, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House straddles the Canadian and USA border.  In fact, the border between the two countries is indicated by a thick line on the floor across the library’s reading room.

Was this a mistake in construction, accidentally built where it was not supposed to be?

No – it was intentional.  It was built by Carlos Haskell (an American) and his wife Martha (a Canadian) for the use of both Canadians and Americans in 1904.  I very much doubt that an individual could secure building permits today to build a building that straddles the border.

So although interesting, how does this relate to Canadian immigration?

I often come across families who are divided by Canada/US border.  For example, perhaps the family members are from different countries and are not yet citizens in North America.  They may each be required to secure a visitor visa before traveling to Canada or the US, as the case may be.  And perhaps neither can secure such a visa, which means that neither can visit each other.

Or perhaps each family member has a minor criminal conviction (such as a DUI) that is preventing a border crossing.

Such family members could meet at the Haskell Library and spend time together, each on their respective sides of the line that demarcates the border between the two countries.  As neither family member is entering the other country, it is perfectly legal.  I suspect a hug across the line would likely be ok too.

It’s a situation that is more common than you might imagine, and the Haskell Library may be the only place where the family members get to see each other in person if neither is permitted entry into Canada and the US, respectively.

Now for those who think this library allows easy access to the other country, think again – there are border officers and border patrol at the Library to ensure nobody crosses the border who is not permitted to do so.

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About the author

Gianpaolo Panusa Gianpaolo Panusa is a Canadian immigration lawyer, writer, and founder of the PanCanadian Immigration Law Group based in Vancouver, Canada. Google+ Profile