scorecardAn Australian woman said she was denied entry to the US over house-sitting plans
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An Australian woman said she was denied entry to the US over house-sitting plans

Ryan Hogg   

An Australian woman said she was denied entry to the US over house-sitting plans
LifeThelife2 min read
  • An Australian woman said she was not allowed to enter the US because she intended to house-sit.
  • Madolline Gourley said she has traveled to the US to look after homes and pets in the past.

Madolline Gourley was traveling from Australia to Canada via Los Angeles in June to go to a house-sitting job, but she wasn't able to do so because she got sent back.

She made headlines after revealing that immigration officials asked her if she'd ever had an abortion. While the intrusive questioning attracted much media attention, it was not the reason why officials denied Gourley entry to America. Rather, she believes it was because of her plan to house-sit.

House-sitting has become a popular means of cheap travel in recent years. Users of apps such as TrustedHousesitters sign up to either have someone look after their home and pets, or to look after homes and pets for others.

"All of those questions pertained to house-sitting, where I find these opportunities, how long I've been doing it for," Gourley told Insider. "And the second officer said, 'Will you be doing this house-sitting in Canada?' And I said, 'Yes'."

While US Customs and Border Patrol wouldn't comment on individual cases, a spokesperson said house-sitting breached visa guidelines.

"Under the Visa Waiver Program, nonimmigrant foreign nationals visiting the United States as tourists (visitors for pleasure), engaging in unauthorized employment is not allowed," the spokesperson told Insider. "For example, working as a house-and-animal sitter in exchange for room and board."

Gourley had been using the TrustedHousesitters app to find house-sitting jobs. A spokesperson for the company said it didn't know why the Australian citizen had been deported because officials had not given any explanation for their decision.

"Having taken legal advice from immigration lawyers, we have been advised that, as the primary reason for travel is leisure, pet-sitting with TrustedHousesitters doesn't contravene immigration guidelines," the spokesperson said, adding that travelers should check the visa requirements of the countries they plan to visit.

The spokesperson said TrustedHousesitters gave customers letters written by immigration lawyers to present to border officials: "It is essential to us that all of our members are in a position to explain to immigration officials the nature of the TrustedHousesitters platform, and that is why we provide our members with information on this issue."

Gourley, who has previously written about house-and-pet sitting for Insider, said she has been able to stay in New York for a month without paying for accommodations using her $150 annual membership with TrustedHousesitters.

She said the company didn't warn her of the risks of house-sitting on a tourist visa, and feels she is now paying the price in the form of what she called a travel ban from the US.

"TrustedHousesitters should be fixing this for me, but TrustedHousesitters should also be informing all of its members about the risks," Gourley said. "While it might not happen to you, it could happen to you, and I think members deserve to know about that."

A TrustedHousesitters spokesperson told Insider: "All our members are fully informed about the requirements for international sitting."

Last year, TrustedHousesitters received $10 million from investors to expand into the US market, Private Equity Wire reported.