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4 Tips That'll Make Crossing The Canadian/U.S. Border Much Easier

Rory Warnock
by Rory Warnock on October 2, 2015 at 4:30 AM

border crossing
Despite strong relations between the two nations, crossing the border between Canada and the United States is not as easy as it might have been 20 or 30 years ago. Increased security measures have created a more stringent approach to border patrol. American or Canadian residents cannot simply enter their neighboring country with basic identification, as residents were able to do in the past. Now, particular documents and regulations must be shown and adhered to in order to gain entry across this northern border.

A few years ago I was on my way to New York to stay with my sister with a plan to work in Manhattan for a few weeks over the Summer. During my trip down when I told my plans to border officials they were far from amused. Apparently I did not have a proper work visa and as a result was turned back in the process.Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way about being unprepared when crossing the border. However, this situation and others like it do not have to happen to you!

Navut offers the best information about traveling to or from Canada. If you would like to know some important tips for crossing the Canadian/US border, have a look below; it may just help you out.


1. Paperwork and Identification

Citizens are no longer allowed to enter into the United States from Canada and vice versa with only a copy of their birth certificate and their driver’s license. This new policy was implemented through the creation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and other security initiatives.

Canadian Border Services Agency explains that when crossing the border different regulations are used based on citizenship, age and mode of travel. Importantly, one need’s a passport or passport equivalent (ie: NEXUS Card, Passport Card, Enhanced Driver’s License, FAST/Express Card) when traveling from Canada into the United States and vice versa. Children age 15 or under are not required to have these documents and may present proof of their citizenship without photo identification if accompanied by an adult.

It is important to make sure you do your research and know what you need in terms of identification and necessary permits. If you are concerned about traveling across the American/Canadian border, contact your local embassy, federal government or look online for more information.

customs agent

2. Addressing Border Officials

Whether traveling to Canada or the U.S., border guards and customs officials have a significant amount of power and authority at their disposal. They are required by law to record the most accurate information for all those who are attempting to enter into the country. As a result, you must be prepared to answer a variety of questions about your travels.

Popular questions you may be asked include, "What is the purpose of your trip?", "How long do you intend to stay?", "Where do you intend on staying?" and "What is your occupation?" These are often asked by customs agents to get a better sense of your travels and if there is anything they need to consider about your plans. Specifically these questions help determine important things such as visa requirement, your whereabouts in the country, immigration risk, your affluence and financial capacity. Being general or unsure about your plans can make border security suspicious of your intentions, so try to be detailed in your explanations. Also, try to avoid being nervous or straying away from question topics as well. For border guards it will appear like you're hiding something and could make matters worse.

When approaching the border officer have your identification at the ready. Try to be polite, direct, confident and relaxed when dealing with agents. This will likely make the security process quick and easy. Dealing with boarder security can be nerve-raking at times, but you should have nothing to hide so there's no reason to be anxious.


3. What You Can and Can’t Bring Into Either Country

There are certain things you are permitted to bring into either country and those that you're prohibited from bringing as well. In terms of what you are allowed to bring with you, travelers are permitted to have particular amounts of dried/packaged food, tobacco and alcohol. Animals are also allowed into both the United States and Canada, just as long as they are licensed and have all the appropriate shots/vaccinations.

Certain items one is not allowed to bring into either country include fresh fruit and vegetables; this also applies to particular kinds of cat and dog food with fresh ingredients. Firearms and items intended for self-defense are strictly prohibited as well. This is the case even if you are licensed in your country of origin to carry these weapons on your person.

Lastly, many Canadians enter the US for shopping deals and other events. When returning home, Canadians will be asked to declare any items purchased internationally. Border guards and customs agents are often suspicious of many international travelers who could be withholding information of their purchases. When declaring any items that you may have bought across the border, in order to limit suspicion, make sure to hold onto all receipts during your travels. Be aware that if you have bought a significant amount of items, you are susceptible to large charges upon your arrival home.

Border Traffic

4. Border Wait Times

This is most applicable when crossing the Canadian/US border by car. Each border crossing has different wait times that fluctuate and change. Wait times are contingent upon traffic, time, amount of border officials working, suspected illegal activity and other unforeseeable events.

If wait times are longer, your experience crossing the border will in all likelihood be slower and more difficult than you had hoped. If the closest border has a longer wait time a further border crossing might be a better option. You can check out different border wait times at the Canadian Border Services Agency website.

Interested in traveling between Canada and the United States? Let Navut's Neighborhood Finder help you!

Read more on traveling:

(Photos: Wikimedia, Zach Whittaker, Jeff Nelson, Wikipedia, Stevepb)

Rory Warnock
Written by Rory Warnock
Written by Author

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