Le Border Crossing

Despite being the longest undefended border in the world, the Canada-United States border is getting harder to cross with each tick of Homeland Security’s danger level.  As of January 31, 2008, all airplane flights to and from Canada required a valid passport; all highway border crossings required some serious documentation: ID card plus birth certificate, passport, or INAC card.  By June 1, 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require all land border crossings to involve a passport, whether Canadian or US citizens.  

Foreign nationals should present a tidy appearance, act like they got some money, and not mention working unless they have valid permits and documentation to show tax info.  And even then, you might end up getting searched.  Entering Canada is often actually a wee bit easier than entering the US, but don’t count on it.  Remember: just because YOU might be a citizen of the country doesn’t mean that your stuff is.  Or your car.  Also remember that border guards are under no obligation to put your car back together after they have searched it, or literally taken it apart.

Tips for border crossings:  Don’t make jokes.  Customs agents have no sense of humor.  Be polite and answer the questions they ask you in detail, but without extreme embellishment.  If you have anything to declare, and they ask you if you have anything to declare, declare it, because if they get suspicious and search your car, you’ll spend hours explaining.  On the other hand, if you buy a brand new product in either country, take it out of the box on your way back in and you can avoid paying duty.  

Border guards may come up with random rules you’ve never heard of to throw you; for example, on my last crossing, one told me that Canadian citizens driving cars registered in the US need proof of US status in order to enter the country (good thing I had a photocopy of my passport).   Avoid longer wait times and suspicious glances by not crossing the border around the time of a major political happening or convention, like a WTO or G-8 conference; the borders are inundated with protesters who tie up customs lanes for hours.  Last, but not least: you’re not supposed to take citrus fruit, unpasteurized cheese, meats, or meat products into the US.

This site offers a regularly updated list of estimated wait times at every Canada-U.S. border crossing.  Canadian or US residents can apply for a NEXUS card, which allows fast-lane entrance to either country with only a minimum of stopping.  Be aware: if you are in the process of applying for citizenship with either country, your immigration or green card may have very strong restrictions on border crossings; for example, Canadian permanent resident cards require that, when you have a temporary one, you not leave the country or the whole application process starts over again from the beginning.

Also, any past criminal convictions can seriously hinder — as in, halt — your ability to enter Canada.  We’re talking drug convictions, DUIs, anything no matter how minor.  If you were convicted of a crime in Canada and are trying to enter Canada, you must seek a pardon from the National Parole Board.

The United States and Canada have long enjoyed a symbiotic, if somewhat pained, relationship; crossing between the two of them can be, but doesn’t have to be, a hassle.

Posted by | Comments Off on Le Border Crossing  | September 8, 2008
Category: General

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