First Trip Across the Border? Top 10 Things You Need to Know

Road trips can be all kinds of fun, and here in North America, you have all kinds of options for places to go. Many people in Canada like to travel to the US, especially if they are living near the Canada/US border. There have been many changes to the rules and regulations about border crossing since 9/11, and even those who are used to going across may not be familiar with many of them.

If you are a new driver, or even an experienced one, and are traveling across the border for the very first time, here are 10 things that you will need to know about going over and coming back:

Entering the US

The rules and regulations differ somewhat between going to the US and coming back to Canada. If you are entering the US, here are five things that you should be prepared for so you don’t get asked to turn back:

  1. You will need the proper identification: Today, you can no longer use your driver’s license to get across the border as you once could. You will either have to have a passport, or in some areas, an enhanced driver’s license. Another option is the Nexus card, which will allow you to travel throughout Canada and the US, both by road and by air. Your passengers must also have the correct form of identification.
  2. Declare what you are bringing over: If you are bringing anything to the US that you intend to leave there, such as gifts, you must tell the guard at the border. You may have to fill out certain paperwork, depending on what you are bringing into the country. There are a number of things that you will not be able to take into the US, and it would be a good idea to find out before you head on your trip, to avoid any unnecessary hassles.
  3. Pets in the car: You may have your dog or cat in your vehicle when you are crossing into the US, but you must be able to supply proof that the animals’ vaccinations are up-to-date, especially their rabies vaccinations. If you do not have proof of this, you may be told that you cannot bring your pet into the country.
  4. Drug searches: You may be subjected to random drug searches when you arrive at the US border. This is really no big deal. The border patrol officer will walk around your vehicle with a dog, which will sniff at certain areas, such as the trunk, for drugs or other contraband.
  5. Answer all questions: No matter how silly some of the questions you are asked at the border may seem, it is very important that you answer each and every one of them. Be nice about it too. The less attitude you show, the nicer the border guards are going to be to you, and the more pleasant and quicker your border crossing experience will be.

Coming Back Into Canada

You will have an entirely different set of regulations when you are coming back into Canada after being in the US, even if you are only across the border for an hour or less. There are a number of rules and regulations that you need to be aware of, and be prepared for the following:

  1. You may need identification: You may or may not be asked to produce the correct identification to be allowed back into the country. Usually, your driver’s license will suffice, and you can also use your passport, enhanced license or Nexus card. Most times, you will not be asked for identification, but you should have it ready just in case.
  2. Declare all purchases: You will be asked what you purchased while you were in the US. There are certain dollar amounts for goods purchased in the US that you are allowed to bring across without needing to pay duty on them. For example, if you are over for the day, you are allowed to bring about $20 in goods, and much more if those goods are grocery items. If you have gone over the amount you are allowed to have, you will be required to go inside and pay duty on your purchases, which is the Canadian sales tax.
  3. Your vehicle may be searched: If you have made any purchases, it is possible that you will be asked to pull over into a special area to have your vehicle searched. Sadly, many people try to smuggle additional goods, and these will be discovered during searches. The best thing is to always be up front and honest about all purchases you make while you are in the US. You also need to be prepared for random searches, even if you have not made any purchases at all on your trip across the border.
  4. No firewood: As odd as this may sound, it is illegal for you to bring in firewood from another country, due to insects in it that may be foreign to the area you live in. If you have firewood in your vehicle following a camping trip, you will have to get rid of it before you arrive at the Canadian border, or it will be confiscated and destroyed.
  5. Pet food regulations: You may not bring pet food that you purchased in the US into Canada unless you actually have the animal that is going to be eating the food with you. It used to be that you could not bring any cat food across, but now, as long as the cat is in the vehicle, you may do so. Again, you may be required to produce proof that the animal has been vaccinated.

Traveling back and forth between Canada and the US does not have to be a hassle at all if you are already aware of all of the rules and regulations before you go on your trip. Go online to learn about other regulations that may pertain to you, so that you will have a much easier time getting across, and a much shorter wait.

About the Author:
Andrei Zakhareuski is the founder of Find-a-driving-school.ca. He has been writing for beginner Canadian drivers for several years.
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