Stressed out about crossing international borders? Don’t be. With just a little bit of preparation traveling between Canada and the United States can be done with ease. Thousands of people drive their cars between these two countries on a daily basis with absolutely no problems. However, for the uninformed or inexperienced RVer it can be extremely stressful. Waiting in a long line of traffic for a turn at the customs booth just magnifies the agony of wondering what the customs agent will want to know. Do we have proper travel documents? Do we have the right forms for our grandchildren who are traveling with us? Should we have waited before buying our food? Can we bring our firearms? Should we have taken out our spare supply of firewood from underneath the motor home? What happens if we get sick or worse yet – have an accident? Is he/she going to search our unit? Do they have pizza in Canada?
Reducing the level of stress can be made easier just by doing a few simple steps in preparation.
• Travel documents: Passports. Passports. Passports. This cannot be said enough. For identification purposes passports are the most effective. U.S. citizens need to present either (a) a passport, passport card, or WHTI-compliant document; or (b) a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. (as per the Customs Border Patrol [CBP])
• Children or grandchildren: If the child is traveling with the custodial parent, a copy of the custody agreement and a notarized permission letter from the other parent is recommended. Travelling with grandchildren is possible if all of the paper work is in order including the notarized permission letter.
• Medical Insurance – remember you are travelling out of the country. Check with your insurance provider to ensure coverage and know whether extra insurance is needed. It’s better to be prepared than be faced with a large bill due to an unexpected injury or accident.
• Traveling with Fido? Make sure he is healthy and has a current rabies certificate. Pet foods containing beef are not allowed but it is wise to check with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) prior to departure.
Because RVs carry more than a regular passenger vehicle, special consideration must be made to the contents of the rig.
• Refrigerator contents: Some food items are allowed into Canada but with restrictions. They include dairy products, eggs, turkeys, and chicken. Part of the travel experience is enjoying new food – why not buy in the region you are travelling in?
• Prohibited Food Products: Fresh – apples, apricots, nectarines, plums, peaches, guince, fruit of the hawthorn, blueberries, cherries, corn on the cob, and potatoes are not allowed.
• Firewood: Burn it all before you enter Canada – it’s prohibited.
• Firearms: Before you attempt to import a firearm or weapon, contact the Canada Firearms Centre for information. Visitors may temporarily import restricted and non-restricted firearms, such as pistols or revolvers with proper documentation which must be applied for in advance. To avoid serious consequences declare all weapons and firearms at the CBSA port of entry.
Just as important is the preparation for the return trip back into the United States. There are different rules on each side of the border and the secret is in knowing what the rules are.
• Camping supplies. Chairs, barbecues, etc. may be coated in weeds or fungi and must be washed. Firewood should be checked thoroughly for Gypsy Moth eggs. Don’t forget that emergency stash of wood carried under the RV! Check it all.
• What food is in the refrigerator? The contents of the refrigerator are important since not all foods are allowed. This applies to fruit, vegetables, meat and animal products. Labelled US brand seasonal fruit is allowed with the exception of citrus fruit since it may carry diseases. Fruit grown in Canada or the United States are okay, as are vegetables but they must be in season. If there are grapes in the refrigerator and it’s January, they obviously were not grown in Canada and are best left behind.
• Declarations: Declaring everything purchased while out of the country is the best advice a person can receive. The CBP Officer will advise if items are exempt. All receipts for purchases must be kept and converted into American currency. To prove length of stay keep receipts for accommodation and meals. There are specific regulations regarding tobacco and alcohol – check the CBP website for specifics.
• Tax Refund: A tax refund may be available for goods bought in Canada. Ask for a copy of the publication called Tax Refund for Visitors to Canada from the Canada Revenue Agency or call (1-800-668-4748).
The many border crossings between Canada and the United States are listed on both Canadian Border Services and Customs Border Patrol websites. Know where the closest border crossing is and their hours of operation since they all vary.
No matter how much preparation is done there is always some worry but if a person has done their homework prior to arriving at the border that long wait in the line up will be much easier. Enjoy the scenery and relax and yes there is pizza in Canada – something to look forward to.
Top 10 things you should know before crossing the border:
1. Border wait times – give yourself enough time in case of line ups
2. Know in advance what the personal exemptions are
3. Many weapons are prohibited
4. Know your limits – regarding alcohol and tobacco
5. Some fruits and veggies aren’t allowed
6. Currency and Monetary Instruments must be declared – must report amounts equal to or greater than $10,000.
7. Receipts for your purchases should be available
8. Ensure you have proper identification
9. Know before you go – check on possible purchases to ensure they are allowed
10. Beat the line ups – become a NEXUS member
The NEXUS Highway program is a joint Canada- United States initiative that allows low-risk, frequent and pre-approved travelers to cross the border through dedicated lanes.
WHTI-Compliant Travel Documents for U.S. citizen travel via land or sea, as of January 31, 2008:
Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
State Issued Enhanced Driver’s License (when available)
Enhanced Tribal Cards (when available)
U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
U.S. Merchant Mariner Document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business
Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
Form I-872 American Indian Card
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