Crossing the Canada border is quite an experience for those who have never done it before. There are many rumors about drivers being questioned, passengers being inquired about somewhat random aspects of their lives, and people being turned away for simply being nervous. While there are some who haven't been permitted to cross the border due to a failure to answer questions correctly, it's really nothing to be fearful of - if travelers are aware of what to do.
From answering questions asked by border control to what not to do with one's car, here are all the dos and don'ts when it comes to showing up at border control.
Dos For Crossing The Border
Contrary to popular belief, there are some things that travelers should ensure they're doing prior to arriving at the crossing. It's not just a list of don'ts when it comes to passing a border security check, and drivers - as well as passengers - can certainly be proactive before it's their turn. A few easy tips will help the crossing go much smoother, and will prevent any further follow-up questions or even a car search.
Do: Look Presentable And Put-Together
It's not all for show but when it comes to crossing the border, it helps to avoid looking disheveled. We're not talking about perfectly tucked-in shirts and ironed slacks but simple things such as brushing one's hair, wearing clean clothes, and greeting border control with confidence (not arrogance) and a smile are helpful.
Do: Put In The Effort To Clean The Car
The same effort that's put into one's appearance should also be applied to the state of the car. If there's trash in the backseat, dirt, and dust all over the dash, and mud staining the sides and tires of the car, that's not always a great impression. Border patrol may wonder why travelers are really trying to cross, where they've been that caused so much mud, and what's hiding in all the garbage in the backseat.
Do: Make Sure All Passengers, Driver Included, Are Familiar With Their Basic Information
Stuttering over facts and appearing visibly nervous is automatically a bad sign. Of course, some nerves are to be expected when crossing for the first time - but there's a difference between natural nerves, and 'they're hiding something' nerves. All passengers should check their licenses and be familiar with that information (because they will be asked), and should know how to list off their phone numbers, home addresses, work information, and where they grew up at the drop of a hat.
Do: Be Aware Of Border Crossing Times
Some border crossings will take hours while others have wait times as short as 20 minutes. It might take a little more time to drive to a border crossing with a shorter wait time, but it'll be worth it. The longer everyone sits in the car the more agitated everyone is likely to get, which does not bode well with border patrol officers who are just doing their jobs.
Don'ts For Crossing The Border
As is expected, there are some things that drivers and passengers simply shouldn't do when crossing the border. The obvious things including bringing (or bringing back) illegal substances, as well as attempting to sneak someone who has no permanent identification. Here are some more don'ts when crossing the Canada border.
Don't: Give Border Patrol An Attitude
Believe it or not, any hint of an attitude is probable cause to either turn someone around or keep them from getting back across the border. The job of border patrol is to essentially grill and probe travelers in order to determine whether their intentions are honorable and trustworthy when crossing into another country. If an officer plays 21 Questions or asks random things, respect it and answer honestly. If there's any hesitation in allowing passengers to move forward, address the issue calmly, know one's rights, and be prepared to try again another day.
Don't: Try To Get Away With Not Declaring Certain Items
When it comes to declaring items, travelers should be aware of the costs of all of their shopping. Each person has a monetary value for goods depending on how long their stay is, based on >24 hours, >48 hours, or <48 hours. These values vary from $0 for stays less than a day, to $200, and up to $800. Money brought across the border must be declared, as well, with a limit of $10,000. Anything outside of these limits must be declared, for a full guide, check here.
Don't: Forget Enhanced Licenses Or Passports
The most important thing to remember is that no one will be permitted to cross the border without a form of permanent identification. For some states that border Canada, an enhanced license, also known as an EDL, is enough. For everyone else, a passport or passport card, with a license, is necessary. COVID-19 restrictions still apply and travelers should check with the CDC before crossing.