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How To Make Your Canada-US Border Crossing Easier

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You don't have to be doing something wrong to dread a border crossing. In fact, most Canadian travelers venturing across the border in the U.S., dread the time spent waiting in line, the awkward passport check and the uncomfortable questioning. But border crossings don't always have to be daunting, and these five simple tips can help you reach your destination with the hold-ups or the stress.

Have Some Travel Plans Intact

The more you know, the easier you'll pass through the border crossing. You're not expected to have a plan for every day of your vacation, but the officer will want to know a general game plan for your adventures. Be prepared to answer questions regarding your travel dates, your destination and why you're traveling (leisure, business, etc.). Make sure every adult passenger in your vehicle knows the answer to those questions too.

Know What You Need

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers are not to be feared. They see international travelers like you thousands of times per day. However, you'll need to arrive at the border crossing with all of the proper documentation to ensure that your trip goes as planned. The following are the items you'll need to cross the border into the U.S. smoothly.

  • Valid Canadian passport (or a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative compliant document)
  • Written permission from the parents or legal guardians of children under the age of 15
  • Proof of identity (a passport or photocopied birth certificate) for children under the age of 15
  • Proof of rabies vaccination for pets, a health certificate from your veterinarian is recommended as well

Photo credit: Anupam_ts

Make the Border Officer's Job Easier

Anytime you make someone's job easier, they're appreciative. Pull up to the booth with your sunglasses removed, your passport prepared, your radio turned down and your cell phone put away. Travelers with passengers in the back seat should roll the rear windows down, so the people in the back are visible. The officer will only be annoyed, and possibly more meticulous, if you start doing all of these things when you arrive at the window.

Cross the Border with a Clean Vehicle

Travelers with piles of trash on the floor and dusty windows obstructing their vision are often considered to be hiding something. The painless act of stopping at the last exit before you cross the border and throwing out any excess trash (or potentially illegal items) could save you from a major headache when you pull up to the border officer's booth. Keep in mind that drug laws are far more strict in the United States than they are in Canada. The smallest amount of an illegal substance in your vehicle could easily result in prosecution and an extensive entry ban. A more clean-cut appearance for you and your vehicle will help you cross more efficiently.

Choose Your Border Crossing Carefully

Photo credit: Jason Swadley

The time consumed while crossing the border between Canada and the United States is one of the most dreaded parts of the journey. Fortunately, it's possible to check border crossing wait times to determine if you should drive an additional 10 minutes to the Pacific Highway crossing from the Peace Arch crossing to avoid an hour-long wait. Current border wait times for every crossing can be located online.