Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tips on how to cross the border into Canada

Here are some tips on how to make crossing the border into Canada as quick as possible.

First of all, remember that everyone these days needs a valid up-to-date passport. In addition, children who don't have both biological parents traveling with them should have a letter from the other parent giving his or her permission for the trip.

The driver of the vehicle should hand the passports of everyone in the vehicle to the border officer when he pulls alongside the booth window.

I'm not going to tell you what you are allowed and not allowed to bring into Canada. You can see this for yourself at these websites:

However, I am going to pass on some practical advice on what to do at the border.

For starters, know that the person you are talking to has absolute authority over your admittance. So with that in mind, answer his or her questions politely, concisely and honestly.
Don't tell jokes, make wisecracks or pass the time of day.

Everyone in the car should remain silent unless asked a question by the border guard. The guard will usually ask the driver questions such as how long the group will be in the country, what is the purpose of their visit, where they will be going, etc.

You will always be asked if you have any alcohol and tobacco aboard and exactly how much of each so have that information written down ahead of time. (See the websites above for allowable amounts.) If you have more than the allowable limit you will be asked to come inside the building and pay duty and taxes.

You will also be asked if you have any weapons on board. It is illegal to bring any type of firearm into Canada (hunters must register their guns through a website in advance and have the paperwork ready when they come to the border). It is also illegal to have any other offensive weapon such as Tasers, mace, bear spray, throwing stars, switchblades, etc.

At the officer's discretion you might be asked to pull over and your vehicle and belongings searched. You should only have in the car the belongings of people in that vehicle.

Such searches are infrequent but can be prompted by things like background checks on the vehicle occupant's passports, answers to the questions the guard asked, or just at random. In other words, yours was the 47th car since the last vehicle was searched.

Never argue or complain. The officers realize they are inconveniencing you. Just do as they say and the process will go faster.

It will help if your belongings are organized rather than scattered all over the place.

Don't bring things in the boxes they were purchased in. For instance, if you stopped at Cabelas on the way up and bought a new fishfinder, take it out of the box before getting to the border. Why? Bringing items in their unopened packages makes it look like you might be intending to re-sell those items in Canada rather than bringing them for your own use.

Don't bring anything with you that isn't needed for the trip. For instance, don't bring lots of tools other than those needed in case of an emergency. It makes it look like you are intending to work in Canada.

Don't take photographs of the border crossing or the officers. In fact, don't take photos at the crossing, period.

Be patient. Treat the officer with respect. He or she has a serious job to do. Don't question their motivations. For example, don't ask why they seem to be singling you out. (Perhaps you may resemble someone they've been advised to look out for.)

Some of the officers are men; some are women; some have been doing their job for a long time; some are summer students hired as extra staff for peak time periods. Treat them all courteously and respectfully.

But what if they are rude and disrespectful to you? Although this is rare, it does happen.

You must still be polite and courteous. Remember, this one person has the power to deny you entering the country.

However, although you can do nothing about the incident at the moment, you CAN and SHOULD register a formal complaint later by doing the following.

All officers have large identity badge numbers. Memorize that number and write it down as soon as you are through the crossing.

Also write down the physical description of the officer, the exact time you crossed the border, the date, and every detail of your complaint including anything the officer said or did that offended you.

Don't wait until you get to camp to do this. Do it immediately while the details are fresh in your mind.

When you return home send your complaint in writing to this e-mail address:


It will be read and the incident investigated by a high-ranking officer at Canada Border Services Agency regional headquarters, not the border crossing.

It is possible that the border guard who offended you or treated you unfairly is a "bad apple" and your complaint plus those of other people against this individual can be used for disciplinary action or even dismissal. However, this person must be clearly identified. That is why you need to specify the hour, the date, and any other facts. The best, of course, is the officer's identification number.

Only you can launch this complaint. We cannot file the complaint for you nor can you file a complaint for someone else.

Just about all of the officers and border guards are excellent professionals. I'm sure they would also like to get rid of any fellow officers who bring contempt to their ranks.

Click to go back to our website:
Click to see the latest on the blog:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another suggestion that I think is very important, Dan, is REMOVE YOUR SUNGLASSES! They like to see who you are!