How to Cross the Canadian Border From the U.S.

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Crossing the Canadian border from the U.S. requires a few important pieces of documentation.
Crossing the Canadian border from the U.S. requires a few important pieces of documentation. (Image: stock.xchng)

Canada is a friendly country very often visited by U.S. citizens for sightseeing, visiting relatives or friends, or just to explore Canada's vast unpopulated wilderness to the north. Whatever the reason for your visit, it is important to secure the proper documentation and know the steps you need to take to enjoy an uncomplicated crossing from the United States to Canada.

Things You'll Need

  • Passport or equivalent travel document
  • Picture ID
  • Car registration
  • Note signed by parents for children entering the country without their parents/guardians (proof of custody)

Step 1: Aquire and prepare necessary documentation (passport, car registration). Have it ready.

Step 2: Be aware of what you can/cannot bring in when you cross the Canadian border. As of 2009, gifts worth $60 (Canadian) or less are allowed. There are limits on alcohol and tobacco products regarding what counts as a gift. Hate propaganda, most weapons/firearms, obscene materials and environmental hazards are prohibited. Follow the guidelines for pets, such as having a certificate proving vaccination against rabies for any pet over three months old.

Step 3: Prepare for talking to border patrol officers. Roll down your front and back windows so the officers may speak with all passengers. Be prepared to answer questions about why you are about to cross the Canadian border from the U.S., how long you are staying and where you will be staying. Commonsense courtesies such as removing your sunglasses, turning off the radio, friendliness and respect will go a long way toward making your border crossing easier and quicker.

Step 4: Check the Canadian border wait-time website in the Resource section below to find out whether there will be a wait.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you go duty-free shopping, keep receipts handy. Also remember that goods purchased at the duty-free shops on the U.S. side must be consumed while in Canada.
  • If you have a question about entering Canada or what you may or may not bring into Canada, contact Canadian Customs before crossing the border.

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