How to Cross the Border From Canada Back to the USA

On June 1, 2009, U.S. law tightened security at the Canada-U.S. border.
On June 1, 2009, U.S. law tightened security at the Canada-U.S. border. (Image: Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Crossing the border from Canada back to the United States has always been a fairly easy process. For many years, all that was required for land crossings was a driver's license and birth certificate (although air crossings have always required passports). As of June 1, 2009, however, the U.S. procedure changed to increase border security. Travelers at land crossings must now have a valid passport as well.

Things You'll Need

  • U.S. passport
  • Driver's license (if traveling by land)

Locate your chosen access point for reentry into the United States. This will be either an international airport or a land crossing.

Get in an open queue at your chosen access point. This will be specific lanes on the road or lines in a U.S. airport terminal.

Prepare your U.S. passport and other identification as you wait for an available customs agent. U.S. passports are all that are required for air travel. Land travel requires a valid driver's license and passport.

Show your U.S. passport (and driver's license if at a land crossing) to the customs and border security personnel.

Answer the customs agents' questions truthfully and do what they tell you to do. U.S. customs officials are permitted under U.S. law to search or detain you if they have probable cause to believe that a criminal act is being committed.

Pass through the customs security checkpoint after being approved by customs and border security personnel. You are now back stateside.

Tips & Warnings

  • If traveling by land, expect to have a brief conversation with a customs official. This is done to detect intoxicated drivers and/or suspicious persons in the car. Answer the questions honestly and concisely.
  • Land crossings are often extremely busy during peak travel times and around the holidays. Consult your border crossing's wait times to find out how long you may have to wait.
  • Unusual items, including certain types of food or plants, are sometimes prohibited from being brought across the border to quarantine potential pests and disease. If you do not ensure that your cargo meets U.S. customs regulations, you may be held for search, and your possessions may be seized by customs officials.

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