American entry into Canada by land
|This article or section may be slanted towards recent events. (March 2011)|
U.S. citizens and permanent residents entering Canada by land are required to possess the requisite documentation, and to meet other criteria before they are allowed entry into Canada. Consequently, travelers must also meet the requirements for re-entering the U.S. at the end of their visit.
- 1 Visitor entry into Canada
- 2 Documentation
- 3 Visas and admissibility
- 3.1 Inadmissibility
- 3.2 Policies
- 3.3 Handling disagreements
- 3.4 Business visits
- 4 Return entry into the U.S.
- 5 Expedited entry
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 References
Visitor entry into Canada
Entry into Canada is solely determined by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials in accordance with Canadian law. Visitors are required to have the necessary travel documentation and be in good health. If asked for, they must satisfy an immigration officer of ties to their country of origin. Such ties include a job, home, and family. They must satisfy the officer that they will leave Canada at the end of their visit. They must also have sufficient money for their stay.
All items belonging to an individual, including the vehicle an individual may be traveling in, are subject to search by the CBSA.
Canadian law requires that all persons entering Canada must carry both proof of citizenship and identity. A valid U.S. passport or passport card is preferred, although a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, citizenship certificate, or another document proving US nationality together with a government issued photo ID (such as a driver's license) is acceptable to establish identity and nationality.
Enhanced Driver's Licenses
An enhanced driver's license or EDL (currently issued by Michigan, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington) is specifically designed to meet the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative to re-enter the United States via a land or water border. An EDL will also suffice as proof of identity and citizenship for American citizens entering Canada by road.
NEXUS is a joint US/Canadian program for pre-approved, low risk travelers and requires an extensive background check and face to face interview with border officials of both nations. FAST is the equivalent for international truck drivers. Membership in either program can expedite border clearance through the use of dedicated lanes.
United States Permanent Residents
Minors 18 and under
Children under 16 need only present proof of U.S. citizenship. Nevertheless, it is recommended that identification for children be carried anyway. Any person under 18 traveling alone requires a letter from a parent or guardian granting permission to travel to Canada. The letter must state the traveler's name and the duration of the trip.
A divorced parent who has or shares custody of a child should carry a copy of the custody document. An adult accompanying a child and who is not the child's parent or legal guardian should have written permission from the parents or guardians to supervise the child. When traveling in a group of vehicles, parents or guardians should be in the same vehicle as their children when arriving at the border. CBSA personnel are looking for missing children and may question adults about children traveling with them.
Documentation for vehicles
Visas and admissibility
A visa is not required for U.S. citizens to visit Canada for up to 180 days. Anyone seeking to enter Canada for any purpose besides a visit (e.g. to work, study or immigrate) must qualify for the appropriate entry status and can see the Canadian immigration website. The Canadian embassy or nearest consulate can be contacted for additional information.
Some persons are inadmissible—they are not allowed to enter Canada.
As of August 2008[update], if a person is denied entry and advised to re-enter the U.S., they are issued form IMM 5292. This form indicates that the person is allowed to withdraw their application to enter Canada, and is allowed to leave Canada. Persons who have been denied entry and provided this form are advised by the CBSA to show this form to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). There appears to be no legal precedent, however, for the traveler to voluntarily submit this form to the CBP, and doing so may cause the CBP to consider the traveler suspicious, and as a result they may subject the traveler to exhaustive questioning and search.[verification needed]
Grounds for inadmissibility
Individuals may be refused entry to or removed from Canada on the following grounds:
- Security reasons, including espionage, subversion, violence or terrorism, or membership in an organization involved in such activities.
- Human or international rights violations.
- Organized crime, including membership in an organization that takes part in organized criminal activity.
- Health reasons, if their condition is likely to endanger public health or public safety, or might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demands on health or social services.
- Financial reasons, if they are unable or unwilling to support themselves and their family members.
- Misrepresentation, which includes providing false information or withholding information directly related to decisions made under Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).
- Failure to comply with any provision of IRPA. For instance, an attempt by persons who, having previously been deported from Canada, seek to enter Canada without written authorization.
- Having an inadmissible family member.
Persons can be denied entry into Canada on the basis of suspicion alone. In particular, the CBSA may deny entry to persons they doubt will be able to support themselves and their dependents, or whose willingness and means to return to the U.S. is in doubt. Certain documents, such as the following, can serve to reduce these doubts:
- Evidence of financial support, such as bank statements and transaction books.
- Income tax records, both recent and past.
- Evidence of employment, such as recent pay stubs, employment ID, and current letter from employer.
- Proof of residence, such as recent rent receipts, and copies of mortgage, deed, and utility bills.
- Confirmed means of departure from Canada, such as an airline, bus or train ticket with date and time of departure indicated.
- Information about destination in Canada, including destination address, destination telephone number, and name of the person being visited.
A single criminal conviction, no matter how minor or how long ago, is grounds for exclusion from Canada. With the exception of civil traffic violations such as speeding, and some municipal ordinance infractions (which are typically not handled through the legal system) such as parking violations or littering, persons with a conviction must either have received a pardon, applied for and been accepted for rehabilitation, met the requirement to be considered deemed rehabilitated, or if ineligible for rehabilitation or deemed rehabilitated status, apply for and receive a temporary resident permit (a special type of visa) to enter Canada.
To be a candidate for rehabilitation, at least five years (or more depending on the severity of the offense) since the conclusion of any sentence imposed (imprisonment, probation, fine paid, suspension of driver's license, etc...) must have elapsed. Due to differences between legal systems, an overturned conviction or dismissed charges does not automatically overcome inadmissibility, unless the offense itself occurred in Canada. However, applicants in either of these situations can use an abbreviated process and the five-year waiting period generally does not apply. In simple cases, such as a single misdemeanor conviction, the application can typically be reviewed and approved by a Canadian Embassy, High Counsel, or CIC office. For more complicated histories or in the case of a felony conviction, the application will need to be forwarded to Ottawa for approval. Processing time in either case can take several months to a year or more, so it is advisable to begin the process of applying for rehabilitation well in advance of any planned travel to Canada. Factors considered when determining whether to approve an application for rehabilitation or not include the nature of the offense, the time elapsed and one's behavior since the offense was committed or since the sentence. Applicants are required to obtain clearances from law enforcement in the communities in which they have lived, and are strongly urged to submit documentation showing stability and reform such as records of employment and any education or treatment programs completed, as well as character references.
A person with a past conviction can also be "deemed rehabilitated" by an immigration officer at the port of entry. Ten years must have elapsed since the conclusion of any sentence imposed and other criteria must be satisfied. Persons attempting to enter under the deemed rehabilitated system should also bring law enforcement clearances, documents showing a stable and reformed life, and character references, as the decision as to whether to admit someone as deemed rehabilitated is completely at the discretion of the border official and there is no recourse or right of appeal should deemed rehabilitated status be denied. It should be noted that anyone with a felony conviction (unless a pardon was granted) cannot be deemed rehabilitated and must instead apply for rehabilitation or a temporary resident permit.
Temporary resident permits
Temporary resident permits are a one-time authorization for someone who is otherwise criminally inadmissible to enter Canada. Permits are rarely granted without cause, typically only in extenuating circumstances (such as a documented family emergency), on significant humanitarian grounds (such as sponsoring an inadmissible spouse or child), or for reasons of Canadian national interest, or in circumstances where the reasons for criminal inadmissibility are negligible. TRP's are usually issued with varying restrictions and can be revoked if deemed necessary.
Inadmissible family member
If an individual is deemed inadmissible, members of his or her family may also be deemed inadmissible solely based on that fact.
Offenses committed as a minor
In theory, a person is not inadmissible if they were convicted of a crime before the age of 18 and were tried as a young offender or through the juvenile justice system. If the person in question could have been tried as an adult (which is frequently the case in the US, where minors as young as 8 can be tried as an adult), regardless of whether they actually were or not, they are inadmissible.
Importation of firearms
Firearms are much more strictly controlled in Canada than in the U.S. Visitors bringing any firearms into Canada, or planning to borrow and use firearms while in Canada, are required to declare the firearms in writing using a Non-Resident Firearm Declaration form. Multiple firearms can be declared at the same time. Upon acceptance, this declaration serves as a temporary license and registration certificate for up to 60 days. The Non-Resident Firearm Declaration has a cost of $25 (Canadian). Visitors planning to borrow a firearm in Canada are required to obtain in advance a Temporary Firearms Borrowing License, the cost of which is $30 (Canadian), payable at the border. These forms are required to be signed before a CBSA officer at the border. Note that the forms are not available at the border itself. Details and downloadable forms are provided by the Canadian Firearms Program.
Canada has three classes of firearms: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. Non-restricted firearms include most ordinary hunting rifles and shotguns. These can be brought temporarily into Canada for sporting or hunting use during hunting season, use in competitions, in-transit movement through Canada, or personal protection against wildlife in remote areas of Canada. Any person wishing to bring a hunting rifle into Canada is required to be at least 18 years old, and the firearm must be properly stored for transport. Restricted firearms are primarily handguns. A restricted firearm may be brought into Canada, but an Authorization to Transport permit must be obtained in advance from a Chief Firearms Officer. Prohibited firearms include fully automatic, converted automatics and assault-type weapons. Prohibited firearms are not allowed into Canada. A comprehensive guide on importation of firearms and weapons is published by the CBSA.
It is recommended that the Canadian embassy or a consulate, or the Canadian Firearms Program be contacted for detailed information and instructions on temporarily importing firearms in advance of any travel. In all cases, travelers are required to declare to Canadian authorities any firearms and weapons in their possession when entering Canada. If a traveler is denied permission to bring in the firearm, there may be facilities near border crossings where firearms may be stored, pending the traveler's return to the U.S. Canadian law requires that officials confiscate firearms and weapons from those crossing the border that deny having them in their possession. Confiscated firearms and weapons are never returned. Possession of an undeclared firearm can result in a five-year prison sentence.
Items requiring declaration
Food, plants, animals and related products are required to be declared when entering Canada using a declaration form. Once declared, a CBSA officer will ask questions about these items, such as their country of origin or intended use. The items may be inspected. Non-allowable items are either seized, disposed of, or ordered removed from Canada.
A failure to declare can lead to confiscation of products, fines of up to $400 (Canadian) per undeclared item, as well as prosecution. Persons wishing to dispose product needing declaration can do so in product disposal bins.
Electronic media of travelers entering Canada can be randomly checked. Computers are subject to search without a warrant at the border, and illegal content can result in the seizure of the computer as well as detention, arrest and prosecution of the bearer.
Certain weapons that may be legal to possess in the U.S. are prohibited weapons in Canada, most notably pepper spray, mace and Tasers. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, a person can face a maximum of five years in prison for unauthorized possession and five years for unauthorized importation of an illegal weapon. If, however, the Crown can prove that the person, despite knowing that its importation or possession is illegal, imports or possess a prohibited weapon, the maximum penalty increases to ten years imprisonment.
Canadian law prohibits the unlawful importation or trafficking of controlled substances and narcotics. A number of travelers, including Americans, have been arrested for attempting to smuggle khat, an herbal stimulant from East Africa, into Canada. Smugglers risk substantial fines, a permanent bar from Canada, and imprisonment.
It is recommended that prescription medicines be in their original prescription container. Suspicious looking or unidentifiable pills found during a search can be tested for narcotics. Entry into Canada can be delayed until the tests have completed. Moreover, their discovery can lead to being denied entry even if the tests passed.
A person or organization may disagree with the CBSA about an assessment or decision made by the CBSA. If at the border, the Border Services Officer (BSO) or superintendent can be consulted. To address disagreements afterwards, a CBSA office can be contacted.
Persons who believe that they have not received their full entitlements under Canadian law, and have been unable to reach an agreement with the CBSA on a duty or penalty matter, have the right to a formal review of their file. A formal review is conducted by appeals representatives who were not involved in the original decision, and is impartial. Appeals staff are trained to review the client's and the CBSA's facts and reasons.
The role of the appeals representative who reviews a case is to carry out a complete, professional, and impartial review. This representative reviews the case by interpreting acts administered by the CBSA and reviewing CBSA policies, considering the appellant's point of view; and when necessary, asking for a technical opinion from CBSA experts or seeking legal advice from the Canadian Department of Justice.
The representative who reviews the case will not have been involved in the original assessment, determination, or ruling of a duty, penalty or other matter. The appellant can discuss the case with an appeals representative, and has have the right to obtain certain documents related to the case.
The CBSA does not charge for a review. If a person is not satisfied with the review, a further appeal can be made to the appropriate court or, to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal for relevant matters.
A business visitor is someone who comes to Canada to engage in international business activities without directly entering the Canadian labor market. Such visitors may be in Canada for business meetings or site visits (to observe only), but not to work. Business visitors are required to prove that their main source of income and their main place of business are outside Canada.
A visa is not required for a business visitor who is an American citizen. All business visitors are required to have a passport valid until the end of their stay, a letter of support from their parent company, a letter of invitation from the Canadian host business, a copy of any contracts or bills to support the visit, 24-hour contact details of the business host in Canada, and proof of enough money for both the stay in Canada and the return home. Business visitors do not need a temporary work permit unless they plan on doing executive, managerial, technical or production work.
Return entry into the U.S.
Since January 2007 U.S. citizens traveling by air to and from Canada have needed a valid passport to enter or re-enter the United States. Beginning June 1, 2009, U.S. citizens aged 16 and older traveling into the U.S. from Canada by land or sea (including ferries) have had to present documents denoting citizenship and identity, which include a valid U. S. passport, U.S. passport card, Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry or FAST), an Enhanced Driver’s License, U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders, U.S. Merchant Mariner document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business, Form I-872 American Indian Card, or (when available) Enhanced Tribal Card. Children under age 16 (or under 19, if traveling with a school, religious group, or other youth group) need only to present a birth certificate issued by an appropriate state or local authority, or a Naturalization Certificate.  Persons who do not present acceptable documents may be delayed as U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry attempt to verify identity and citizenship.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has the authority from the U.S. Congress to conduct searches of persons and their baggage, cargo, and means of transportation entering the United States. Persons unhappy with their treatment can ask to have a supervisor listen to their comments, or can make a complaint online.
Persons whose vehicles are searched can be asked to leave their phones in the car. There exists the potential of data on the phone being searched. As such, it may be recommended to secure access to one's phone while crossing the border.
Certain items such as monetary instruments over U.S. $10,000, hunting trophies, and firearms require a declaration. Prescription medicines are required to be in their original prescription container. Prohibited items include absinthe, biological materials, Cuban cigars and other products of Cuba, endangered species and products thereof; explosives, including fireworks; some fruits, vegetables, and meats; narcotics and paraphernalia, pornographic materials, seditious or treasonable matter, and switchblade knives (except by one-armed persons). Pets must be accompanied with a valid rabies vaccination certificate.
Wait times for vehicles at popular border crossings can sometimes be excessive on either side of the border. It is recommended that the estimated wait time be checked in advance of travel. These are provided by both the CBSA and the CBP.
Both the U.S. and Canadian governments urge frequent travelers to join the NEXUS trusted traveler program. NEXUS members receive a card that allows expedited border crossings for both private and commercial travelers through both U.S. and Canadian border controls quickly.
- Canada–United States border
- List of Canada – United States border crossings
- Canada-United States relations
- United States border security concerns
- Border wait times for Canada bound persons from U.S. by the Canada Border Services Agency
- Border wait times for U.S. bound persons from Canada by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
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- "Visitors to Canada and other Temporary Residents: Identification documents required". Canada Border Services Agency. 2010-05-19. Retrieved 2012-04-20. "If you are a United States citizen (U.S.), you do not need a passport to enter Canada; however, you should carry proof of your citizenship such as a birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship or naturalization or a Certificate of Indian Status, as well as a photo ID."
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- A guideline for meeting the minimum requirements for entry to Canada as a temporary resident. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2007-02-04.
- "Visiting Canada: Overcoming criminal inadmissibility". Visiting Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2006-03-29. Archived from the original on 30 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-31. "Depending on the nature of the offence, the time elapsed and your behaviour since it was committed or since you were sentenced, you may no longer be considered inadmissible to Canada. You may be permitted to come to Canada if you are able to satisfy an immigration officer that you meet the legal requirement to be deemed rehabilitated; or you have applied for rehabilitation and your application has been approved; or you have obtained a pardon; or you have obtained a temporary resident permit."
- Niren, Michael. "Denied Entry To Canada: TRP Applications". Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- Fees for Firearm Documents
- Importation and Exportation of Firearms Regulations (Individuals) (SOR/98-215) which is an offence under S.109 of the Firearms Act
- "Visitor to Canada". Be Aware and Declare. 2007-12-28. Archived from the original on 11 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-07. "Travellers entering Canada are required to declare all food, plants, animals and related products when entering the country"
- "Frequently Asked Questions". Be Aware and Declare. 2007-12-28. Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
- "Brochure - Be Aware and Declare". Be Aware and Declare. 2007-10-28. Archived from the original on 31 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-07. "Failure to declare could lead to: * Confiscation of products * Fines of up to $400 per undeclared item * Prosecution"
- Criminal Code S.91
- Criminal Code S.104
- "Disagreements, reviews and appeal". Canada Border Services Agency. 2005-06-01. Archived from the original on 13 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
- "Formal review". Canada Border Services Agency. 2004-02-02. Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
- "Frequently asked questions: Visiting Canada: What is a business visitor?". Frequently asked questions: Visiting Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2008-05-01. Archived from the original on 1 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-01. "What is a business visitor? A business visitor is someone who comes to Canada to engage in international business activities without directly entering the Canadian labour market. For example, someone who comes to Canada to meet with representatives of companies doing business with their country would be considered a business visitor. Visitors may be in Canada for business meetings or site visits (to observe only). A person invited to Canada by a Canadian company for training in product use, sales or other functions related to a business transaction would also be included. Business visitors must prove that their main source of income and their main place of business are outside Canada."
- "Frequently asked questions: Visiting Canada: Does a business visitor need a special visa to enter Canada?". Frequently asked questions: Visiting Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2008-05-01. Archived from the original on 1 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-01. "Does a business visitor need a special visa to enter Canada? No. There are no special visas for business visitors. Every temporary resident, except people from countries exempted by Canadian law, must get a temporary resident visa before coming to Canada."
- "Business visitors: Arriving". Visiting Canada: Business visitors. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2008-03-30. Archived from the original on 1 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-01. "You should have all relevant documents on hand to present to the officer when you arrive. These documents include, but are not limited to a valid passport or travel document that will be valid until the end of your stay; if applicable, a temporary resident visa, letters of support from your parent company and a letter of invitation from the Canadian host business, a copy of any contracts or bills to support your visit, 24-hour contact details of your business host in Canada and proof that you have enough money for both your stay in Canada and your return home."
- "Frequently asked questions: Visiting Canada: Do I need a work permit as a business visitor?". Frequently asked questions: Visiting Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2008-05-01. Archived from the original on 1 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-01. "Do I need a work permit as a business visitor? You do not need a temporary work permit unless you are doing work such as executive, managerial, technical or production activities."
- "WHTI Program Background". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "Fact Sheet: Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (Land and Sea Travel Document Requirements)". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved July 21, 2014 >>.
- "Background Note: Canada". Background Notes. Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. May 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-21. "Since January 2007 U.S. citizens traveling by air to and from Canada have needed a valid passport to enter or re-enter the United States. Beginning January 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizens aged 19 and older traveling into the U.S. from Canada by land or sea (including ferries) have had to present documents denoting citizenship and identity. This change primarily affects American and Canadian citizens who have previously been permitted entry into the U.S. by oral declaration alone, and marks the transition toward standard and consistent documents for all travelers entering the U.S. Acceptable documentation includes a valid passport or government-issued photo identification such as a driver's license and proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate. Children aged 18 and under need only to present a birth certificate. A list of acceptable documents is found at http://canada.usembassy.gov. Travelers who do not present acceptable documents may be delayed as U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry attempt to verify identity and citizenship. Beginning in June 2009, all travelers, including U.S. citizens, will have to present a passport or other secure document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. from Canada."
- "Your Inspection at the U.S. Border: Questions and Answers". U.S. - Canada Relations: Border Issues. Embassy of the United States in Ottawa. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "Border Wait Times". Canada Border Services Agency. 2008-09-07. Retrieved 2008-09-07. "The table below shows the estimated wait times for reaching the primary inspection booth, the first point of contact with CBSA when crossing the Canada/U.S. land border."
- "CBP Border Wait Times". U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Retrieved 2008-09-07. "The table below shows the estimated wait times for reaching the primary inspection booth, the first point of contact with CBP when crossing the Canada/U.S. and Mexico/U.S. land borders."