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U.S. to Canada: Question from Midwest country boy(26 posts)

U.S. to Canada: Question from Midwest country boyOverhill
Oct 2, 2003 7:23 PM
I'm planning to drive to Hamilton for the races next week, and will be crossing into Canada at Windsor. I've never been to Canada before, and don't know what to expect at the border crossing. Do I need any special I.D.? Should I expect a long wait or line? I'll probably be crossing on Tuesday or Wednesday. Any times to avoid? Any advice or suggestions greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Take Your Passport!!!(nm)spluti
Oct 2, 2003 7:39 PM
Take Your Passport!!!(nm)j-son
Oct 2, 2003 7:58 PM
Actually, you probably don't need a passport. A few years ago I took an impromptu trip to Toronto and entered thru Toronto International with just a Kansas driver's license. I think I probably could have given the customs guy my Blockbuster card and he would have let me into the country.

Have a great trip. I am jealous. By the way, where in the Midwest are you coming from?

Take Your Passport!!!(nm)Overhill
Oct 3, 2003 6:08 PM
Thanks to all for the information. I'm looking forward to the trip. Taking son and grandson, so the "kid" info is also helpful. Jason--I live in the western part of Illinois.
A passport will work, of course, but if you don't have one....drsecond
Oct 2, 2003 7:56 PM
You can take a birth certficate with a official photo id. The birth certificate MUST have a raised seal, i.e. not a photocopy.
Don't take your passportMel Erickson
Oct 2, 2003 8:32 PM
Totally unnecessary. A drivers license with your photo is fine.
NO, a drivers license may not be enoughgregario
Oct 3, 2003 5:21 AM
It is recommended that you take your birth certificate. You will need the original, not a copy.
Crossing into Canada is fairly easy -BowWow
Oct 2, 2003 9:32 PM
Getting back requires at least your birth certificate and photo ID. Passport is good, but not required - yet. Since 9/11 things have been stickier.

A few tips when crossing either way (which I do several times a year):

1. Answer the questions honestly and directly.

2. Don't offer any other information than what you are asked.

3. Don't joke around or be a smart-ass. Be businesslike and clear with your answers.

4. Don't bring any meat products back with you. The BSE affair in Alberta (which you guys probably haven't even heard of) requires the US guards to confiscate all meat products at the border. Citrus and other fruit may also pose a problem.

5. If you make any purchases that you will be bringing back with you, make a complete list of items and their prices, and total it. When they ask you if you have any purchases, pull out the list and look at it for the information they ask for. This really smooths things out when you bring stuff back. The customs officer will see that you are prepared, and sometimes (for me, 98% of the time) will wave you through.

6. If you are travelling with a child and the other parent is not with you, have that parent write a short note indicating that you have their permission to travel with the child. Have them sign the letter, then photocopy their driver's license onto the bottom of the note, showing their signature. They really look carefully at fathers travelling alone with one child.

7. Be prepared to be searched. Don't try to smuggle anything! A search could delay you for 30 minutes or two hours. Don't get uptight about the delay - it'll only make things worse. I have crossed literally hundreds of times, and have only been searched twice.

8. Be smart - leave your guns at home. Both sides of the border frown on transporting weapons across the line. They may also ask about pepper spray, tear gas, tazers, etc.

9. Leave the dope at home, too. Duh! They really like auctioning off vehicles siezed at the border when the owners try to smuggle drugs - even for personal use. Why do you think they call it DOPE??!!!!

It may sound a little stressful crossing the border, but if you are prepared with ID and honest information it will go smoothly.
Typical border-crossing questions...BowWow
Oct 2, 2003 9:54 PM
1. You are a citizen of what country?

2. Where do you live?

3. Where are you going?

4. Are you going for business or pleasure?

5. (going) Are you bringing anything into the country that you will be leaving here? Gifts, etc? (Have a list with each item's value).

6. (coming back) What is the total value of the purchases that you are bringing back with you? (Again, have a list).

7. Did you have any car repairs done while you were away?

8. Are you carrying any guns, handguns, rifles, or other weapons? Tear gas, pepper spray?

9. Do you have any alcohol or tobacco products with you?

10. Are you carrying any fruit or meat products?

They will type your car license number into a computer. If you are carrying bikes on a rear rack that obscures the plate they will ask you for your plate number. Have it handy, just in case.

You may get some, or all, of these questions. They may toss in a few not listed. But if you have the PROPER ID FOR EVERYONE IN THE CAR (see previous post) and answer the questions directly and to the point it shouldn't take 5 minutes to cross.

Remember, for 5 minutes you are having an interview with God. They have the power of life and death over you. At least, if that's the way you approach it, it will go well.

Good luck, and enjoy the worlds!
Things to leave behindSkooter
Oct 2, 2003 11:55 PM
From experience
1.NRA sticker. The Cannucks hate these. You will have your rig searched and you will feel like a smuggler.
Yes, please leave your guns behind. ;-) nmSpunout
Oct 3, 2003 3:36 AM
"don't take your guns to town, bill..."- nmColnagoFE
Oct 3, 2003 9:10 AM
Passport if you have one, but if not, you MUST have...gf99
Oct 3, 2003 2:49 AM
1) Proof of citizenship, e.g. birth certificate. Actual document, not a copy.
2) Gov't issued photo id, e.g. driver license.

A passport is preferred because it covers both requirements.

There's been some erroneous advice posted here. It used to be corrct that all you needed was some form of ID, but it's much stricter now (at least at airports - not sure about land crossings).

Don't take a chance if you don't want to miss the worlds.
what about returning :)witcomb
Oct 3, 2003 3:31 AM
Actually, even for Canadians to get into the States, it has always been two peices of id, photo and a birth certificate. Although, on a ski trip, the customs guy stepped on the bus, said 'you all canadian', to which we replied, 'yeap' and we were on our way. Now, that beats out a blockbuster card :)

- Neil
1 Case of Sleeman's Cream Ale a must when returning...Spunout
Oct 3, 2003 3:39 AM
Stop at any Beer Store. Yes, we have stores here in Ontario for beer, and beer only. Sorta like a welfare office/community centre with a big orange sign and a cooler.

Ahhh, I love being Canadian!
If you stop at the duty free shoppitt83
Oct 3, 2003 4:54 AM
They will take your plate number. This data goes straight to the border agents. Therefore, buy only the legal limit at that crossing (2 bottles liquor, 1 case of beer I think is each adults limit?). Tell them exactly what you've bought. If you buy more, they will want the taxes and duty for importation.

Oh yes, Cuban cigars are legal in CA. Don't tell them about those.
Bring an empty Dominican cigar box, fill it up with Cubans...Spunout
Oct 3, 2003 5:35 AM
OTOH, Cubans are terribly overrated. Give me a Honduran Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur any day.
just ONE??_rt_
Oct 3, 2003 8:04 AM

Returning to US can be more of a problembimini
Oct 3, 2003 7:33 AM
Carry Photo ID drivers license & Birth Certificate or passport

If you have any "big ticket" items that looks new it's good to have a sales receipt showing where the item was bought. (bikes, cameras, computers). Coming back into the USA can be a problem if they think you bought the item in Canada and are bringing it in without declaring it (and paying proper duties and taxes).

Follow the Alcohol and tabacco limits. Leave the Cubans in Canada. Don't transport Ag products or say you have been on a farm in the last couple of days.

Leave the toolbox at home. If the Canadians think you are going to take one of thier precious jobs they give you a hard time.

I have found that when flying either crossing with Canada can be more thoughrall than going in and out of Europe. (but I'm your average white guy).

Really nothing to worry about as long as you are following the rules and not doing anything illegal.
Just Knock...Frith
Oct 3, 2003 6:03 AM
Most people forget about the 20 ft wall that's made of maple wood and stretches the length of the Can/Us border. Just ring the doorbell and a mountie will let you in.
Recent spikes in the Canadian beaver population will mean that some portions of the wall are in disrepair. If you happen to cross at one of these sections keep your windows rolled up and doors locked those savage bucked tooth beasts will sense you're a midwest country boy and tear you limb from limb.
Oh yeah, while your there say hi to dave.
definitely bring your passportmohair_chair
Oct 3, 2003 6:54 AM
I love all the suggestions that say all you need is a birth certificate and photo ID. That may be true, but who carries their birth certificate with them??? No one I know. Most people don't even have a copy!

Avoid any hassles and bring your passport. It's the best possible ID.
it's a holiday weekend in Canada so..._rt_
Oct 3, 2003 8:03 AM
there may be lines at the border, especially on Sun/Mon.

a passport is the best form of ID. but if you don't have a passport you can use your valid drivers' license and another valid photo ID. i think a copy of your birth certificate is acceptable and certainly the original would be proof of ID.

when they ask you if you have anything to declare (in either direction) regardless of what you buy, just say "No". it's much easier than trying to explain what you bought & how much it cost! of course, if you buy booze or cigarettes at the duty free, you should mention that. customs officials get really nasty about liquor/smoke smuggling.

have fun!!
Oct 3, 2003 8:20 AM
There are two requirements:

1) Gov't issued photo ID. Typically a driver license since most people have one.
2) Proof of citizenship. Birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship, etc. Actual document, not a copy.

A passport is both, hence ideal.

Yeah, you might get by with less, but it'll be totally at the whim of the border agent. Don't risk it -- they're paid to be suspicious.
my bad. (though, it's still a holiday weekend)_rt_
Oct 3, 2003 9:18 AM
what do i know? i traveled on a passport & a student visa for 10 years.

use a passport. you can't go wrong.

Here's the rules from the horses mouthMel Erickson
Oct 3, 2003 9:54 AM

I travel across the border about 6 times a year. I've had my car searched many times. I've never needed to show my birth certificate (I've never had it to show) but better safe than sorry. The reason I don't recommend taking your passport is because it's a very valuable document. If you don't need it (and you don't going into Canada) don't take it. Leave it home in the bank lock box or other secure place.
Also see:
Oct 3, 2003 10:31 AM
Follow the links to the Consular Information Sheet for Canada, which included entry/exit requirements, to wit:

When entering from the United States, U.S. citizens must show either a U.S. passport or proof of U.S. citizenship and photo ID. U.S. citizens entering Canada from a third country must have a valid passport. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for a stay up to 180 days. Anyone with a criminal record (including a DWI charge) should contact the Canadian Embassy or nearest Canadian consulate before travel. For further information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Canada at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W, Washington, D.C. 20001, tel. (202) 682-1740, Internet address:; or the Canadian consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Juan or Seattle.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.