Crossing the Canada/US border
One of the pressing issues facing the Northern Ontario tourism sector is border crossing. The information on this page will assist operators and potential guests to better understand the process. These links can be forwarded to potential guest/s for them to do their own analysis.
Entering Canada with a criminal Record - A quick self assessment
New Border Rules - What does it mean for guests? - Rules as of March 2012
Some additional useful links
US Border Crossing : http://www.us-immigration.com/us-border-crossing/
US Immigration: http://www.us-immigration.com/
Tips for Crossing the Canada/US Border
Although it is the longest undefended border in the world, it is still a border between two different countries. Because we are so much alike culturally, and such good friends historically, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of that fact. However, in our present security conscious world, enhanced border security is a fact of life we have to learn to live with. Customs officers are at the border to ensure that people entering Canada respect Canadian Laws. They are authorized to interview persons seeking entry to Canada to determine admissibility.
With heightened security concerns and some recent changes to the rules regarding passports, we sometimes hear that the border is getting much more difficult to cross. We have not found this to be the case if guests are well informed about the present requirements and arrive prepared.
When you enter Canada, a customs officer may ask to see your passport and a valid visa if one is necessary. Until recently, passports were not required of US or Canadian citizens crossing the Canada/US border. New requirements from the US government have changed this.
A passport or NEXUS card is required if you are traveling by air. (the NEXUS card can be used in airports with a NEXUS kiosk.)
Starting June 1, 2009, U.S. citizens returning home from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda, by land or sea, are required to present one of the following travel documents.
Canadians traveling to the USA: Approved Travel Documents
NOTE: All U.S. citizens including children must present a passport or other approved travel document when entering the United States.
A passport is the preferred document to cross the Canada/US border. Guests report that using a passport generally simplifies border crossing and results in fewer delays.
The US government provides up to date information about the requirements for travelers on its websites: www.travel.state.gov and on the Department of Homeland Security website at www.dhs.gov/files/crossingborders/travelers.shtm
What can I bring with me to Canada?
The most reliable and up to date source of information can be found on the Canadian Border Service Agency website....CBSA
Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco Products
You are allowed to import only one of the following amounts of alcohol free of duty and taxes:
- 1.5 litres (53 imperial ounces) of wine; or
- 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of liquor; or
- a total of 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of wine and liquor; or
- 24 x 355 millilitre (12 ounces) cans or bottles (maximum of 8.5 litres) of beer or ale.
You are allowed to bring in all of the following amounts of tobacco into Canada without paying duty:
- 200 cigarettes; and
- 50 cigars or cigarillos; and
- 200 grams (7 ounces) of manufactured tobacco; and
- 200 tobacco sticks.
As a visitor, you can bring certain goods into Canada for your own use as "personal baggage." Personal baggage includes clothing, camping and sports equipment, cameras, tape recorders and personal computers. It also includes vehicles, private boats and aircraft.
You must declare all goods when you arrive at the CBSA port of entry. Border services officers do conduct examinations of goods being imported or exported to verify declarations. If you declare goods when you arrive and take them back with you when you leave, you will not have to pay any duty or taxes. These goods cannot be used by a resident of Canada or on behalf of a business based in Canada, be given as a gift to a Canadian resident or disposed of or left in Canada. You may import gifts for friends in Canada duty free and tax free; as long as each gift is valued at CAN $60.00 or less. If the gift is worth more, you will have to pay duties and taxes on the excess amount. You cannot claim alcoholic beverages, tobacco products or advertising matter as gifts.
For more information on bringing items across the border please visit http://www.beaware.gc.ca/english/toce.shtml.
Firearms and weapons
Before you attempt to import a firearm or weapon, you should contact the Canada Firearms Centre for information at 1-800-731-4000 or www.cfc-cafc.gc.ca
The following requirements apply to the importation of firearms and weapons:
- you must be at least 18 years of age;
- you can import non-restricted and restricted firearms, provided you meet all requirements; and
- you cannot import prohibited firearms, weapons or devices, including silencers, replica firearms, switchblades and other weapons.
The process for bringing ordinary hunting rifles and shotguns into Canada is relatively simple and usually involves a filling in a form in advance and making a declaration at the border. Although it is possible to bring restricted firearms such as pistols and revolvers into Canada under some circumstances, you should contact the Canada Firearms Centre for specific information.
You must declare all weapons and firearms at the CBSA port of entry or they will be seized and you may be subject to arrest.
Guests with criminal records
Visitors to Canada who have any kind of criminal record may be denied entry. Even if you have entered Canada before, new screening procedures may lead to you being turned back. Many jurisdictions distinguish between more and less serious offences. The US, for example, classifies crimes as either felonies or misdemeanours. Canada makes a similar distinction with indictable and summary offences, with indictable offences being the more serious. However, quite a number of offences can be treated as either indictable or summary in Canada, depending on the specific circumstances. This is important to know, since determination of admissibility is based on how the offence would be treated in Canada, not its status in the visitor's home state. Impaired Driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, may be a misdemeanour in a visitor's home state, but in Canada it can be an indictable offence. There are three basic procedures available that can allow you to legally enter Canada if you have a criminal record.
You can apply through a Canadian Consulate or certain border crossings to have your record examined by immigration officials. There is a non-refundable administration fee that is usually $200 Canadian but may be higher for very serious offenses. If the application is successful, you will receive a letter stating that you have been Granted Rehabilitation, and you will now be allowed to enter Canada freely any time. We suggest that guests who are considering making an application for Granted Rehabilitation contact the NOTO office so that we can explain the process in more detail and direct them to the best point of contact.
Under some circumstances, you can be Deemed Rehabilitated without having to apply for Granted Rehabilitation. This procedure applies if you committed a single indictable offence that would be punished by a term of imprisonment of less than ten years (based on how the offence would be classified in Canada) and have not committed any offences since. Ten years must have passed since the completion of the sentence, including any probation. You can also be Deemed Rehabilitated if you have committed two or more summary offences and five years have passed since the sentences were served and no subsequent offences have been committed.
Deemed Rehabilitation is generally determined by an immigration officer at the border crossing, although it may be possible to have a determination made in advance. There is no fee for Deemed Rehabilitation; however, the information is not necessarily entered into the database, so you could be denied entry on a subsequent visit. It is possible to obtain a preliminary determination of whether you are admissible under the Deemed Rehabilitated provisions in several ways.
Guests can also apply in person for a Remote Area Border Crossing Permit through the Fort Frances Canada Border Services Office or by mail to Canada Border Services Agency 201 North May Street, Thunder Bay ON P7C 3P4. This permit is intended primarily for guests who intend to enter Canada by water in areas where there is no customs and immigration facility. However, since it requires a background check, the permit will demonstrate to customs and immigration officials that a determination of admissibility has been made. There is a $30 CDN. fee for the permit, and the application is available at http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/forms-formulaires/bsf386-eng.pdf
Temporary Resident Permit
At their discretion immigration officials may admit someone who does not qualify for Deemed Rehabilitation through a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). It is normally issued for a single visit, although it is sometimes issued for longer duration or multiple visits. In some special cases it may be a one time free entry TRP, however there is a $200 Cdn administrative fee for issuing a TRP. A guest who arrives at the border and does not qualify for Deemed Rehabilitation but appears to qualify for Granted Rehabilitation may be offered the option of a Temporary Resident Permit in order to complete their trip, since the Granted Rehabilitation process takes a number of weeks to complete. It is expected that guests who plan on returning to Canada will then complete the Granted Rehabilitation Process before any subsequent trips.
Welcome to Canada
These procedures make it possible to enter Canada, even if you have a criminal record. In most cases, it is better to apply in advance to determine your admissibility, and which procedure is best for you to follow. You should also be prepared with additional information on the offence to help the officer in arriving at a determination. Remember, the determination will be based on the information in the database. If there are any errors, like a charge that was dropped, you need to get those corrected in your home jurisdiction. Despite the troubled times we live in, Canada is still the same friendly place to visit it has always been. The vast majority of guests still enter Canada with absolutely no problem. For those whose backgrounds may pose some difficulty, these procedures may allow them to come and enjoy what Canada has to offer.