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. 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, 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. 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.)
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.
What can I bring into Canada?
As a visitor, you can bring certain goods into Canada for your own use as "personal baggage." Including:
- Camping and sports equipment
- Cameras, tape recorders and
- Vehicles, private boats and aircraft.
More information on personal baggage is also available at the CBSA website
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 filing a form in advance and making a declaration at the border.
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 misdemeanors. Canada makes a similar distinction with indictable and summary offences, with indictable offences being the more serious.
However, many 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.
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. The application can be found here.
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.
- Or 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, although it is possible to have a determination made in advance. This application is available at this link.
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 in extreme cases. More information on the requirements and uses can be found here.
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 determine your eligibility. 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 beforehand.
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 all that Canada has to offer.
Crossing the Canada/US border – Additional Links
Canadian Border Service Agency
The U.S. Department of State
Department of Homeland Security
Entering Canada With a Criminal Record Self-Assessment
Border Rules as of March 2012
Complaints and feedback
Visa Offices Outside Canada
Tips for Crossing into U.S.