Heading north of the border this Thanksgiving weekend?
Travelling between Windsor and Detroit doesn’t have to be a hassle if you know what to expect when crossing either the Ambassador Bridge or the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel.
Before you hit the road, here are five things you should know:
1. Know what documents are required and have them ready
All travellers must prove their citizenship at the U.S. border. Adults must show a piece of identification approved under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), including:
• U.S. passport card
• Trusted Traveller card (NEXUS or FAST programs)
• an Enhanced Identification Card
• an approved Tribal Document
“Use of WHTI-compliant documents allows the border officer to get your information before you get to the booth,” says Kenneth Hammond Sr., Chief CBP Officer, Public Affairs. This will reduce the time it takes to process travellers at the border.
Children under the age of 16 may present their birth certificate (original or certified copy) or their Canadian Citizenship Card for entry into the U.S. through land crossings.
2. Be patient and check wait times before you go
Patience is a must when crossing the Canada-U.S. border. Travellers can consult the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency website or the Canada Border Services Agency website to check current border wait times and plan their crossing during times with shorter waiting periods.
“The site lets you know what the wait times are, how traffic if flowing and if there is a back up, how much,” says Hammond.
Allow for extra time in the event you are crossing during periods of heavy traffic like during peak hours (between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.) or during holiday weekends.
3. Prepare for the inspection process
Travellers should always prepare for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth.
“Have all of your citizenship documents ready, be prepared to answer any questions and you will be on your way,” says Hammond.
Questions will ascertain who the traveller is, where they are going and what they are bringing into the country.
According to Hammond, only a small percentage of vehicles are sent to the secondary inspection area to be physically inspected. Officers at secondary inspection will verify your documents, ask more in-depth questions, and your vehicle will be searched before being released to go to the U.S.
Visitors may wish to withdraw their application for entry if they have incomplete documents – which would be preferable to being refused entry, which is an added hurdle if you attempt to enter the U.S. again in the future.
Answer all questions truthfully to ensure a quick and enjoyable crossing.
4. Know what is prohibited and what items are restricted
Travellers should know which items are prohibited and which are restricted before crossing into the U.S.
Prohibited items are forbidden by law to enter the United States.
Restricted items require special licenses or permits from a federal agency before the item is allowed to enter the United States.
“Generally, agricultural products – fruits, vegetables and some meat are restricted,” says Hammond. “Firearms without prior authorization would also be restricted.”
Examples of items that cannot be taken across the border are drugs and other controlled substances, Kinder Surprise Eggs, Absinthe, Cuban cigars or other tobacco products or any wildlife.
Hammond suggests checking the CBP website or calling ahead of time to ensure you are not bring prohibited or restricted items into the States to avoid fines and penalties for importing banned items.
5. Declare, declare, declare
Declare everything you are bringing into the U.S. – food, gifts, alcohol - everything. Consider cleaning out your car, leaving the kids discarded belongings, any trash and everything you won’t need for your trip at home.
“What you bring in is part of the declaration at primary inspection,” says Hammond.
Failure to declare items could result in fines, seizure of goods or criminal prosecution. If you are unsure about an item, check ahead of time with the Custom and Border Services.
When returning to home, Canadians visiting longer than 24 hours can bring back some goods without paying duty. Travellers should check the personal exemption limits for the amount of time they expect to be out of country. It's always a good idea to have receipts ready for all items to be declared.
Whether you are travelling for vacation, business or just a quick shopping trip, knowing what to expect before you go will ensure a quick successful crossing.