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U.S. customs – Tips for crossing the border hassle-free

U.S. customs: Tips for crossing the border hassle-free

Last update: September 14, 2016, at 08:25 pm

Going through border security is always a little bit stressful. Relax—we’ve got some tips to make sure things go smoothly!


Every year, a lot of Canadians drive to the United States, whether to travel to their sun destinations, or to visit major centres like Boston and New York. Some Canadians go through U.S. customs regularly. But for people who rarely cross the border, this part of the trip can be stressful. Just relax and follow our tips to help you breeze through customs quickly and stress-free.

1. Have the right documents handy

Passport required

You must have your passport with you when you travel. It must be valid for at least the next 4 months. If you don’t have a passport, be sure to apply for it in advance so that you get it in time for your trip. If you’re a permanent Canadian resident, it’s a good idea to contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in your province of residence to find out if you need a visa.

Consent letter

Children under 18 travelling with one parent or with another adult should carry a consent letter stating that both parents have authorized the trip. On the Government of Canada website, you’ll find sample letters to be completed and signed by the parents and a FAQ with lots of useful information.

Documents for your vehicle

As always, it’s important to have all your vehicle documents with you. As well as your driver’s licence, which is recognized throughout the U.S., be sure to have your vehicle registration and insurance certificates. Also make sure you have good insurance coverage outside Canada. And since you can never be too careful, keep an accident report in your car just in case.

2. Answer questions with a smile

Be ready to answer the border officer’s questions. The’re likely to ask you where you live, where you’re also going, how long you’re staying and the reason for your trip (business or pleasure). You might also be asked what you do for a living and if you have any food products with you. Relax and answer the questions honestly. And don’t forget to smile!

3. Declare all food products

Many people travel with food, whether it’s for snacking on the road or camping provisions.

  • Note that raw or cooked goat and lamb meat are not allowed through U.S. customs.
  • Keep the product labels on fruits and vegetables from Canada or the U.S.
  • Keep any meat packaging identifying the content and origin. In short, leave your home-cooked lasagna at home.

4. Travel documents for your pet

Can’t bear to leave Rex behind? If you decide to bring your dog or cat with, you’ll need to present their paperwork. Pets over 3 months old need a valid rabies vaccination certificate that’s dated and signed by a veterinarian. However, service dogs are not subject to this rule if they are with their owner.

5. Note what you can bring back

Before you head home, think about what you want to bring back to Canada. Visit the Government of Canada website for information about what you’re allowed to bring back with you, depending on your length of stay in the U.S. We also recommend that you keep the receipts and labels on your purchases; This will help the customs officers serve you quickly and save time if you’re being inspected.

A well-planned trip is always more enjoyable. Don’t be afraid of the customs officers; their uniforms shouldn’t intimidate you. They’re there to ensure everyone’s safety!

Have a great trip!


Other topics of interest:

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All information is provided for information purposes only, and Desjardins Insurance cannot be held liable for it. We recommend using caution and consulting a property and casualty insurance agent for comprehensive, personalized advice.

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