A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Documents needed for long weekend travel between U.S. and Canada

Labor Day weekend is a very popular holiday for travel as it is often seen as the last chance to take a summer vacation.  Because of the close proximity between the two countries, many people don’t realize that official travel documents are required.  Gone are the days when one may just drive to Canada and return with their driver’s license or birth certificate.  Starting June 1, 2009, a new policy called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) was implemented, which requires U.S. and Canadian citizens, age 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable travel document that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S by land or sea.

Traveling to the United States
Exactly what documents can be used to enter or return to the United States?  The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) strongly encourages travelers to obtain a radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled travel document such as a U.S. or Canadian Passport, U.S. Passport Card, Enhanced Driver’s License/Enhanced Identification Card or Trusted Traveler Program card to expedite their entry and make crossing the border more efficient.  An enhanced driver license (EDL) or enhanced ID card (EID) confirms both the bearer’s identity and citizenship, and is an acceptable alternative to a passport for re-entry into the U.S. at land and sea border crossings.  Currently, four (4) states including Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington are issuing these enhanced documents.  Trusted Traveler Programs issue four different cards - Global Entry (U.S./Mexico/Netherlands), NEXUS (U.S./Canada), SENTRI(U.S./Mexico) and FAST(Commercial Truckers).  Any of the cards can be used at all U.S. land and sea ports of entry.  For permanent residents of the United States, they may use their permanent resident card (green card) to return to the U.S.

Traveling to Canada
Similarly, Canadian law requires all persons entering Canada from the U.S. by car present proof of citizenship and identity. U.S. citizens can present a U.S. passport and Nexus card as they fulfill both of these requirements.  If they don’t have these documents, they may use a government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license and proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate.  However, although a U.S. Citizen may enter Canada by car using one’s driver’s license and birth certificate, the person would not be able re-enter the U.S. with these documents.   Non U.S. citizens traveling between the U.S. and Canada by car must also produce proof of citizenship from their country and proof of identity. Again, a valid passport from his country or origin or other WHTI-compliant document will satisfy the border requirements for both the U.S. and Canada.

CBP also provide these travel tips: (1) Be familiarized with customs requirements to  avoid fines and penalties associated with the importation of prohibited items.  (2) Be prepared for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth; have travel documents ready; be ready to declare all items acquired outside of the U.S.; end cellular phone conversations.  (3)  During periods of heavy travel, border crossers may wish to consider alternative, less heavily traveled entry routes. (4) Allow extra time for travel during holiday season; (5) Know the difference between goods for personal use vs. commercial use.  (6) Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and firewood into the United States from Canada without first checking whether they are permitted. (7) CBP also reminds U.S. lawful permanent residents that the I-551 form (green card) is acceptable for land and sea travel into the U.S.
Understand that CBP officers have the authority to conduct enforcement examinations without a warrant, ranging from a single luggage examination up to and, possibly, including a personal search. Even during the summer vacation season, international border crossers should continue to expect a thorough inspection process when they enter the U.S. from Canada.

1 comment:

  1. hi. thanks for sharing such a coherent and informative post. Do keep up posting updates.

    Travel Documents for US