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  1. Default US Customs


    My husband and I are planning a six-week trip for this summer. We are hoping to travel back to Vancouver, BC from Toronto, Ontario through the US and have already generated a long list of cities and National Parks that we would like to visit. The first thing that we want to address, though, is how to assure that we will be allowed into the States.

    We are both in our mid-twenties and will be travelling in our own car. The last time we travelled down to northern New York the customs official grilled us - I guess we are prime candidates for staying on & working illegally. What can we do to prevent being turned back? I have a short list of documents, but what other things can people advise us to do? I looked at the US Embassy webpage, but was disappointed that the only contact provided was via expense 900 numbers (although understandable given the amount of volume that they must have to deal with). Oh. Both of us are well-dressed & clean-cut - so drugs, etc. is not an issue.

    Anyway, here is the documents list so far:
    1- Our passports
    2- A copy of our moving company receipt (we are shipping stuff west)
    3- A copy of our itinerary, including some of the people we are planning on staying with.
    4- A letter of admission to a university program in Canada for the fall

    Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default It "Works" Both Ways

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America forum.

    It is a sad fact of life that crossing the US-Canada border is no longer the exercise in civility and friendliness that is was even 30 years ago. As far as I know, what you are required to show on crossing either way is proof of citizenship and government issued photo ID. Your passport covers both of these requirements. The other set of documents that is usually recommended in lieu of it is your birth certificate (or a notarized copy) and your driver's license. A driver's license alone is no longer sufficient to guarantee a successful border crossing.

    The other fact to keep in mind is that it is not just the obvious 'usual suspects' and people who fit some secret profile that will get stopped and questioned. A certain number of border crossers will be chosen strictly at random. Others will be stopped simply because 'something' triggers the officer's intuition. Both the US and Canada have vaguely worded laws that allow the border agents considerable leeway in determining whom to admit. I am a case in point. In the course of my career(s) I have picked up security clearances from two separate US agencies. I have earned professional certificates from two others. I am hardly a threat. Nevertheless, I have been refused entry into Canada once, and on another occasion I was strip searched and issued an 18 hour visa. A couple of years ago my wife was refused boarding on a plane to Canada because she did not have the documentation listed above.

    So, I guess the point is to not take it personally, and keep a smile on your face during the process. You have all the documentation you should need. Even so, plan on the border crossing alone taking at least half an hour. And remember that the border agents are charged with an exceedingly difficult task - to protect you.


  3. #3


    So a valid driver's license will not allow you passage across the border? In that case, what else is required: A passport, or can you get by with just the license and some other document (specify)?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Proof of Citizenship

    A passport, even an expired one, is always best, but a drivers license and an official copy of your birth certificate is also perfectly fine.

    I've also been told by customs officials that a voter registration card is acceptable as proof of citizenship, however a social security card will not work.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Québec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France

    Default Better be safe than sorry

    According to the US Customs and Border Protection website, you need to establish identity and citizenship. There are 3 documents that can proof your citizenship :

    * Birth certificate
    * Citizenship certificate
    * Passport.

    I live ~30 minutes from the US boundary, I cross that border every 2-3 weeks and I always got away by showing only my driver's license. But you better be safe than sorry! Since the US authorities will apparently require all non US citizens (incl. Canadians) to show passports at port of entries by January 2007, I strongly suggest you both bring your passports.

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 01-22-2006 at 10:32 AM. Reason: format issue

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula


    Actually, US citizens will be required to have passports to get back into the US as well. I don't remember if that starts in 2007 or 2008.

  7. #7
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Border Crossing

    The last time I crossed into Canada via the Blaine/Surrey Crossing on I-5, it was mearly a check of my brothers drivers license, a few questions such as "any fruits or veggies?" and "how long are you going to be in Canada?". That was back in 1996 (and getting into the US was just as easy).

    Like everyone else has stated, passport is the best way to go. I will have to check with the travel agents I have sitting around me at work, but I know the government has bumped up by a few months the date of requireing passports to enter the US.

    I will check with them on monday.


  8. Default

    I haven't had any problems with quick jaunts across the border (2-3 days) or even a 14 day stay two summers ago. I am just concerned that my husband and I might seem like prime "stay and work illegally" candidates & I want to do all I can to ensure that we won't be turned back.

  9. Default 6 week explorer

    My husband and I are moving West this summer and decided to take advantage of being between school and work to meander our way across the country. We have created a list of places we really want to see - but are we being too optimistic? We are hoping to spend about 6-8 weeks.

    Starting point: Ottawa, Canada
    Ending point: Vancouver, Canada

    and we're off:
    Washington, DC (we've already visited NYC, but where would be a good in
    between point?)
    Chicago (again, something to looking forward to in the next section of road??)
    Arches NP
    Canyonlands NP
    Capital Reef NP
    Bryce Canyon NP
    Zion NP
    Grand Canyon NP (yes, we LOVE national parks & hope to do 1 or 2 three day
    backpacking trips)
    Las Vegas
    Death Valley NP
    Sequoia NP
    Kings Canyon NP
    Yosemite NP
    San Francisco
    Napa Valley
    Salt Lake City
    Grand Teton NP
    Yellowstone NP
    Glacier NP
    Waterton NP (canada)

    I realise that there are a lot of National Parks here - some we might simply drive through, others stay for two nights & do a day hike during our single day there. We anticipate spending 2-3 days in each of the cities - so if you have any recommendations we would love to hear them! Also - are we missing any amazing spots that should replace some of the ones we have listed? Any great highways (even the smaller 2 lane sort?)

    Thanks in advance :)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A rather awesome line-up

    Quote Originally Posted by crazycdn
    We are hoping to spend about 6-8 weeks.
    Starting point: Ottawa, Canada; Ending point: Vancouver, Canada
    Wow! I am not sure that it is physically possible to see all of those places in 6-8 weeks, but it would be an amazing trip to try. What kind of vehicle are you driving? Could you provide an overview of the relative days you are anticipating at each of these destinations -- If so, we might be able to give you some useful ideas.


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