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  1. Default US / Canada Border Crossing Warning

    Road Trip warning: Canada Border and USA Lower 48 Staes

    Greetings Road Trip Community:

    This is a message of caution mainly geared for US Citizens planning on a road trip to Canada.

    I am a single traveler from Los Angeles on a cross country road trip across North America. In addition, I am in the process of relocating from a College Internship at Walt Disney World back to Los Angeles therefore I am not presently working. Too keep costs down, I sleep in my mini van and use truck stops for their showers. I know there are other people like myself who are using natural breaks between jobs as an opportunity to enjoy extended roadtrips and I hope by sharing my experience that I can save you time or hassle.

    As a single traveler from Los Angeles, I had trouble crossing the border to Canada to both in 2005 and on my current road trip. It is perfectly legal to bring your own vehicle into Canada; however, entrance is considered on a case by case basis and is purely arbitrary. If you are not from a US state that borders Canada, then you may have trouble or be denied entrance like myself. The reason I was denied entrance is that I could not prove to them that I had significant funds to support myself. I am traveling with two credit cards, a debit card, and minimal cash in USD. It didn't help that I am not actively employed while I travel across North America and the USA.

    So, if you are in a similar situation of traveling between jobs and you whish to visit Canada then I recommend that you consider flying to Canada and renting a car rather than bringing your own car. It could save you some hassle. You may also be better off if you visit Canada only when you are actively employed. If you are between jobs then spend your hard earned cash in the USA or elsewhere instead.

    Happy trails from,

    Road Tripping for Life!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default It Happens Often

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    And you shouldn't take it personally. The fact is that Canada is a sovereign country and is not required to let ANYONE in from the US. That is a privilege. I have had my own difficulties crossing the border on occasion. I was denied entry once on precisely the law you cite. Such incidents are only going to become more frequent. The best a RoadTripper can do is to be thoroughly prepared with all the required paperwork - remember that after Jan 1, 2008 you will need a passport! - and keep a positive and friendly attitude. You are asking to be a guest in their country, after all.


  3. #3
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default National Ties

    Quote Originally Posted by RoadTripper0506 View Post
    ... not presently working. Too keep costs down, I sleep in my mini van and use truck stops for their showers.

    The reason I was denied entrance is that I could not prove to them that I had significant funds to support myself.
    One thing to remember when traveling internationally is you need to prove to the host country that you have significant ties in your home country that would compel you to return. These typically are:

    * Steady long term employment.
    * A permanent address (preferably one which you own, but a permanent address none the less).
    * Membership in organizations that provide significant ties (eg Church groups, volunteering organization, etc.)
    * Being a business owner also helps.

    I can assume that when you approached the border with little cash, no employment, in process of relocating (so no permanent address), and evidence that you were living out of your automobile, they probably saw every red flag in the book that you were venturing north to stay. Clearly not the case in your situation, but they have to interpret the evidence as presented.

    What I can recommend for anyone vacationing between jobs is:
    1) Retain some sort of permanent address, even if it's your parents or some other relative.
    2) Get an offer letter from the prospective employer / internship on company letterhead stating that you have the position and what sort of pay it is offering.
    3) Maintain a membership and affiliations with a local organization.
    4) If you're sleeping in your car to cut costs, brush up before you cross the border. Clean out the car, fold and tuck away bedding, and take a good shower.

    The point is to make it very clear you intend to vacation. Not saying this would be a sure fire way of getting in, but it would make it much much easier.


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

    Default Immigration Threats

    It is perfectly legal to bring your own vehicle into Canada; however, entrance is considered on a case by case basis and is purely arbitrary. If you are not from a US state that borders Canada, then you may have trouble or be denied entrance like myself.
    I'm going to pretty much echo what Brad said here, but I'm going to have to disagree with a few of your statements.

    While entrance into Canada or the US is a case by case basis, I wouldn't call it arbitrary. If you are being denied entrance, its going to be for a specific reason. In your case, you clearly appeared to be a risk to become an illegal immigrant. You were a solo traveler essentially living in your van, and didn't provide sufficiant proof that you could pay for your visit to Canada or that you intended to return to the US.

    I don't think that coming from a non-border state had anything to do with the decision. Even being unemployed was only a factor because you didn't provide enough evidence that you weren't intending on trying to illegally find work while you were in Canada.

    In all reality, flying across the border doesn't provide you any more protection either. In fact, since the Airlines face significant penalties if a passenger is denied entry into a country, they tend to be even more strick about who is allowed to use international flights.

    As Buck mentioned, any time you cross an international border, you are asking to be a guest in that country. If you are friendly, have all the proper paperwork, and appear to be following all the rule, its unlikely -though not impossible- that you'll have any problems crossing the border.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Ontario Canada

    Default reverse as well

    I and friends have experienced similar, in reverse, as well. I am Canadian and have found crossing INto the USA, that there have been occasions when eyebrows are raised concerning no definite destination, unable to give a name of a hotel / person staying with in a certain town, and questioned about money, with the questioning increasing if they find out we have too much cash on us (in their opinion). I guess so many use credit or debit, that to carry a thousand bucks cash or more gets questioned.Just for your info. As long as we have our ducks in a row crossing borders, and paperwork / I.D. in order, happy trails to all!!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Québec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France

    Default Tips on border crossing

    I agree with Syv and Michael,

    When all your paperwork is in order and you are able to give the custom agent straight answers, you shouldn't experience such problems. I cross the border back and forth at least twice a month and I learned a few things :

    - when waiting in line, never get out of your vehicle;

    - always wait at the posted Stop sign until the other car is gone before going to the window. In many locations, it is even preferable to wait until the agent makes a gesture at you to come forward;

    - always have your ID papers ready;

    - smile and be polite even if the agent is not;

    - be prompt to open your trunk when the agent asks you to;

    - when asked for a destination when you are actually embarking on a long nowhere, just tell the agent one specific destination where you are pretty sure you are going to end up eventually, and preferably a destination that is pretty far from the entry point so he/she won't ask you why in the world you are taking 3 full weeks just to visit Milwaukee, Detroit or Albany;

    - if you're travelling solo and you are joining people you barely know (ex. : people you've met on RTA), don't tell them you don't know them much. Just say you are joining good friends. They often ask you how you met them so be careful about not perjuring yourself;

    - if you are a woman travelling by yourself, be very specific about your "destination". For some reason, some custom agents seem to think we are unable to go on long roadtrips by ourselves and women going on "nowheres" makes them even more suspicious;

    - if an agent is rude, don't argue with him/her, just let the steam come out, let him/her do his/her power trip and keep a straight face. It is a tactic often used to make you admit you did something wrong when they have doubts about you. Just be patient, thank them profusely when they give you back your papers and leave calmly;

    - lastly, make sure you don't have Cuban cigars in the car when going to the US :o))lol

    Happy border crossing!

  7. Default what warning

    My friend and I didn't have any problems crossing into Canada by way of Detroit-Windsor. It was crossing back home into the US that was a problem. To get into Canada, we just showed our photo state ID's and answered only one question that was asked and we were let in. To get back into the US was another story. This US border entrance lady repeatedly asked us where we were from. We told her and we showed to her our photo state ID's and again she asked us where we were from. We told her again our home state that we were from. She asked again. I said to her to look at the license plates on our car. Again, she asked where we were from. I asked her if she could run our driver's license with our license plate in a database or something. She was irritating us by this point. She asked us again and we kept telling her. Finally, another immigration border entrance person came and he asked her to step aside, they argued, and he let us through. He even apologized for her rude behavior. Remember, this was on the American side with American immigration guards.

    I guess Americans have problems letting in other Americans from the state that shares the waters of Lake Superior with Michigan and Minnesota. I can see now why Canada has become so restrictive. I do believe the Canadian immigration let us in into Canada because we are WI residents. They even told us that themselves. They said to us that if we were from the southwest then they wouldn't have let us in so easily. I wonder why they told us that?

    It's a good thing then that they are restrictive it keeps the riff raff out and possibly what would be illegal immigrants.

  8. Default Just got to add...

    My all time favorite was in crossing into the US from Canada by a US citizen. (this is back before passports were required for ID...).

    "Where are you from?"

    "New Mexico"

    "Can I see your passport?"

    "Umm... I'm from New Mexico. Albuquerque."

    "I understand. Can I see your passport?"

    "Umm.. I don't need one. I'm from New Mexico. I don't understand why you need to see one"

    "You DONT understand. I must see your passport for you to enter the US."

    "Um..... I'm a US Citizen. I was born in the US..."

    "You're from New Mexico. I need to see your passport"

    This went on for a while. The customs agent was either having a major case of brain fade, or never believed New Mexico was really part of the US... Finally she called over a supervisor, who listened and explained to the customs agent that New Mexico was part of the US. And that yes, a citizen from New Mexico was a US citizen. And he got waved through with apologies... Never heard what happened to the customs agent, but probably got a reaming out and a required lesson in US geography....

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default More Border Crossing Stories

    I guess Americans have problems letting in other Americans from the state that shares the waters of Lake Superior with Michigan and Minnesota.
    I've never really had any problems crossing the border with a Wisconsin ID/Plates, although at this point I pretty much always bring my passport instead of using my drivers license (remember that will be a requirement starting in January) at this point. Back in my college days it was always fun because every person in the car usually had a different state ID.

    Although the more I think about it, I think some of my most memorable roadtrip moments came from crossing the border. Some of my favorites include:

    Convincing a Canadian Guard at International Falls that a popcorn seed he found among the dirt on the floor of my car really wasn't a marijuana seed.

    Crossing the border on a gravel road from Sask into North Dakota and having an old woman US border guard ask us a bunch of questions, not believe us, she started to go through the trunk, then asked us our ages and when we told her that at least one of us was under 21, she basically replied, 'oh so you went up to drink, why didn't you say so?' and then gave us a wave and walked away.

    Crossing into BC on the I-5, having the Canadian Guard shake his head at the compact car ahead of us, which had 5 people inside and was throwing think black smoke out of the exhaust. He laughed at them with us, saw our cooler, asked us if we were having any "road-pops" and then let us on our way.

    That same trip, returning into the US at Glacier, having the border guards go through our bags, laying our belongings, including a fine collection of pornographic magazines, all out on a table for every other car passing through to see.

    Somewhere in New York, striking up a conversation about a small lake near Bakersfield, because of my California License.

    And of course anytime I take the Detroit to Buffalo shortcut, its always fun convincing the border guards that yes, I was only in Canada for about 4 hours and other than lunch, I didn't buy a single thing.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Keithville, LA

    Default Mexico Border As Well

    Intrepid and I were travelling down I-10 just past El Paso in Texas a few years ago and were stopped at a border check there. We could see the fires that the Coyotes had lit for crossing the Rio Grande and watched a car full of people who only spoke Spanish get through another guard's line with minimal questions (saw them at our hotel later). But our guy, noooo - "Where are you from?" Where are you going". I didn't know where I was going to stop that night and told him that I was just looking for a hotel before continuing on the Louisiana the next morning. He must have questioned us for 10 or more minutes before reluctantly letting us proceed. It was really rather silly and was definitely some kind of power trip thing for him. You would have thought the Louisiana tags and a car obviously full of vacation gear (which he would see when he shined his little flashlight all through the car) would have been enough for him.

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