Entering Canada Through a US Border Crossing

International Boundary USA-Canada Border Crossing

The USA’s friendly neighbor to the North is a popular destination for foreign tourists during a trip to the States. Whilst Canada quite rightfully has a less imposing reputation for its border crossing procedure there are few considerations that prospective international visitors should keep in mind when entering Canada through a US border crossing.

To make the situation surrounding border control in Canada a little clearer and to ensure that you’re absolutely set to cross the frontier from the USA into Canada, this article will explain the different ways of getting into Canada via a US land border crossing. It will also explain what you will need to bring to the border as well as some of the dos and don’ts for entering Canada through the US.

How to Cross the US-Canada Border

There are many different ways to enter Canada from a USA border crossing. For tourists visiting the most Northernly states such as Minnesota or North Dakota, it is much more common to simply drive across the border. If you’re visiting Canada and the USA on your trip and want to pass into Canada by road, the following information applies:

Driving into Canada from the United States

Due to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) Americans may enter Canada by car without presenting a US passport on arrival, although they are still required to present a form of national ID. However, this does not extend to foreign visitors who must still be in possession of a passport and valid authorization to enter the country such as a visa.

Land border crossings into the country can be found at the following locations from East to West across the USA:

  • Calais, Maine – St Stephen, New Brunswick
  • Madawaska, Maine – Edmundston, New Brunswick
  • Houlton, Maine – Belleville, New Brunswick
  • Derby Line, Vermont – Stanstead, Quebec
  • Highgate Springs Vermont – St-Armand, Quebec
  • Champlain, New York – Lacolle, Quebec
  • Rooseveltown, New York – Cornwall, Ontario
  • Ogdensburg, New York – Prescott, Ontario
  • Alexandria Bay, New York – Lansdowne, Ontario
  • Lewiston, New York – Queenston, Ontario
  • Niagra Falls, New York – Niagra Falls, Ontario
  • Buffalo New York – Fort Erie, Ontario
  • Port Huron, Michigan – Sarnia, Ontario
  • Detroit, Michigan – Windsor, Ontario
  • Sault Ste.Marie, Michigan – Sault Ste.Marie, Ontario
  • International Falls, Minnesota – Fort Francis, Ontario
  • Pembina, North Dakota – Emerson, Manitoba
  • Portal, North Dakota – Portal, Saskatchewan
  • Sweet Grass Montana – Coutts, Alberta
  • Sumas, Washington – Abbotsford, British Columbia
  • Lynden, Washington – Aldergrove, British Columbia
  • Blaine, Washington – Surrey, British Columbia
  • Point Roberts, Washington – Delta, British Columbia
  • Alcan, Alaska – Beaver Creek, Yukon

On arrival to a US-Canada border crossing, drivers and passengers should be prepared to do the one or more of the following:

  • Present identification documents
  • Be prepared to address the crossing guard at the border booth by turning off radios and cell phones and by removing sunglasses
  • Roll down all windows so that the border guard may speak to all the passengers in the car
  • When arriving at the guard booth you may be asked a few questions such as “how long do you intend to stay in Canada” and “Why are you visiting Canada”
  • Canada border crossing inspections are sometimes made at random. You may need to present your car registration and allow inspectors to check the contents of your trunk
  • If you’re traveling with children or minors under 18 who are not your own, you will be required to present a letter of consent from their parent or guardian for them to travel (different from Canadian Invitation letter)
  • If you wish to cross the border with pet dogs or cats they must be over 3 months old and will require a valid rabies vaccination certificate signed by a veterinarian

Prohibited Items at the US-Canada Border

Like any international border crossing, there are some items that may not be brought from the USA into Canada. In order to comply with the requirements of the Canadian border force whilst on a trip to the US and Canada, visitors should ensure that they are not carrying the following items in their vehicle:

  • Firearms and weapons
  • Illegal drugs and narcotics (including Marijuana)
  • Goods contaminated with soil
  • Firewood
  • Prohibited consumer products
  • Prohibited medicine or pharmaceuticals
  • Explosives, ammunition or fireworks

In addition to this, visitors to Canada must also declare the following items:

  • Any animals, fruits or plants
  • Tax and duty-free items worth over CAN$800
  • Cash worth over CAN$10,000
  • Any firearms or weapons being imported into Canada

Is it Possible to Walk Across the US Border into Canada?

While it is more common for visitors to Canada to cross the into the country in a car, there are no Canada border crossing laws that specify they must do so in this way. It is, therefore quite possible to enter the country on foot from the US. However, this can only be done at an official border crossing point. Crossing into Canada without authorization or notification of the border authorities is illegal and can be punishable by fines and deportation.

Do Road Borders from US into Canada Close at Night?

Not all border points between the US and Canada are open 24 hours a day, although many in each state do operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week all year round. Each border state has at least 1 crossing point which will be open at all times. Most of these all-weather crossing points are located on major highways. However, more isolated road border stations are more likely to close in the evening and are also more likely to be shut due to bad road conditions in the winter months.

Canada-US Border Wait Times

The congestion around borders varies a little. Normally, when entering Canada by car from US border crossings, traffic flows at a regular pace with delays of a few minutes on occasions.

Delays are more likely to occur at roadside checkpoints that permit commercial border crossings, although these are relatively infrequent. Additionally, traffic can increase around the border crossing zones around the time of national holidays or weekends. However, as there numerous crossing points along the frontier between the US and Canada it is advised that travelers check online before traveling if major delays are occurring and to consider changing their intended route if necessary.

What Documents to Bring to the US Canada Border

When you arrive at the Canadian border, you will need to have the right identification and authorization documents on hand in order to enter the country by car You will also need the correct identifying documents for any family members traveling with you. For foreign visitors this includes:

  • A valid passport
  • A Canadian visa, if required
  • Your car’s registration documents

Visiting Canada from the USA by car is usually a stress-free experience. However, like any border crossing around the world, following the right protocols can make a big difference in how smooth the process is.

If you wish to visit Canada from the US by car as an international traveler, remember that you will need valid authorization to enter the country for business or tourism purposes when you arrive at the border.



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