12 Things All Canadians Need To Do Before Crossing The U.S. Border

How to stay safe in the face of aggressive American border policy.
Senior Editor
12 Things All Canadians Need To Do Before Crossing The U.S. Border

July in Canada is one of the busiest travel months. 

While many this year are boycotting American goods and destinations, the U.S. remains a huge draw to Canadian vacationers.

ALSO READ: U.S. Border Police Confiscate $500,000 From A Canadian Family

But in recent months, the Trump administration has made international headlines for its aggressive and inhumane border policies. While much of that outcry focused on the American border with Mexico, Canadians, too, have had harsher experiences.

To stay safe, review this list of things all Canadians should do before crossing the U.S-Canada border: 

Delete evidence of marijuana contact on your phone

While recreational marijuana is about to be legal in Canada, the drug is still viewed with intense suspicion by American federal officials. The Trump administration in particular has adopted harsh policies for the prosecution of marijuana users. Even though a few states along the U.S.-Canada border have legalized recreational weed, the drug is still categorized with heroine by federal authorities, including the U.S. border agency.

Canadians in any way involved with the burgeoning cannabis industry have received lifetime bans from entering the United States. Because U.S. border agents can seize and search Canadians' phones without a warrant, travellers should delete any evidence of marijuana use (photos, apps, emails, etc.) from their storage. While you should never explicitly lie to an American border agent, removing suspicious or incriminating evidence would prevent agents from asking probing questions.

Lock your phone

You could just lock your phone. While agents can seize Canadians' phones, they cannot force you to open it. If your phone is secure, agents will likely just return your phone once you reenter Canada. In the worst cases, however, you could be charged for interfering with an investigation. The best course of action would be to remove suspicious material without lying in response to border agents' questions.

Clean your car

A clean car will be easy for border agents to quickly glance through when you pull up to the kiosk. Messy cars not only delay passing, but may also be a cause for alarm. Protocol demands that border agents question what could possibly be hiding among that mess.

Be selective about where you enter

If you've crossed the Canada-U.S. border frequently, you will have noticed that agents at different ports-of-entry have different moods and tendencies. Quiter ports have not only shorter wait times, but likely also friendlier agents.

The busiest port-of-entry on the route between Montreal and New York City, for example, is built like a military barrack. Agents with assault rifles patrol the area while others speak in an intimidating sustained scream. At the entry to New Hampshire from Québec, however, agents tend to crack jokes and make conversation to lighten the mood.

Turn around before you're denied entry

That's according to this source. It's better to voluntarily turn around when you feel agents are about to deny you entry than to suffer the formal consequences of rejection. If agents have to tell you that you can't enter the United States, that dismissal will remain in an official report associated with your passport and could affect future attempts to enter.

Have a signed document from both childrens' parents

Because cross-border abductions by a single parent are so common, it's best to bring a letter from your partner(s) if you're travelling alone with your child to the United States.

Don't cross if you've received radiation treatment

According to this source, foreigners are scanned for recent radiation treatments at airports and inside the processing centres at land-crossings. Slight radioactivity will result in a denial of an entry application. If you've received radiation treatment, you should postpone your travel plans.

Also delete prescription information from your phone

There's at least one case of a woman whose precription information in an email on her phone led American agents to deny her entry. The United States and Canada have different standards and regulations when it comes to prescription drugs. Common heart medications in Canada, for instance, are highly illegal in the United States. You should remove prescription information from your phone without lying to border agents.

Make sure you have the right documents

I've crossed the U.S.-Canada border dozens of times by bus. In about 25% of those trips, an unwitting bus traveller without the right documentation has been denied entry to the United States. Many Europeans, people with some dual citizenships, and people who have travelled to some contries in Asia and Africa may need special permits and documentation to enter the United States.

Dispose of any inadmissable food

Many fruits and vegetables are not allowed across the border. Be sure to dispose of those and any other banned foods before attempting to enter the United States. In the worst cases, possession of these foods could result in cancelled vacation plans.

Don't touch the dogs

Police dogs are adorable but they are on a very important mission. Attempting to interact with them could qualify as an attempt to interfere in an investigation.

Know your rights

While Canadians' have few rights at the border with the United States, you are entitled to a few. Find the list here.

Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3

Thomas MacDonald
Senior Editor
Thomas is MTL Blog's Senior Editor. He lives in Saint-Henri and loves it so much that he named his cat after it. On weekdays, he's publishing stories, editing and helping to manage MTL Blog's team of amazing writers. His beats include the STM, provincial and municipal politics and Céline Dion. On weekends, you might run into him brunching at Greenspot, walking along the Lachine Canal or walking Henri the cat in Parc Sir-George-Étienne-Cartier.
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