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You Can't Go Home Again

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You Can't Go Home Again

You got into Canada, but can you get back across the border when it's time to come home?

     The wildlife sanctuary at Creston, the charm of Nelson, skiing at Whistler, a drive on the Selkirk International Loop… our neighbor to the north offers attractions galore sufficient to lure residents of our own northern paradise across the border. But how hard is it to get there in these post-9/11 days and, even more important, how hard is it to get back?
    Identification is the key to crossing over and getting back, but don’t let all those years of writing checks at the grocery store fool you—your driver’s license is not the best form of identification you can have. If you make frequent trips across the border, a US passport is a good idea. At a cost of $85 plus photographs, your passport is preferred proof of your citizenship and residence. An expired passport, by the way, is still useful as documentation.
    So what’s wrong with your driver’s license? Nothing, actually, if all you want to do is show where you live. But where you live is only one part of what border agents are looking for—on both sides. They also want to know your citizenship, and that’s something your driver’s license doesn’t prove.
    If you don’t want the expense of obtaining a passport, or don’t have the time (five to six weeks) it would take to get one, then dig out your birth certificate and take it along with you. You can get into Canada without it, but it’s a little tougher to get back into the States these days if you don’t have it with you. Make sure it’s an original, certified copy (a certified copy will have an embossed stamp you can feel with your fingers) - a photocopy does not suffice.
    If your children are making the trip with you, that birth certificate becomes even more crucial, and if you’re crossing the border with only one parent on the trip, a notarized letter from the absent parent, giving their current contact information as well as permission for the child to accompany you across the border, is a must. The same is true if you’re taking your children’s friends along, as well. This is not so much a security issue as it is a recognition of the degree in which child custody disputes involve a parent trying to sneak over the border.
    Even with a certified copy of your  birth certificate, photo ID will also be required.
    Your trip might stop before it begins if you’ve been convicted of a major crime in the United States, which includes felony charges and DUIs. Those convicted of major crimes are not allowed into Canada without a Minister’s Permit of Criminal Rehabilitation, which cannot be applied for until 60 months after sentencing requirements have been satisfied. Call the nearest Canadian Consulate for more information.  The US Customs Service offers the following “top ten” ways to prevent trouble when trying to re-enter the United States.
1. Don't rely on friends and shopkeepers for advice on what items "will clear Customs"; instead, obtain this information directly from the U.S. Customs Service.
2. Declare "duty-free goods" even if purchased in "duty-free" stores.
3. Do not attempt to bring unauthorized fruits, meats and dairy products into the United States without first checking whether they are permitted.
4. Know the difference between goods for personal use versus commercial use.
5. Know the difference between prohibited merchandise (such as ivory, tortoise shell products, absinthe and counterfeit items) and restricted merchandise.
6. Be aware that many foreign-manufactured medications are not FDA-approved and, consequently, cannot be brought into the U.S. Also, when traveling abroad, bring only the amount of medication you'll need during the trip.
7. Do not attempt to return with Cuban cigars, unless they were purchased in Cuba while on authorized travel.
8. Know the rules governing the $800 exemption on goods brought back from abroad.
9. Understand that Customs 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.
10. Be sure and read "Know Before You Go,” available online at here.
    If you want to return to the US without a hassle, perhaps the most important thing to remember at the border is your manners. Border patrol tend to take their jobs seriously, and you’ll have an easier time of it if you do, too.

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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

travel, Canada, Creston, Nelson, border, Whistler, Selkirk International Loop, passport

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