Border Facts

Donʼt let crossing the border intimidate you. Regulations and procedures change over time. Here are answers to some of the most common questions.

Your questions answered

I am Canadian, can I shop at Duty Free?

Yes, you can. If you are Canadian you can shop at Duty Free. There are advantages to shopping with us.

Does every border crossing have a Duty Free store?

Canada and America share 140 border crossings. Only 27 offer the benefits of Duty Free shopping.

If I live in Canada and visit a Duty Free store can I turn around and never leave Canada?

You cannot stop at Duty Free and stay in Canada. In order for shoppers to take advantage of the savings in tax, you must also cross the border.

If I stop at Duty Free, do I still have to go through customs?

Yes, it’s the law. Be sure to follow the Canadian or American border crossing guidelines and be aware of customs allowances.

Is there a difference between Canadian and U.S. Duty Free?

Yes, Canadian and U.S. Duty Free stores are separate business entities and are not related.

Border crossing procedure

Do I have to pay a fee to cross the border?

There is no fee to visit a Duty Free store, however there is a border crossing toll charge at select border crossings. You can pay in Canadian or U.S. currency.

What kind of questions are asked at the border?

Most of the time Border Services will ask questions related to your citizenship, as well as questions related to your journey (Where are you going? How long have you been away?).

What is the border crossing procedure if I’m part of a bus group?

Passengers of a bus group undergo the same procedures as passengers of private vehicles.

My child seat meets Canadian safety regulations. Do I have to change it when driving in the US?

You do not need to change your baby seat when driving to the U.S. if you are driving a Canadian—registered vehicle on a personal or business trip.

Documents and identification you’ll need to cross the border.

For Canadian adults

I’m Canadian, do I need a passport?

Canadians 16 years old and over can enter the U.S. by showing a valid piece of one of the following proofs of identification to the customs officer at the border:

Click here for information on renewing your passport.

For Canadian minors

Do Canadian children need passports?

Canadians 15 years old and under can enter the U.S. with an original (or a photocopy) of a birth certificate, or an original citizenship card.

I’m a minor (18 years old or younger), can I travel alone to the U.S.?

Yes, you can, however you should have written consent from your parents or guardians. If you are under a certain age you will almost certainly require written consent. Please visit Canadian Border Services or the U.S. Department of State for the latest information.

For Canadian residents who are not citizens

I’m a permanent resident/landed immigrant. How do I visit the U.S.?

Permanent residents in Canada must first apply for a non-immigrant visa and present this with their passport to U.S. customs officials. Find out here if you need a non-immigrant visa.

For Americans

I’m American, do I need a passport?

U.S. Citizens can present a valid: passport; passport card; Enhanced Driver’s License; trusted traveller program card (NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI);

Click here for the latest requirements for Americans crossing the border.

For everyone

Do I need different documents depending which way I cross the border?

Generally, Canadians and Americans require similar documents (passports, NEXUS cards) but there are some differences.

Questions about medical and travel insurance

Do I need travel insurance?

If you are travelling in a personal vehicle, buying travel insurance is a personal choice.

Do I need medical insurance?

Assume that your Canadian government health care plan is not valid abroad. Only a small portion of medical expenses may be covered. It is recommended that you purchase additional medical insurance for your trip to the U.S., even if you are going for just one day.

Questions about search and privacy

Do I need to go through a body scanner?

Body scanners are a technology used at airports. At the moment, they are not used at land border crossings.

Will my luggage/vehicle be scanned?

Vehicles are scanned for RFID tags and radioactivity while they wait in line, just ahead of the customs officer booth. Your luggage is not directly scanned, but is covered in this process.

Can customs search my laptop, camera and mp3 player?

Yes, U.S. customs has the legal right to open and review your electronic devices.

Potential problems at the border

I have a criminal record; can I still cross the border?

Yes, you can. However it does depend on your conviction and the time since your last conviction.

Can I drive a car that is not registered in my name? Like my father’s car?

You can drive a car that is not registered in your name. However, it is best to have the written consent of the car owner to avoid suspicion. Ensure you have proof of insurance and registration.

I’m travelling with kids who are not mine (i.e. driving a sport team to a competition). What do I need to be aware of?

You must have written consent from the parents or guardians giving permission for the children to leave the country.

I’m travelling with my children but not with my spouse. What do I need to be aware of?

If you are travelling with your children, but the other parent / guardian is not with you, it is prudent to get written consent. The consent should grant permission for the children to leave the country, and state the name and contact information of the other parent / guardian. Please visit Canadian Border Services or the U.S. Department of State for the latest information.

I’m travelling with my grandchildren but not with their parents. What do I need to be aware of?

If you are travelling with your grandchildren, but their parents / guardian are not with you, it is prudent to get written consent. The consent should grant permission for the children to leave the country, and state the name and contact information of the parents / guardian. Please visit Canadian Border Services or the U.S. Department of State for the latest information.

Can I drive a rental car over the border?

Yes, generally you can drive a rental vehicle across the border. You should inform your car rental company that you will cross the border and they will inform you of their individual policies. It is best that you keep a copy of the rental agreement with you.

There is one exception, Canadians may not drive a U.S. owned rental car in Canada.

What can or can’t I bring across the border into the U.S.

Do I have to declare food? Even my sandwich?

Travellers to the U.S. must declare all food, plants and animals. This includes fruit, vegetables, snacks and beverages.

Can I bring my prescription medicine?

Yes, you can bring your prescription medicine, however, please ensure you follow these guidelines:

Can I carry large amounts of cash across the border?

You can carry up to $10,000USD without declaring it to customs. You can carry more, but you must declare this to U.S. Customs.

Can I carry firearms across the border?

Canadians will need an export permit. Contact the Export Controls Division of International Trade Canada to find out more.

Visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency for a complete reference to what can and cannot be brought into the U.S.

Pets and animals

Can I bring a pet?

Yes, you can bring your pet with some conditions. Some States require cats to have proof of rabies vaccinations, and all customs officials may request a veterinarian inspection if they suspect your cat is ill. Dogs must have a certificate showing they have been vaccinated against rabies. Any pet suspected of illness will likely be detained by customs. You do not have to pay duty on your pet cat or dog.

Can I transport a horse?

For horses and all other animals please visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture for importation details.

What happens if I have visited a farm?

You should inform U.S. Border Services if you live on, or visited, a farm or if you have been around livestock. Unless you have been to a country with known health and safety issues, your farm visit is unlikely to be an issue.