Canada: Canada Day: Survival Guide For Canada-US Cross Border Travel

Last Updated: June 29 2017
Article by Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

The Canada Day long week-end will be here soon.  Canadians travel outside Canada to visit friends and family and to shop.  The Canada Border Services Agency ("CBSA") is on the lookout for contraventions of the Customs Act and other border laws.

Here is our survival guide to make sure the CBSA is happy with your declaration and does not seize your goods, vehicle and/or NEXUS card:

  1. Know about personal exemptions that are permitted by the CBSA.  You still must declare all goods (even if you are entitled to a personal exemption).  Let the CBSA apply the exemption.  Entitlement to an exemption does not mean you do not have to say anything.
  2. Organize your receipts before you arrive at the border. If you have gone shopping, organize all your receipts (that is, all the receipts of all people in the vehicle) together. The most common mistake is forgetting a receipt and under-declaring to the Primary CBSA Officer the value of the goods purchased outside Canada. Another mistake is that Dad does not know all the purchases and understates the value purchased by everybody in the vehicle.  Make sure to add up all of your receipts before you drive to the border – preferably using a written list and a calculator app.  Yes, you may be sent to the cashier — but you will not be delayed by seizure paperwork.
  3. Declare any gifts or things received for free and allocate an amount to those items.  If you took the soaps and coffee from the hotel room, add a small value for these items.
  4. Declare any purchases of alcohol or tobacco products to the Primary CBSA Officer. Canada restricts the number of alcohol and tobacco items that may enter duty-free.  If you are clearing out the cupboards in a cottage or house in the United States, please be careful to count the litres of alcohol before you reach the border and make a proper declaration of volume and value.  We have written an article just on alcohol and tobacco declarations – Alcohol and Tobacco: Two Things That Cause The CBSA To Not Apply Common Sense.
  5. Declare goods purchased at the duty free store.  Buying at a duty-free store does not mean the goods are exempt from duties.  Also, the CBSA gets the records of the purchases at the duty-free store because you provide the store your license plate number or name.  The Primary CBSA Officer knows that you purchased duty free when they input your information into their computer.
  6. Remember to convert your added receipts into Canadian dollars.  This is the second most common mistake.  Canadians inform the CBSA officer of the United States (or Euro or other currency) amount and do not adjust the amount upward to reflect foreign exchange.  The CBSA will hold you to the number provided and, if it has not been converted, will take the position that you under-declared the value.
  7. If you shopped at a store in the United States that accepted Canadian dollars at par, be in a position to provide evidence.  The CBSA will default to converting your receipt into Canadian dollars.  The CBSA does not know all the stores that accept Canadian dollars at par.  A photograph of a sign or a note from the store will be necessary to prove to the CBSA that you were allowed to pay using Canadian dollars.
  8. If you have more than $CDN 10,000 in your possession (adding up all the Canadian dollars and all the other currencies converted into Canadian dollars), declare to (that is tell) the Primary CBSA Officer that you have currency over $10,000.  The CBSA takes the position that you have the obligation to inform them even if they do not ask you the question.  If you fail to inform them, the CBSA could seize all of the money and take the position that it is proceeds of crime.  If the CBSA accepts that it is not proceeds of crime, they will impose a penalty for failure to declare the currency in the amount of either $250, $2500 or $5,000.  If you have made this mistake before, the CBSA can seize all of the money and not give it back to you. Do not use the NEXUS lane is you have currency over $CDN 10,000.
  9. Don't forget to tell the Primary CBSA Officer about any food that you have.  It is best to not bring any food that is not permitted (e.g., fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, poultry, etc.). Check to see what food is not allowed – because if you bring it, your travel time will be extended due to the time spent in lines at the border.  The fines are significant for not declaring food.  For example, failure to declare food in Canada is $800.  Before you travel it is best to clean the vehicle in case you have a bag of Cheerios in the back seat.
  10. Don't forget your children.  The CBSA will want to see the identification for your children travelling with you.  If both parents are not crossing the border with the children (only one parent is with the children), the CBSA may want to see custody documentation or a letter from the other parent that permission has been granted for the children to come to Canada.
  11. Don't forget to declare your pets in the vehicle.
  12. Make sure that your medications are in prescription bottles or are not restricted in Canada.  Certain medications and health products are prohibited or imports are restricted.  Canadians who shop outside Canada may not be entitled to bring certain medications and/or health products back to Canada or may be limited in the number of pills that may be imported.
  13. If you have a NEXUS Card, but there is at least one person in your vehicle that does not have a NEXUS card, do not use the dedicated NEXUS lane.  The CBSA will take away your NEXUS Card for a breach of the program rules.  We have written an article on when you should not use the NEXUS lane – When Are You Not Permitted To Use The NEXUS Lane.
  14. Make sure that if you plan to travel with your NEXUS Card, you also have your passport.  It is a rule of the NEXUS Program.
  15. Make sure that if you travel with your NEXUS Card and plan to use the NEXUS lane, that every NEXUS Card holder has up-to-date information in the CBSA's computerized records.  If you have received a new driver's license or passport, you must update the information with the NEXUS program.  You will get pulled over to update the information if this has not been done.  To avoid delays, update the information online before traveling.
  16. If you have commercial goods in the vehicle, do not use the NEXUS lane.  It is a breach of the NEXUS Program rules to use a NEXUS lane when you have commercial goods (that is, goods for your business).
  17. If you have teenagers, have the talk with them about drugs.  It is really embarrassing and is a negative event if your child is arrested at the border.  The rule must be that they not bring any drugs and that they look in their pockets (clothing and bags) to make sure that drugs are not being transported across the border.
  18. If you are visiting Canada, declare to the Primary CBSA Officer all goods you plan to leave/use in Canada.  If you are bringing gifts for your host or a friend, you must declare them.  If you are bringing food or alcohol you plan to consume in Canada, declare it.
  19. Be truthful.  The CBSA Primary and Secondary CBSA Officer may ask unexpected questions.  Rather than be offended by the question, just answer the questions truthfully.  The examination may take longer if you argue with the CBSA officer about the questions they are asking.
  20. Know that the CBSA can examine laptops, smart phones, iPhones, etc. The CBSA can ask for your passwords. See Can the CBSA Ask For Passwords? Don't bring your electronic devices if you do not want the CBSA to look at the contents of your harddrive or emails or social media history.
  21. The CBSA are not very sympathetic.  Their view is that everyone must get in the long line up.  Cutting if you use the NEXUS lane and do not have NEXUS membership, you will be sent to Secondary Inspection and your visit with the CBSA will be lengthened.  It would have been a lot shorter to use the long line up.

There are many other mistakes that could be listed – these are the most common.  Hope you have happy travels and let the other people spend time in the CBSA's Secondary Inspection Area.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.