As a travel consultant, a common refrain I have heard from many of my Canadian clients over the past three years are their concerns of having to stop in the United States — particularly if they are travelling to European or Austral-Asian destinations.
Their reasoning is complex, and not without cited examples that regularly appear in Canadian and American news outlets:
“Jogger detained for 2 weeks after accidentally crossing US border from Canada” – CNN, June 23, 2018
“The U.S. Border Feels Like Hostile Territory To Canadians Like Me” – Huffington Post, Jan. 14, 2018
“Rejection rate on the rise for Canadians at U.S. border” – The Globe and Mail, April 14, 2017
“What are Canadians’ rights at the US border? Slim to none” – Global News, March 7, 2017
Some travellers are boycotting U.S. travel and vacations due to who is presiding over the country, while others just don’t want the extra hassle of possibly being detained if they will be changing planes, terminals or airlines at a U.S. airport.
But if you do have to make a stop at a U.S. airport en route to another destination, keep these tips in mind:
1. Ensure your passport is free of any water or other damage, and make sure it has not expired (although it does not need to be valid for six months beyond your date of departure for U.S. entry — but your final country destination may require this validity).
2. Be courteous and truthful to the border agent; remember, crossing a border is not a Canadian right. The agent has access to databases, such as those of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
3. Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S., but the border agent is able to ask you any question(s) he or she desires, including your political affiliation. The most common questions asked are why you are travelling to the U.S. and your length of stay there.
4. Although not common, you may be asked if your digital devices can be inspected. Should you refuse, that is noted, and may cause further border issues in the future.
5. Be prepared to use evidence to prove you are not staying in the U.S. (unless you are and know the civic address of where you are staying). Return air tickets and/or meeting schedules or hotel confirmations are helpful.
6. There was at least one case last year where a Canadian citizen, Manpreet Kooner, was denied admittance to the U.S. and was told she needed an Immigrant Visa. Others have been denied entry when telling the border agent that they planned on attending a political rally in Washington, D.C.
7. Finally, when Canada’s cannabis law comes into effect later this year, avoid taking any marijuana across the border. It might be legal here but that is within our own country.