Getting across the Border

By: Russell Hancock

During your life time you will probably cross an international border at least once. For some it will be more and for some it may be almost a daily occurrence.

Here are a few tips to facilitate your crossing at an International Border.

First, have your identification ready to show the Officer. If you have to go to the trunk to dig it out of your bags it will cause a delay for yourself and the persons in line behind you, as well as cause aggravation for the Officer dealing with you.

The minimum required documents at the time of this writing are a State or Government issued photo ID and a birth certificate. Not having the proper documents can delay your crossing and in some cases, you may be refused entry. Get your passport if you don't have one.

When you cross the border the Officer is concerned primarily with two things. Who you are and why you want to visit his country. In this age of terrorism the focus has been keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the U.S. Other countries are acutely aware of this as well, especially Israel. You will find that the focus has shifted from simply keeping certain people, fruits, and other contraband out, to screening passengers to determine if they may present more of a threat to the country you are visiting.

This is not to suggest that if you aren't a terrorist you don't have anything to worry about.

If you have been convicted of any crime, you may want to contact the authorities at the border crossing where you intend to make your crossing beforehand to insure you will not have any problems entering the country. Many types of past criminal activity will prevent your entry into a country, some being stricter than others. Also, if you engage in activities which may be illegal, such as recreational drug use. Keep in mind that the Officers are well trained to spot certain signs that may lead to a more thorough search of your vehicle and belongings. Also, no matter how well you think it is hidden, the dogs can and will sniff it out. It isn't worth going to jail and being banned for five or ten years for having a joint or other drugs and paraphernalia.

Also keep in mind that the Officer can legally search you, your vehicle and/or belongings anytime he sees fit. The search authority granted to an Officer at the border is very broad and unlike the Police Officer on the street, he needs no probable cause to search.

Also, leave citrus fruits behind. There are many fruits that are banned from entering from one country to the next and while it may not be a huge loss to have your oranges seized and thrown away, it can be an inconvenience to you. Same thing applies to certain types of meats from time to time.

Also it is worth mentioning that a lot of people crossing the border, especially between the U.S. and Canada think that because we are friendly neighbors that they can just move their permanent residence from one country to the next with little difficulty. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You cannot simply pack up your belongings and move to Canada or the U.S. to live with your girlfriend or boyfriend. You must obtain "status" to permanently reside in another country. Get the facts beforehand.

Lastly, declare your articles and do not lie to the Officer. If you stopped at the duty free shop and bought ten bottles of booze and only declared one, you could be fined heavily for not declaring your purchases. Same thing applies for currency. If you are traveling with more than ten thousand in cash or other negotiable instruments, let the Officer know.

Failure to declare anything could result in stiff penalties.

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