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Canada-U.S. Border Crossing Check-List

Reduce Border Crossing Times Arrive at the U.S. Border Prepared

To help keep the borders functioning in an efficient manner, please communicate the following instructions to your staff and drivers.

All Carriers:

  1. Participation in programs such as Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), Free And Secure Trade (FAST) and Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) is one way to expedite the clearance of legitimate travellers and goods across the border.

  2. Ensure your drivers are aware of and follow these instructions for required documentation when they arrive at the border.

All Drivers:

  1. Have the required personal identification (including photo ID, driver's licence and/or passport - see below) ready for presentation at primary inspection before arriving at the booth. U.S. Customs officials advise that drivers searching for these documents when they arrive for inspection add to the time taken for clearance.

  2. Drivers must turn on interior cab lights and open all interior drapes/blinds to sleeper area for easy inspection. Unnecessary personal belongings should not be carried by drivers, as they can lead to questions from Customs officials about where these items were obtained.

  3. Ensure that all Customs paperwork is completed and ready for presentation to Customs officials at primary inspection before arrival. Port directors at all major border crossings report that about 35% of drivers show up at primary inspection without having properly completed paperwork, such as the carrier manifest and shipper's documentation. This is a major problem.

  4. Be prepared to clear Customs and Border Protection at primary inspection. One of the easiest ways to be prepared is to communicate in advance with the shipper and the U.S. Customs Broker so that the information on the shipment is transmitted to Customs before the truck arrives at the border point (Pre-Arrival Processing System or "PAPS").

  5. Be prepared to communicate with U.S. border officials in clear understandable English. This is the law in the U.S. under CFR 49, Part 391.11(b)(2).

Canadian Citizen Drivers:

  1. At a minimum, carry photo identification (driver's licence) and your birth certificate or citizenship card, and have them ready for presentation at primary inspection. It is recommended that Canadian citizen drivers obtain and carry a valid passport.

Non-Canadian/U.S. Citizen Drivers:

  1. Individuals who are not citizens of Canada or the U.S. must carry a valid passport and will be required by Immigration officials to complete an I-94 card, even if you qualify under the visa waiver program. I-94 cards are only available on-site at border crossings into the U.S. If you require an I-94 card, you will be instructed by officials at primary inspection to report to Immigration to complete the documentation. The cost of the I-94 is U.S.$6.00 payable by cash in U.S. funds (U.S. officials will not accept Canadian funds).

    If drivers clear Customs at primary inspection and require an I-94 card, they must report to Immigration to fill out the I-94 and receive "verbal clearance" from a U.S. Immigration official to proceed into the U.S.

    If drivers require an I-94 card, do not clear Customs at primary inspection and are referred to secondary inspection to see their brokers, they must first go to Immigration before presenting their paperwork for Customs clearance at secondary inspection.

    Remember - clearance from U.S. Customs is a "verbal clearance" or "verbal release." There is no stamp or receipt indicating that shipments have cleared Customs. Drivers should only proceed after being instructed by a U.S. Customs official that their shipment(s) has cleared.

  2. In addition, some individuals may require a U.S. non-immigrant visa. Do not proceed to the border unless you know whether this requirement applies to you.

  3. If travel documents are required (e.g. non-immigrant visas or passports), ensure that they are in order, easily accessible, valid and are ready to be presented before arriving at primary inspection.

  4. If you are refused entry into the U.S. for reasons related to U.S. immigration law, you must report to Canada Customs as well as Citizenship and Immigration Canada on your return trip to Canada. U.S. Immigration officials have also indicated that if you are refused entry at one border point, the practice of "port shopping" will not be tolerated and individuals will be subject to penalties under U.S. law (which can include vehicle seizure and permanent banishment from the U.S.).

Above All:

  • Be patient and professional
  • Do as instructed by U.S. customs, U.S. immigration and bridge officials
  • Do not argue with U.S. customs, U.S. immigration and bridge officials

These requirements are considered to be accurate at the time of preparation. U.S. Customs and Immigration requirements may be changed at any time.

Additional information/updates can be found at the OTA Web site: Ontario Trucking Association