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Crossing the U.S./Canada border over the long weekend? Here's what to expect

The CBSA has issued a host of tips and links for people planning to travel in and out of Canada's land borders this Victoria Day long weekend
Peace Arch border
The CBSA has published a host of tips for people crossing the border this May long weekend

The CBSA is reminding travellers to make life easy for themselves and others this May long weekend.

The border agency – while working to mitigate long border wait times – says there are several things people can do.

Get the ArriveCan app and have your documents ready

Travellers can help reduce wait times at the border by coming prepared and by completing their mandatory ArriveCAN submission within 72 hours before arriving at the border. Travellers must ensure they have the most up-to-date version of the ArriveCAN app (consult the Google Play Store or the App Store for iPhone.) Travellers should print or take a screenshot of their ArriveCAN receipt and bring it with them when they travel.

Travellers without a smartphone or without mobile data can submit their information by signing in online through a computing device. If travellers are unable to enter their information themselves, they can have a friend or family member enter the information for them.

Travellers should have the following ready to present to the border services officer: their ArriveCAN receipt, passport or travel documents, proof of vaccination, and identification for all persons in the vehicle.

Understand the rules around COVID-19 travel

There are still border measures in place for COVID-19. They vary depending on who is travelling – foreign nationals, returning residents or Canadian citizens. Answer a few questions to find out which requirements apply to you and if you can enter Canada.

Plan ahead and check border wait times

Travellers crossing the border by land are encouraged to plan to cross during non-peak hours such as early morning. The Monday of holiday long weekends tends to be the busiest, with longer border wait times.

What you need when crossing the border with children

When travelling with children, it is recommended that the accompanying adult have a consent letter authorizing them to travel with the child. Border services officers are always watching for missing children, and in the absence of the letter, officers may ask additional questions, to help them identify the relationship between the child and the accompanying adult. 

What you need if entering Canada by water

Unless exempt, all travellers entering Canada by water must report their arrival to the CBSA without delay. All travellers, including those with a right of entry (Canadian citizens, permanent residents and persons registered under the Indian Act), must submit their mandatory information in ArriveCAN before, or when, entering Canada at a marine port of entry.

How to complete your customs and immigration declaration in advance

Air travellers landing in Toronto (YYZ) or Vancouver (YVR) may use ArriveCAN (web version) to complete their customs and immigration declaration in advance of their arrival in Canada. This feature will be expanded to other airports in the future.

Be prepared to declare purchases from the U.S.

Travellers returning to Canada should be ready to declare all goods purchased and/or received while outside the country. It is recommended that gifts not be wrapped as the CBSA may need to examine them more in-depth. Have your receipts readily available from purchases made outside of Canada.

Know your exemption limits for purchases in the U.S.

Returning residents planning to make purchases or pick up online purchases across the border should be aware of their exemption limits. Be sure to check the CBSA duty and taxes estimator to calculate taxes on goods purchased in the United States and to help make informed decisions when shopping abroad.

Residents can bring back tax and duty-free goods valued at CAN$200 after being away for 24 hours, and goods valued at CAN$800 after 48 hours. There are no personal exemptions for same-day cross-border shopping trips, so be prepared to pay tax on those purchases and possibly duty.

Know which items you have to declare

Declare any foods, plants, or animals, such as raw poultry products and by-products that are not fully cooked, to the border services officer. There are currently restrictions on imports of live birds, bird products and by-products from states affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza in the United States.

Also declare all wood and wood products (including firewood and wooden souvenirs).

Be sure to check the automated import reference system to help determine all specific import requirements.

Declare all money or currency of CAN$10,000 or more. It is not illegal to bring such amounts into Canada, but it must be declared on arrival.

What's restricted or prohibited to bring into Canada

Know the contents of your vehicle. Travellers can consult the CBSA’s website for information on firearms and other restricted and prohibited goods.

Keep cannabis at home

Don’t bring it in. Don’t take it out. Transporting cannabis across the border in any form, including any oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), without a permit or exemption authorized by Health Canada remains a serious criminal offence subject to arrest and prosecution, despite the legalization of cannabis in Canada.