Crossing the Border – Canada & the United States

As Published in the 2008 Travel Life Directory

Traveling to Canada by RV from the U.S. is convenient; many north/south American interstates and major highways lead directly to the Canadian border.

Visitor Requirements:

U.S. Residents
Although a passport is the ideal identification, you do not require a passport or visa to enter Canada until June of 2008. Just make sure you carry identification to establish your citizenship such as a birth certificate and at least one ID card with photo. If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen, you should carry this certificate. Alien permanent residents of the U.S. must bring their “Green Card”.

If you are traveling with children, carry identification for each child. Customs officers look for missing children. Divorced parents who share custody of their children should carry copies of the legal custody documents. Adults who are not parents or guardians should have notarized written permission from the parents or guardians to supervise the children.

All pets must be accompanied by their owners when entering Canada. Owners of dogs and cats (more than three months old) must bring a certificate issued by a licensed American or Canadian veterinarian clearly identifying the pet and certifying that it has been vaccinated against rabies sometime during the previous 36 months. Seeing-eye dogs are allowed into Canada without restriction. Canadian law also guarantees that anyone using seeing-eye dogs may bring them into restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

Returning to the U.S.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) will soon require all travelers to and from the Americas, the Caribbean and Bermuda to have a passport or other accepted form of documentation to enter or reenter the United States. The program will be rolled out in phases, according to this proposed schedule: June 1, 2008 - Passports will be required for anyone crossing at a land border, as well as by sea. (Note: As of January 23, 2007, passports will be required for all air travel, and most commercial sea travel, from within the Western Hemisphere for citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda, so if you plan to fly or cruise, you will need to have a passport sooner than if you plan to travel outside the United States only by RV or car.) For details call (877) 487-2778 or visit

U.S. Customs
The duty-free exemption, also called the personal exemption, is the total value of merchandise you may bring back to the United States without having to pay duty. You may bring back more than your $800 exemption, but you will have to pay duty on it. The duty-free exemptions apply if the items are for your personal or household use or intended to be given as bona fide gifts; they are in your possession, that is, they accompany you when you return to the United States - items to be sent later may not be included in your $800 duty-free exemption.

Alcoholic Beverages
One liter (33.8 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages may be included in your exemption if you are 21 years old; it is for your own use or as a gift; and it does not violate the laws of the state in which you arrive.

Food, Plant, and Animal Products
Bakery items, candy, chocolate, and cured cheese are generally admissible. Canned goods and goods in vacuum-packed jars (other than those containing meat or poultry products) are also generally admissible if being imported for personal use. Hard-cured cheese such as parmesan or cheddar are generally admissible, soft cheeses such as brie and soft curd cheese and cheese in water (ricotta, feta, etc.) are not. Fish, if it is for your personal use, is generally admissible. Condiments such as oil, vinegar, mustard, catsup, pickles, syrup, honey, jelly, jam, etc., are generally admissible. Fruits and vegetables grown in Canada are generally admissible, if they have labels identifying them as products of Canada. Currently, NO MEAT PRODUCTS FROM CANADA MAY ENTER THE U.S. without a permit. This includes frozen, cooked, canned or otherwise processed beef, lamb and veal. Hunter-harvested game is admissible from Canada for the traveler's personal use if accompanied with a permit. For more information on hunter-harvested game visit the USDA web site at

For questions on returning to the U.S., please contact U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at 877-227-5511 or for more specific information.

Bringing Goods into Canada for Personal Use
All goods must be declared at the time of your initial contact with Customs. If you are unsure about a particular item, declare it. Allowed "personal baggage" includes clothing, camping and sports equipment, cameras, tape recorders and personal computers, as well as vehicles and boats. Food subject to limits, restrictions or not permitted: Perishable items, vegetables, meat and dairy products. Generally, 20 kilograms each of dairy products and meat/meat products of U.S. origin are permitted.

Alcohol: Visitors of age (19 in most provinces, or 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Québec) may bring, duty-free, either 1.5 liters (52.8 ounces) of wine, 1.14 liters (40 ounces) of liquor, or 24 355-milliliter containers (12 ounces) each, or their equivalent, of beer or ale.

Tobacco: Visitors aged 18 in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Québec, the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and 19 in all other provinces, are allowed to bring up to 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 200 grams (7 ounces) of loose tobacco or 200 tobacco sticks duty-free.

Gifts: Visitors may bring gifts, worth up to $60 Canadian each, duty-free. Prescription drugs: Should be in original packaging with a label that specifies what they are and that they are being used under prescription. Or, carry a copy of the prescription or a letter from your doctor.

Visitors (18 years of age or older) may temporarily import firearms by completing a Non-Resident Firearm Declaration and paying an annual fee of $50 Canadian. Restricted firearms (pistols or revolvers) require an Authorization to Transport in advance from a provincial chief firearms officer. Prohibited weapons or devices, including silencers and replica firearms, may not be imported. Mace or pepper spray designed for injuring, immobilizing or incapacitating any person are considered prohibited weapons and may not be taken into Canada.

Request a copy of the pamphlet, Importing a Firearm or Weapon into Canada, from a Canadian embassy, consulate or customs office, or contact Canadian Firearms Center at (800) 731-4000;

Driving in Canada
Make sure you have proof of insurance while driving in Canada. Prior to your trip, ask your insurance company for a Non-resident Inter-Provincial Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card. This indicates that you are covered with the minimum legal insurance requirements throughout Canada.

You must have proof of ownership for your car and any trailer you are hauling. The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) recommends that US visitors who travel into Canada by borrowed vehicle (from friends or family, etc.) obtain a written letter from the owner, containing the following information:
  • Description of the vehicle: make, model, and year.
  • Vehicle Identification number (VIN).
  • License plate number and state.
  • Dates during which the vehicle is being borrowed.
  • Name of registered owner, address, and contact telephone number.
  • Name of individual(s) who is borrowing the vehicle, address, and telephone number.
  • Statement from the registered owner of the vehicle indicating that the borrower has - permission to borrow the vehicle.
  • Date of agreement.