CBP offers tips to ease travel across the border during holiday season
December 22, 2009 · 10:50 AM
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reminds travelers planning trips across the border into the United States to make sure they have approved travel documents and offers tips to make an easier entry process when traveling back into the U.S.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, implemented June 1, requires U.S. and Canadian citizens age 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable travel document that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea.
Customs and Border Protection encourages travelers to obtain a radio frequency identification-enabled — or RFID — travel document such as a U.S. Passport Card, Enhanced Driver’s License/Enhanced Identification Card or Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST/EXPRES) to expedite their entry and make crossing the border more efficient.
Customs and Border Protection said these documents help reduce the time it takes to process travelers at the border. No personal identification information is stored on the RFID chip embedded in the cards – only a series of ones and zeros that points to information in a secure CBP database.
"We encourage travelers to store their cards in the protective sleeve provided with the document to protect them from being read without their knowledge," CBP stated in a press release.
The travel initiative is the joint Department of State-Department of Homeland Security plan that implemented a key 9/11 Commission recommendation to establish document requirements for travelers entering the United States who were previously exempt, including citizens of the U.S., Canada and Bermuda.
CBP also reminds U.S. lawful permanent residents that the I-551 form (green card) is acceptable for land and sea travel into the U.S.
Traffic volumes at ports of entry are expected to be heavier during the holiday season and all travelers are reminded of a few steps they can take to have a more efficient entry process.
Tip No. 1: Travelers should familiarize themselves with the “Know Before You Go” section of the CBP Web site ( www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg ) to avoid fines and penalties associated with the importation of prohibited items.
Tip No. 2: Travelers should prepare for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth. Individuals should have their approved travel documents available for the inspection and they should be prepared to declare all items acquired abroad.
Tip No. 3: Members of the traveling public should consult the CBP Web site to monitor border wait times for various ports of entry. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use/short waits. During periods of heavy travel, border crossers may wish to consider alternative, less heavily traveled entry routes.
Tip No. 4: Travelers should plan to build extra time into their trips in the event they cross during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic.
Tip No. 5: Know the difference between goods for personal use vs. commercial use. For more details, visit www.cbp.gov/travel
Tip No. 6: Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and firewood into the United States from Canada without first checking whether they are permitted.
Tip No. 7: Understand that CBP officers have the authority to conduct enforcement examinations without a warrant, ranging from a single luggage examination up to and possibly including a personal search. Even during the holiday travel season, international border crossers should continue to expect a thorough inspection process when they enter the U.S. from Canada.