No Fooling: U.S. Border Crossing Can Be A Hassle

Recent incidents at U.S. border crossings are a reminder to Canadians to take the process seriously… border officials do.


As the Windsor Star reports, five women from that Southern Ontario city were fingerprinted, photographed and denied entry into the U.S. while heading for a yoga course that would help them gain credentials to become instructors. U.S. border regulations require foreign visitors to obtain a student visa for vocational training, which is how the yoga course is classified.

One of the women first told border officials that she was just going shopping before admitting she was also visiting for a course. As a result, she has been barred from entering the U.S. for five years. “I want to alert Canadians that whatever necessary paperwork needs to be done, they should do so,” Michelle Lam told the Star. Lam was patted down and detained for six hours, part of that time in a cell.

U.S. border officials are particularly sensitive about the possibility of Canadians taking work away from Americans. So even people travelling to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, for example, must bring a letter of invitation or other documentation.

Chief Ron Smith of U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the Star that while some Canadians may not know the rules, the regulations are clear and not new. “If they’re coming over for pleasure, I hope they enjoy it,” he said. “When someone comes in to volunteer, they have to be able to prove to the officer that they are a member of, or have a commitment to, a particular recognized religious or non-profit charitable organization. We have to make sure there is no U.S. salary.”

While the rules may not be new, stricter enforcement may be part of heightened anxiety about terrorist attacks. And it can go both ways – U.S. media has featured several reports of Canadian border officials turning back visitors for minor offences committed decades ago.

A helpful site for Canadians travelling to the United States is www.voyage.gc.ca.

If you want to hear what happens when you bring a little attitude to your U.S. border crossing, check out this audio recording which purports to be (and sure sounds like) a confrontation between a Canadian couple heading for outlet shopping in Niagara Falls, New York and a series of U.S. border officials.

Photo Credit: kuriputosu


No Fooling: U.S. Border Crossing Can Be A Hassle

  1. This Canadian needs to give his head a shake.
    Antagonizing a poorly paid bureacrat will get him thru the border faster?

    Stupid. & arrogant.

    • The point is that NO ONE has any right to put someone in such an awkward position. Reality check, border guards; good liars work better when pressured. That’s what they re expecting. Try a little honey, and maybe read a book or two on human behaviour and micro expressions.

  2. Your cops are just as bad. I used to cross easily with my Canadians spouse., we are divorcing but if i went alone they stopped entering Canada when I lived there and harassed me and the regional PD go to Youtube lots of nasty vides on BC and ONtario regional cops harassing Canadians. Your rules are stricter than ours. We do not want any more illegal workers in the US so yes if you come to school for even a day you need documents. You required the same darn thing. SO get off the high horse routine.

    • Just because Canada does it doesn’t mean it’s okay that the US does it.  Neither should treat visitors like criminals.

  3. Women? You have to answer to the same rules as men. Don't rely on tears and cleavage, try following the rules and maybe doing a little research. As the article notes, the rules are clear and not new. Seriously ladies, smarten up, and stop running to the media in tears every time you get treated like a man.

    • Goodspeed you couold be half right there. I find women, and I am one, acting like women did in the US 30 yrs ago. But the laws are there for all people entering the US. If they think this is bad. go to any southern border crossing. Work is work and you must get a permit even for one class. When I had a one year permit to stay but not yet landed in Canada I was asked to pay 9000 a year for my daughter to attend your public schools. I went back home. The school did not tell me that nor did the govt UNTIL i got there. All children here can go to school free legal or not just not college. Gotta be perm and legal or get a study permit or a work permit. Period.

  4. My wife and I cross the border on a regular basis, about twice a week in summer, every two weeks in winter, for both business and pleasure and virtually never a problem. average time to get to and through Customs is under 3 minutes, both directions. 1000 Islands, Johnstown/Ogdensburg and Cornwall (3 different Crossing). The rules are simple, 1, Customs agents have more power that police, If entering the US that means absolute power, any lip and you may sit for 4 hours and then go home, they don't have to have a reason. If returning to Canada, make sure you tell no untruth, that can delay you for hours. Even if totally correct, you're better to wait till you get home and write a nasty letter to your MP than to get lippy at customs. 2, have your ID ready, (If commercial have your paperwork ready). 3, Answer their questions straight and correctly. US customs can look at their screen and know every time you've crossed the border in the past 3 years. If you are bringing anything in, know what it is, where its from and what the total value is, expect to go in to pay your sales taxes.
    Simple rules but you cross quickly and efficiently and they always suggest that you have a good day.

  5. In the audio, the guy asked the official what he was going to do. it was a question not a threat. The border guy who asked what stores they were going to shop at in a mall? come on do you know what store you are going to shop at at a mall you may or may not have been to?
    Now if the official didnt ask that question, none of this may have occurred.
    The husband should not have been too loud in the car. This is why I stay away from the american border.

  6. The rules sure seem to be tighten at the border. People with a crimes that pertain to the Book of Moral Turpitude have almost no chance of being admissible to the United States without a U.S. Entry Waiver. For more about U.S. Entry Waivers and the regulations surrounding them check out http://www.blog.pardons.ca. This is an excellent article that proves, when travelling to the United States, be prepared!

  7. All of the border agents I have ever dealt with are power hungry, self important people who get off on harassing people. You can cross the border with the best attitude and using "yes sir, no sir" and still get the third degree. I am a disabled US veteran, honorably discharged who served my country with "honor and distinction" and held very high security grades. I still am treated like some potential terrorist. I understand asking questions and looking for specific reactions but you would think that in this day and age when a U.S. Citizen tries to re-enter the U.S., holding a valid passport and drivers license with enhancement (border crossing document) that it could be a painless and efficient crossing. All this mony spent securing the borders and none to serve the people who live here! I am a U.S. citizen and I should be treated like one when I return home!!!

  8. A camera is equipped with an adjustable lense for a reason to see the object clearly which you are snapping which is why Canadians should look through their lenses to have a clear picture that you need to support your own economy not a country who is looking through the lenses in the reverse and only seeing blurred immages. The need to focus on the things that will repair their economy is absent. I have ran into a high number of US residents who wish they were living here. I totally understand that they have to do their jobs but many times I just have to smirk on the inside with their questions and conclusions on judging a character. Most Canadians do not need to go there as we can afford food and shelter and according to the tabulation we are a growing country and many want to come here. Spend your money at home believe me necessities are a lot cheaper here.

  9. US border officials denied me entrance to the USA. They searched my luggage. After coming to home, I did not my find my expensive watch. It was  a gift from my best friend for my wedding. These border officials are theives; man!

    • My iPod charger went missing. Not as valuable as your loss, but they still took it.

  10. Keep in mind one thing—-no matter what else, returning to the US from Canada, as long as you(an American citizen) have your proof of citizenship(passport), they are REQUIRED to let you back in.

  11. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. After my experience similar the the one in the recording I was totally floored by how disrespectful, pompous, and totally juvenile the agents were. Every single one of them that day at the Rainbow Bridge crossing. Phrases heard such as “where’s the second floor? It the one that says two.” What’s the matter, don’t you speak English?” “Are you stupid or something?” “Do you even have a job?” And my favourite, spoken to me in the interview room “what I should do is throw you in shackles and rough you up, then throw you in jail.”

    My crime? My car was a mess and I didn’t know what I would be buying at the outlet mall that day.

    • Stop going there and spend your money in your own country. Why take their abuse. Now a days all their stores are up here now so the difference in costs does not justify the travel and the agrivation.
      I used to enjoy travelling to Niagara Falls N.Y. and staying a couple days and going to restaurants and shopping at Tops Market on the way back but
      but it’s not worth while anymore , I travel now to other cities here in Canada who are more than happy to see me and take my money.

  12. Hey discussion – I loved the specifics ! Does someone know where my business would be able to acquire a template a form copy to use ?

Sign in to comment.