Customs officials offer tips traveling, shopping across the border

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 24, 2011, at 1:19 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Sharon Lewis of Presque Isle started her Christmas shopping in October, a custom that she formulated ten years ago. She spends most of her money locally but takes at least one trip to Woodstock, New Brunswick every year.

“I really don’t like crossing the border now because of all of the regulations,” she said on Tuesday. “But my mother loves this certain jewelry from a nice little shop over there, so I always try to get her something from that store for Christmas.”

Officials with Customs and Border Protection are preparing for an influx of travelers this year by providing guidance for those intending to travel between the U.S. and Canada for the upcoming holiday season. The tips are designed to ease the crossing process for travelers as CBP officers and agriculture specialists maintain their principal anti-terror mission.

Michelle Levesque, also of Presque Isle, who crosses the border “frequently” over the holiday season, knows the importance of being prepared for the crossing.

“My husband’s parents live in Fredericton, and we go over there two or three times each December to celebrate,” she said. “Our daughter has a birthday in mid-December and she likes to go see her grandparents, and we always have Christmas dinner over there as well.”

Levesque said she and her husband are “very aware” of the regulations for crossing the border now, but she knows that a lot of people don’t know the new rules that have gone into effect since 9/11.

“Things are different now,” she said. “When my husband and I first got married, you stopped your car at the border for half a second and they waved you through with hardly a question. Now, you see people all of the time getting pulled over for secondary inspection. It is a whole new world.”

Customs and Border Protection urges travelers to have their documents, such as a valid passport, passport card or other acceptable document, ready when they get to the port of entry. Vehicle occupants are encouraged to end all cellphone conversations before approaching the port.

Specific information about acceptable documentation can be found by visiting the WHTI website at http://www.getyouhome.gov.

Each vehicle and its contents are subject to search at the port. To avoid fines and penalties, returning residents must remember to declare everything purchased or acquired outside of the United States. Those visiting the U.S. must declare any article to be left in the states.

Prepared foods for personal consumption or for family-friend gatherings is permitted. If bringing food items for resale or for commercial holiday parties, people should contact the local CBP office or go to www.fda.gov for more information.

People who plan to cross the border with fresh meats, fruits or vegetables and are unsure whether they are allowed into the United States, also should check with a local CBP office before arrival. To locate the nearest CBP office, visit the CBP website: www.cbp.gov.

Personal importation of trees or wreaths may require agricultural documentation, and all firewood entering the U.S. must have been properly treated.

Travelers crossing the border with pets must have certain paperwork in order to get them into the country. Cats and dogs must be free of disease and illness when entering the U.S. Dog owners must be able to show proof of rabies vaccination. If crossing with a puppy for Christmas, certain paperwork will need to be completed at the border for the new addition to the family.

Travelers also must declare all medications at the border. All valid nonexpired prescription medications must be in the original prescription containers with all pertinent information listed on the outside. Narcotics and dangerous drugs are prohibited at entry.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/11/24/business/customs-officials-offer-tips-for-holiday-travelers/ printed on November 27, 2014