On October 8, 2009, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminded those planning international trips to have their approved travel documents ready and to anticipate heavy traffic during the upcoming holiday season.

According to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative ("WHTI"), implemented on June 1, 2009, any American or Canadian citizen, aged 16 or older, must present a valid, acceptable travel document that establishes both identity and citizenship when entering the United States by land or sea. WHTI-compliant documents include the following:

  • Passport.
  • U.S. passport card.
  • Enhanced driver's license (EDL)—now produced by the states of New York, Michigan, Vermont and Washington; as well as the Provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.
  • Trusted Traveler Program card (e.g., NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST).
  • Form I-551 "Green Card".

CBP also recommends adhering to the following guidelines when crossing the U.S./Canadian border:

  • Familiarize yourself with the "Know Before You Go" section of the CBP website (which also can be found as a brochure at border ports) to avoid fines and penalties associated with the importation of prohibited items.
  • Prepare for the inspection process by having all border crossing documents ready for inspection, being prepared to declare all items acquired abroad and ending all cellular phone conversations before arriving at the inspection booth.
  • Consult the CBP website to monitor border wait times for various ports of entry including Blaine and Sumas, Washington; Sweetgrass, Montana; and Pembina, North Dakota. CBP updates this information hourly and it can be useful for identifying periods of light use/short waits.
  • Consider alternate, less heavily traveled entry routes during periods of heavy traffic. •Build extra time into your trip if you plan to border cross during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic (i.e., Thanksgiving holiday and adjacent weekends). •Know the difference between goods for personal versus commercial use.
  • Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products or firewood into the United States from Canada without first checking permissibility.
  • 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 United States. from Canada.

We remind all foreign nationals holding temporary work visas that the holidays are peak times for nonimmigrant visa applications—which is compounded by the fact that many U.S. Embassies and Consulates also will be short staffed during this period. Those intending to travel should ensure that they have a valid nonimmigrant visa in their passport and, if not, that they make arrangements to obtain one prior to returning to the United States.