Every summer from 2002-2007, I taught summer school at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. That took three weeks. Each year after my teaching stint was done, I used hire a car and head into the US – sometimes heading west to east, more often heading down the coast through Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix. Theresa May has been suggesting that the post-Brexit border here might look a bit like the Canada-US border, so I’ve been trying to remember what my experience was.
The truth is, I can remember only in a general way. I do recall Canadian friends warning me that it could take quite a while, and my wife has just confirmed the general memory I have that it took an hour to get through if you were lucky, and as much at three hours if you weren’t lucky.
But all that was some years and more ago, so I’ve checked online for people’s account of making the border crossing.
If you want a detailed account of what will be checked (and a good laugh), try https://www.themilepost.com/articles/crossing-the-border/
For a more lay person’s view of what it’s like and how long it’ll take, try this:
““Basically, you will drive up to the border crossing. The border guard will greet you and and ask for your travel documents. Since you are driving, this can be your passport or proof of citizenship (birth certificate) and government issued photo ID (drivers license). They will usually check this in the computer to ensure you arent on any kind of list to be stopped from entry.
A tip: a passport is the best document. If it is lost it is much easier to be replaced than a birth certificate…and you dont want to be waiting in Canada for that document, as much as we enjoy having you. 😉
If you have any electronic equipment or items you would like on record that you have with you now, let the guard know. There will be a form to fill out. This helps for when you come back, and you dont have to “prove” you didnt buy the item in Canada to pay duty on it.
The officer will ask the purpose of your visit. This is to ensure you arent planning on staying longer than what is legally allowed. It also gives the guard a “feeling” for if you are hiding something to prompt them for more questions. (eg if you are figitting, wont look them in the eye etc) You may also be asked about how much money you are bringing, the address of where you are going in Canada etc.
Sometimes, either a random check or based on your answers will prompt a complete search of your vehicle. That is a pain. It can be just taking apart your luggage…or from the wheels down. I’ve traveled many times and never had that, but I know people who have. “
Of course, I’ve no way of knowing if this person is lying. They may be. Then again, why should they? And it does ring true, I think.
But it doesn’t mention how long you might be held up. Let’s try for that. Here’s a guy writing in 2014.
“The actual border inspection rarely takes more than a few minutes if you are a US or Canadian citizen and don’t look particularly suspicious. The wait to get to the inspection booth can be anywhere from zero to several hours depending on the traffic, which can be hard to predict. For example, if the Canadian dollar is strong compared to the USD, there’s lots of shopping traffic, if not there isn’t.
The wait times at the three bridges can be very different, so if you have a smartphone, it’s always worth checking to see which one to use. Border Wait Times
If you cross frequently, get a NEXUS card and use the Whirlpool bridge where the wait is usually zero and never more than a few minutes.”
So what can we conclude? That it’s hard to say how long it’ll take. It might take just a few minutes or it might take several hours. So our memory of it taking around an hour was perhaps average. And remember, we were just a private car. Not a truck with goods on board.
One thing is sure: a hard border, even when things go smoothly, slows you down. So do we want a Canada-US-type border? No thanks, Theresa.