International Visitors

Here is an overview of key immigration, customs, and local practices issues.

When entering either Canada or the USA

You must have proof of citizenship, in the form of a birth certificate (with photo ID like drivers licence), voters registration card, passport, visa, or alien registration card.

Citizens and residents of some countries (other than Canadians or Americans) may require a visa before entering. Enquire with the Canadian or US embassy in your country of departure. See a complete list of Canadian embassies and consulates around the world.

Keep in mind that in the post-9/11 climate, the citizens of many countries (including most western Europeans ones) must for the first time get travel visas prior to their arrival in the US. Information about US diplomatic offices in Canada.

Plan ahead if you want to take some side-rips into the US at places like Point Roberts (by Vancouver), Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, or would like to shortcut through Maine between New Brunswick and Montreal.

Crossing the Border with Children

If both parents are travelling with the children, then only birth certificates are ok. children do not need photo ID. If only one of the birth parents is travelling with the children, then you’ll also need a letter from the other parent authorizing you to leave the country with the children.

Entering Canada:

The following items are prohibited by law in Canada:

  • Importing or using marijuana or narcotics
  • Handguns, assault weapons, mace, pepper spray, switchblades, fireworks
  • Firewood, apples, apricots, potatoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, fresh corn

Also keep in mind that:

  • Having a prior drinking and driving conviction may prevent your entry into Canada
  • Cyclists and motorcyclists must have a helmet.

Canadians Returning to Canada

After an absence of 24 hours or more

You can claim goods (except tobacco & alcohol) with a total value of $50. If you are over, you must pay duty on the full amount, and cannot claim this exemption.

After an absence of 48 hours or more:

  • You can claim goods for a total value of $200. Only the portion over this limit is dutiable.

After an absence of 7 days or more

  • You can claim an exemption for $500.
  • Only the portion over this limit is dutiable.

For more information, check out Canada Customs or Canadian Foreign Affairs web sites:
Canada Border Services Agency and
Global Affairs Canada

Entering the USA

If driving into the US, you will be greeted at the border by US Cutoms. If yoi are traveling by boat,
United States Customs & Immigration is in major inland and coastal harbours.
If you are flying into the US from a Canadian airport, the United States Customs & Immigration
has pre-clearing stations in major Canadian airports to enable immigration and customs formalities to
be completed before the commencement of your trip.

Canadians who have a criminal record are not allowed into the USA, under its zero-tolerance policy.

American Residents returning to USA

After an absence under 48 hours

  • May bring back merchandise for their use up to $200 (subject to limitations on liquors, cigarettes & cigars).
  • If any part of this exemption is exceeded, the entire amount is subject to duty.

After 48 hours

  • A $400 exemption per person is applicable, which may be grouped with other family members.
  • Only the portion over $400 is dutiable.

For more information check out the US Customs & Border Protection website.

Other Customs


Some visitors may come from countries which do not have a tradition of tipping. Tips provide staff a gratuity for good or excellent service. “Tips” comes from the phrase “To Insure Prompt Service“. Keep in mind that in many service industries the workers are paid a low base wage and rel;y on these tips for a significant part of their income.

Some hotels include tips or gratuities with group programs to simplify bookkeeping. This will usually include gratuities for housekeeping, bell service and food service. In a hotel, bell service should be tipped about $1 per bag, and housekeeping $1 to $5 dollars a day (in proportion to your room rate). Tip a similar proportion for taxis, or at least round fares up to the next dollar.

Visitors should know that the standard tip in restaurants is 10%-15%, with 20% for very outstanding service (a good rule of thumb is double the GST or match the HST where it exists),and 30% is not uncommon for “hero” status service. Some restaurants will automatically add 15% to the bill for larger groups (watch that you do not accidentally tip on top of the tip!).