U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds travelers planning cross border trips to make sure they have approved travel documents and offers tips to make an easier entry process when traveling back into the U.S. from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. The CBP said it expects traffic volumes at ports of entry in the Washington State area to be heavier during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), implemented on June 1, 2009 requires U.S. and Canadian citizens, age 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable travel document that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea.
CBP strongly encourages travelers to obtain a radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled travel document such as a U.S. Passport Card, Enhanced Driver’s License/Enhanced Identification Card or Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST/EXPRES) to expedite their entry and make crossing the border more efficient.
WHTI-compliant, RFID-enabled documents help reduce the time it takes to process travelers at the border. No personal identification information is stored on the RFID chip embedded in the cards – only a series of ones and zeros that points to information in a secure CBP database.
WHTI document requirements for air travel have been in effect since January 2007. Almost all travelers flying back to the United States need to present a passport or NEXUS card.
WHTI is the joint Department of State-Department of Homeland Security plan that implemented a key 9/11 Commission recommendation to establish document requirements for travelers entering the United States who were previously exempt, including citizens of the U.S., Canada and Bermuda.
CBP also reminds U.S. lawful permanent residents that the I-551 form (green card) is acceptable for land and sea travel into the U.S.
Tip #1 – Travelers should familiarize themselves with the “Know Before You Go” section of the CBP website (http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg) to avoid fines and penalties associated with the importation of prohibited items.
Tip #2 – Travelers should prepare for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth. Individuals should have their approved travel documents available for the inspection and they should be prepared to declare all items acquired abroad.
Tip #3 – Members of the traveling public should consult the CBP website site to monitor border wait times for various ports of entry. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use/short waits. During periods of heavy travel, border crossers may wish to consider alternative, less heavily traveled entry routes.
Tip #4 – Travelers should plan to build extra time into their trips in the event they cross during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic.
Tip #5 – Know the difference between goods for personal use vs. commercial use. For more details, visit www.cbp.gov/travel.
Tip #6 –Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and firewood into the United States from Canada without first checking whether they are permitted.
Tip # 7 – 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 U.S. from Canada.
The United States has been and continues to be a welcoming nation, the CBP says. U.S. Customs and Border Protection not only protects U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents in the country but also wants to ensure the safety of our international travelers who come to visit, study and conduct legitimate business in our country.
The CBP’s dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals and contraband.