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Black Friday | Travel tips for cross-border shoppers

Border agents on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border are encouraging people to be prepared and understand policy and procedure before cross-border shopping on Black Friday.
Canadians are eligible to bring back goods tax and duty free. (File Photo)

Border agents on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border are encouraging people to be prepared and understand policy and procedure before cross-border shopping on Black Friday.

The Canada Border Service Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection earlier this week each issued media releases outlining travel tips.

“We are anticipating heavy holiday traffic starting Thursday” U.S. Customs and Border Protection director of field operations Christopher Perry said in a media release.  “During these high volume traffic periods, it is important to have your documents ready in order to save time.”

When heading into the U.S., travellers must provide one of the following:

  • A Passport.
  • A U.S. Passport Card.
  • A trusted traveller card, such as NEXUS, Global Entry, SENTRI or FAST cards.
  • A permanent resident card.
  • An Enhanced Drivers License.
  • Children under the age of 16 can present an original or copy of their birth certificate.

The days surrounding the U.S. Thanksgiving is the busiest travel period of the year, so travellers should expect heavy traffic and border delays.

Some tips to avoid being held up while heading into the U.S. include:

Have crossing documents available for inspection and prepared to declare all items acquired abroad.

Know the difference between goods for personal use vs. commercial use.

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.

Plan to build extra time into trips when crossing during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic like holiday weekends.

CBSA travel tips

Meanwhile, the CBSA has tips for returning to Canada.

Be prepared to declare all purchases. Failure to report all goods may lead to penalty action up to and including seizure of the goods. Smuggling, undervaluation and other Customs Act contraventions may also lead to charges.

People should keep all receipts readily available, totalled and categorized by the items purchased. That could include groceries, electronics, children’s clothing, adult clothing, toys, etc. when presenting them to the officer inside the office.

Certain goods are prohibited from entering Canada, including some food, plant and animal products. People should be aware of which goods are prohibited

Shoppers should know they can come home with only one turkey from the United States, duty free and without additional import requirements. Additional turkeys are subject to very high duties that will more than double the cost of the turkey.

Those travelling with a larger group of shoppers, or on a shopping bus, should be patient. Border services officers must process each shopper individually.

Duty free allotment

Canadians are eligible to bring back goods tax and duty free.

Anyone away from Canada for less than 24 hours is not eligible for exemptions. Anyone away for 24-47 hours can bring back $200 duty free, but alcohol and tobacco are not included. Anyone away for 48 hours or more can return with $800 duty free, including alcohol and tobacco.

Both agencies encourage travellers to use less travelled border crossing during times of heavy traffic. Travellers are also encouraged to check border wait times online.

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