CBSA's Advice Ahead of Summer Holiday Weekend Surge in Border Crossings

Canada and US Flags at the border

School's (nearly) out and that means an exodus for the summer holidays, with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) offering some reminders before crossing the border this Canada Day / Independence Day long weekend.

The CBSA says it does plan ahead for peak periods like long weekends and summer months in general - and so should travellers.

According to the agency, it monitors traveller volumes and works to minimize border wait times at ports of entry, including international airports, land crossings and marine ports of entry - but it has to do so without compromising safety and security.

Which means travellers should come prepared for wait times if necessary, and to be able to show compliance with border crossing rules.

The CBSA recommends:

Plan ahead and check the CBSA's border wait times web page. Travellers crossing the border by land are encouraged to cross during non-peak hours such as early morning. The Monday of holiday long weekends tend to be the busiest, with longer border wait times – pick another day to cross the border if possible.

To verify a port of entry’s hours of operation, check the official CBSA Directory of Offices and Services. And, if you are using a GPS application (such as Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Waze) to direct you to a port of entry, consider checking different navigation options (such as fastest and shortest routes) to determine the preferred route of travel.

Save time with Advance Declaration. Travellers arriving at the Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg, Halifax, Québec City, Ottawa, Billy Bishop, Calgary and Edmonton international airports can make customs and immigration declaration to the CBSA prior to their arrival using Advance Declaration. Travellers who use this option have access to express lanes to get to an airport kiosk or eGate faster.

Have travel documents handy. Whether travelling by land, air or water, travellers can help speed things up by coming prepared with travel documents.

When travelling with children, it is recommended that the accompanying adult have a consent letter authorizing them to travel with the child if they share custody or are not the parent or legal guardian. Border services officers are always watching for missing children, and in the absence of the letter, officers may ask additional questions.

Know personal exemption limits. Returning residents who make purchases or pick up online purchases outside of Canada should be aware of their personal exemption limits. Use the CBSA duty and taxes estimator to help calculate any money owed.

Cannabis: Don’t bring it in. Don’t take it out. Bringing cannabis across the border in any form, including oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), without a permit or exemption authorized by Health Canada is a serious criminal offence subject to arrest and prosecution, despite the legalization of cannabis in Canada. A medical prescription from a doctor does not count as Health Canada authorization.

Be prepared to declare. All travellers must declare their goods upon entry into Canada. For returning residents, have your receipts readily available for goods purchased or received while outside of Canada. Travellers are encouraged not to travel with firearms, but if they choose to do so, they should be sure to check the CBSA website for the rules on importing firearms and other restricted and prohibited goods.                              

That includes fireworks. The rules for importing or exporting fireworks clarify which are authorized.

Boaters planning to travel in or near Canadian waters, or enter Canada by boat should review Reporting requirements for private boaters before making travel plans. All travellers entering Canada by boat must report to the CBSA without delay.

Declare any foods, plants, or animals. Consult the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website before bringing any food, plant, and animal products into Canada.

Including poultry products or by-products. Currently, conditions and restrictions may apply for some live birds, bird products and by-products imported from U.S. states affected by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. Updates are ongoing, with the latest Information for travellers: Restrictions on poultry and birds from the United States available to check before bringing these products into Canada. Be prepared to prove the origin of any poultry product at the border.

When in doubt, ask a border services officer. The best thing you can do to save time is to be open and honest with the CBSA officer. If unsure about what to declare, the CBSA urges travellers to ask.

For more information, visit the CBSA Web site or call the agency at 1-800-461-9999.

Lynn Elmhirst


With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

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