BY ROAD ENTRY INTO CANADA
Entering Canada from Buffalo
One of the main routes for new immigrants headed towards Ontario, from the US, via Toronto, is to use the Buffalo border, across the Niagara front. There are four (4) bridges to cross between the US & Canada, via Niagara.
1. The Peace Bridge. This is the Buffalo-Fort Erie crossing.
2. The Rainbow Bridge. This is the Niagara Falls crossing. The main bridge & one of the busiest crossings, mostly used by tourists... better avoided by new immigrants.
3. The Whirlpool Bridge. A bit further north is the "Whirlpool Bridge" - somewhat hidden from the public and used almost exclusively by local residents and commuters. It is usually necessary to have a pre-obtained "pass" to use this bridge as the inspection process is streamlined. Generally one should not attempt to use this bridge.
4. The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. Much further north, well outside Niagara Falls is the “Lewiston-Queenston Bridge”, an excellent route to take for “landing” into Canada - via Buffalo.
Using the Buffalo International Airport
Located in Buffalo, New York, USA, just under 30 mins from the Canada / US border, the Buffalo Airport (officially, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, airport code BUF), is 90 miles (144 Kms) from Toronto. Which is 1hr 45mins by car.
The Buffalo Airport is an excellent choice for our ‘by road' commute to Canada. ‘Coz there are many options available here.
1. Limousines, Bus and Shuttle Services:
Numerous companies offer transportation to and from nearby cities including Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara Falls. Many of these companies also offer tours of the Niagara Wine Region.
2. Niagara Airbus Service:
The Airbus service offers limousine, shuttle and bus service between the Buffalo Airport, Niagara Falls, and Toronto. For tourists the company has many tour packages, including city highlights and hotel/airport transportation.
3. Buffalo Airport Taxi:
The Airport Taxi service offers hourly shuttle service between the Buffalo Airport and Niagara Falls-Canada. It also has hotel packages for US$50-70, at Niagara-Canada. Children under 6 go free. This is a cheap way of crossing-over, enjoy the Niagara & then take a separate commute to Toronto.
4. Rental Cars:
Renting a car in Buffalo and driving to Canada has many advantages. The drive from Buffalo Airport to Niagara Falls is about 30mins and to Toronto about 1hr 45mins. The drive between Buffalo and Toronto is an easy one by highway and is an awesome scenic route too.
Renting a Car at Buffalo to enter Canada
Driving a rented car is a safe-bet for “landing” from the US into Canada. We have heard many horror stories of driving one's own, didn't we?
There are two (2) options for doing that:
1. Rent a car with *International Drop-Off. –if u don't plan to return to the US
2. Standard Rentals. –Using the car for few days in Canada & bring-it back to the Buffalo Rental Office
Actually, the total costs for both options are fairly close. Only problem with option #2 is when you have any auto problem or accident in Toronto, you will have difficulties explaining why you are driving the Buffalo rental car over in Canada. Also, while driving in Toronto, if you un-intentionally drove into the Toll Highway (Highway 407)... even if you noticed it imdtly upon entry, u'd have no choice but to take the first subsequent exit... and few months later u'd receive an invoice from the Toronto department of the car rental company for toll road charge. The actual toll fee maybe around $1.25, but the toll charge handling fee would be around $25. So beware.
*The majority of car rental companies will allow you to take a car rental into Canada, provided you are bringing it back. For “international drop-off” – I'm not sure of others, but Enterprise, Hertz & National are known to offer this service.
Buffalo Airport has 7 rental car companies on-site. Off course these have their offices at downtown too.
You must have a valid US D/license, Rental Agreement & Liability Protection cover, for driving into Canada.
GENERAL ADVISORY - Entering Canada
1. Travellers with Criminal Convictions, Including Impaired Driving
People with criminal convictions, including impaired driving convictions may have a problem when entering Canada, but it is at the discretion of the BSO whether to allow you into the country or pull you in for secondary inspection.
If you are pulled into the secondary inspection they will look into the matter and determine whether to let you continue on or turn you around. The more documentation and information you have to provide them the better (court documents, etc.). Generally speaking, although DUI or DWI offences are very serious crimes in Canada, they often will let you by if they can verify all your information and the conviction is not recent.
2. Be sure to STOP your vehicle where instructed by signs.
If the sign says remain at a certain spot until motioned to move up, don't disregard this. Examiners have computers and often enter your vehicle license plate number into it BEFORE you are motioned to the examiner's booth. Bridge tolls are collected on the Canadian side of the bridges only.
3. Have seat belts engaged.
Ontario requires seat belt use when motoring. There are frequent "blitz enforcement periods." Fines can be stiff and a stop can open you up to a probe for other violations. Why give the examiner at the booth an immediate reason to frown?
4. For the vehicle DRIVER.
a) Keep ready your driver's license and registration. If you are driving a rental car, check with the rental company that you are covered by insurance in Canada and that you have in the car adequate documentation for the vehicle.
b) Auto insurance certificate showing you have “liability insurance”. Before entering Canada be sure your auto insurer provides Canadian coverage. If you get in an accident you will be required to prove you have Canadian coverage. Best to ask your insurance carrier to provide you with a supplementary card that states you have Canadian coverage. Don't enter without liability coverage for your vehicle.
5. The Questions & Answers.
These are the "most frequently asked questions" at Canadian Customs. If the questions you are asked stray much from this, the examiner may be suspicious of something. Each person in the vehicle is usually expected to answer at least one question. You may not be asked all of these questions.
-Where were you born? Citizen of what country? Where do you live? (city/state)
-Where are you going? How long will stay?
-What is the purpose of your visit?
-What do you have to declare? What are you bringing into Canada?
Don't joke, don't stall, don't act up in any way (but speak up clearly)... and don't lie. The examiner wants to move you through within seconds... don't give a cause for a delay.
6. Don't Bring.
a) Anything that's not declared vide the Form B4 (Goods Accompanying & Goods To Follow). Items not declared may be seized. This could also include extensive amounts of expensive, professional, photo or electronic gear.
b) Guns or weapons. You will be denied admission.
c) Illegal Drugs. If you have "prescription drugs" in a purse etc. be sure they are well labelled with documentation (doctor's prescription).
d) More than 20 packs of cigarettes or tobacco products. If you have more than a couple day's personal supplies you may have to explain.
e) Don't bring alcoholic beverages at all. Don't even leave a "six-pack" in your vehicle trunk.
f) "Radar detectors." They are illegal to be fitted in a vehicle in Ontario.
*If you find at the last minute that you have something that could be a problem in your vehicle, better to honestly declare it.
SPECIAL ADVISORY - Those Convicted of DWI In The USA:
Canadian authorities are reported to be refusing admission to drivers with a DWI conviction in the USA. Such records are immediately available on Canada Immigration computers and may show convictions as far back as 20 years ago.
Those with such convictions may be able to get a waiver for up to 30 days visitation upon payment of a $200 (Canadian) fee. A single DWI conviction may be permanently expunged from the Canadian computers for payment of $400 (Canadian). Canadian officials are reported justifying the fees because they feel DWI is a serious crime and it is a way of keeping "undesirables" out of Canada. The law, which has been in effect since 1978, has not been evenly or consistently enforced. However, reports indicate more and more drivers with USA DWI conviction records are being refused admission to Canada without paying extra fees.
GENERAL ADVISORY - Entering The USA
If you are returning from Canada from the US you can expect things to go very quickly, faster in fact, than when you were entering Canada.
For dogs and cats you must have a valid veterinary's certificate of rabies vaccination. Exceptions may be made for "performing" animals or "seeing eye" dogs.
2. Questions & Answers:
For those returning to the US there are some variations to expect...
-How long were you in Canada?
-What are you bringing back?
Often these are the only two questions that are asked. Because of the computer data base keyed to your vehicle license plate, the examiner may well know how long you were in Canada etc.
3. Duties, Restrictions, Obligations:
If you are bringing or taking $10,000, or more, in cash or negotiable instruments through the US border you must declare it. There is no tax, but Uncle Sam wants to know. Fail to declare, and those assets, if discovered, will be seized - no matter how innocent an explanation you have.
4. Re-Entry To US Within 48 Hours Of Leaving:
Goods purchased must be for personal or household use. Exemption is individual and cannot be grouped with other family members. Goods free of duty up to the value of $200 in U.S. funds. Also, ten cigars, 50 cigarettes and four fluid ounces of alcohol or perfume containing alcohol, may be included. Cuban tobacco of any kind is prohibited into the United States regardless of where it was purchased. If limits are exceeded you are subject to duty and taxes.
5. Re-Entry To US After 48 Hours or More:
Every 30 days, you may bring in goods free of duty up to the value of $400 in U.S. funds. Family members may make a joint declaration and combine their personal exemptions even if the articles acquired by one member of the family exceeds the person exemption allowed (Family members must live in the same household and return together to the United States. Your exemption is not cumulative. If you use any portion of your exemption on entering the U.S., you must wait 30 days before you are entitled to another exemption (other than the $200 exemption for within 48 hours detailed above). If you go over the exemptions you are subject to duty and taxes.
SPECIAL SECURITY UPDATE
1. Expect delays at all border crossings due to increased security.
It is recommended that drivers follow extreme caution, especially in regard to giving straight, no-nonsense answers at the borders. Those heading into Canada may get radio updates in their cars, within about 10 miles of Niagara Falls, by tuning to the special FM station at 105.1 MHz (cluttered however, with much Casino Niagara and other advertising material).
Information is also available (constantly updated) by calling the Rainbow and Lewiston-Queenston bridges special info line at 285-6322/Ext 1500.
2. US closing border to part-time foreign students.
International students, including those from Canada who have been attending college part-time at Niagara University and other Niagara Frontier higher education institutions will no longer be permitted to do so. This major change in policy was made effective May 22nd 2002, by United States Customs/Immigration.
The Lockport Home Page was told Friday, 5/24, that those students who are already under contract to attend summer sessions at Niagara University and other colleges will be permitted to complete the summer courses however they will need proof of enrollment and will need to stop at Customs/Immigration each day they enter the US and fill out a form. Once their class has concluded for the summer future entry to the US to take additional courses part-time will be denied.
Full-time international students will continue to be admitted, sources told the Lockport Page, but under stricter controls and monitoring. Students have been advised not to "tell stories" at the border, such as they are going shopping. If found out (and with computer checks this is likely) they will be banned from entering the country for a sizable time period.
3. Surveillance cameras going up along Niagara River.
The US Border Patrol has installed four (4) low-light cameras, spaced at even intervals along the Niagara River between the city of Niagara Falls (atop Wrobel Towers' subsidized apartments) and Fort Niagara. The remote-controlled, PTZ cameras are high enough above the Niagara Gorge to provide several miles of observational territory.
Their purpose is to spot illegal border crossings and to save the cost of border patrol agents staking out long stretches of the US-Canadian border along the Niagara River. The cameras feed video to remote transmitters which send the signal back to a central control room, where one Border Patrol Agent observes over ten miles of the border, 24-7.
When an illegal is spotted making a border crossing, the control operator dispatches a Ground Unit to make the intercept. In addition to the spots in Niagara Falls and Fort Niagara, other cameras are also located on private properties, at a site off Lower River Road in the Town of Lewiston and at "The Ledges" a heavily treed area about a half mile north of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.