Know before you go, Customs and Border Protection offers tips for traveling across the border

28 May 2012

ST. JOHN VALLEY — Summer is one of the busiest international travel times in the U.S. and with the start of the travel season this Memorial Day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agriculture specialists throughout the northeast are proactively reminding travelers of some important tips.


With increasing passenger volumes in travel and tourism, CBP encourages travelers to be cognizant that while each officer is upholding the law and fulfilling their duty to protect America, travelers also serve a very important role in the process, and there are things returning U.S. citizens or residents, and international visitors can do to help speed their entry process.

CBP says first and foremost, travelers must have an approved travel document. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires U.S. and Canadian citizens age 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable travel document, such as a passport, a U.S. passport card, a trusted traveler card (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry or FAST/EXPRES), permanent resident card or an enhanced driver’s license that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea. U.S. and Canadian citizens under age 16 may present a birth certificate or alternative proof of citizenship when entering by land or sea. All travelers must have a valid passport book for international air travel.

Travel checklist:

Travelers need all the required travel documents for the country to be visited, as well as identification for re-entry to the United States. Visit for country-specific information.

Know the difference between prohibited merchandise (which is forbidden by law to enter the U.S.) and restricted merchandise (items needing special permit to be allowed into the U.S.). For more information, visit the Restricted/Prohibited section of the CBP website.

Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and/or firewood into the United States without first checking whether they are permitted. For more information, visit the Bringing Agricultural Products Into the United States section of the CBP website.

Build additional time into trips during busy travel seasons and understand that CBP must conduct a thorough inspection of the nearly one million travelers entering the country each day.

Understand that CBP officers can inspect you and your personal belongings without a warrant. This may include your luggage, vehicle, and personal searches and is meant to enforce our laws as well as protect legitimate travelers.

Monitor border wait times for various ports of entry. Travelers are encouraged to plan their trips during periods of lighter traffic or to use an alternate, less heavily traveled port of entry. For more information, travelers can find up-o-date wait time information on the CBP website.

Familiarize yourself with the “Know Before You Go” brochure or section of

CBP encourages frequent international travelers to become a member of a trusted traveler program. For more information, visit the Trusted Traveler section of the CBP website.

One of the easiest ways to speed crossing through a land border port is to obtain a radio frequency identification-enabled (RFID) travel document such as a U.S. passport card, border crossing card or permanent resident card issued after 2008, enhanced driver’s license/enhanced identification card or trusted traveler card. There are dedicated Ready Lanes at more than 20 land border crossing locations throughout the nation, specifically designated for travelers with RFID-enabled cards which expedite entry and make crossing at a land port of entry more efficient.

The NEXUS and SENTRI programs are also available for frequent border crossers to facilitate faster processing at land ports of entry. Pre-approved, low-risk travelers can use dedicated lanes to speed through land border crossings, saving time for travelers while freeing up officers to focus on those travelers who may pose more of a risk.

At U.S. airports, the fastest and easiest way to securely speed through CBP processing is to become a member of Global Entry. This trusted traveler program allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers the ability to bypass traditional CBP processing and to use self-service kiosks, located at 25 airports in the U.S. Travelers who use the Global Entry kiosks experience reduced average wait times of 70 percent versus travelers going through traditional passport inspection, and more than 75 percent of travelers using Global Entry are processed in under five minutes. The program is available to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, Mexican nationals, and Canadian citizens and residents through membership in the NEXUS program.

Additionally, citizens of the Netherlands may use the program under a special reciprocal arrangement that links Global Entry with the Dutch Privium program in Amsterdam.

CBP requires all nationals or citizens of the 36 Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries to have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding when traveling by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, and once approved, generally will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first. Authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the United States. CBP recommends ESTA applications be submitted as soon as an applicant begins making travel plans.

For citizens of VWP countries, CBP requires a completed Customs Declaration form (6059b) upon reaching CBP processing. Declare everything you are bringing from abroad, even if you bought it in a duty-free shop. Know that things bought abroad for personal use or as gifts may be eligible for duty exemptions. If you are bringing them back for resale, they are not.

For those traveling on a visa, CBP requires a completed I-94 form to be presented when approaching CBP processing.


Prohibited agricultural items from Canada

I find CBP and Dept of Agriculture websites very difficult to navigate to get the latest info on what is and what is not allowed in the USA. Today I stopped by the CBP in Fort Kent before going to Canada and they gave me a list of prohibited agricultural products from Canada. This list changes frequently so I usually call them to find out if the list I have is still applicable. For example, currently tomatoes, peppers, green onions, lamb, citrus fruits and apples, are among some of the items that will be confiscated if you attempt to bring them into the US.