At some time in your RV travels, you may want or need to cross an international border. The US border has by far the most stringent rules. Proper identification and passports are just only the beginning of the requirements or restrictions that you will face crossing or returning to the US.
Crossing a border in an RV seems to attract more attention than crossing in a smaller vehicle. Lynda and I have been subject to secondary searches several times. My guess is the border officers believe there are more hiding areas for contra ban.
On one occasion we were actually turned back into Canada because of firewood in a compartment of our motorhome.
Bringing Food into the US
The following are generally admissible if they are unopened and commercially packed. Many prepared foods that are unopened and commercially labeled are admissible (excluding meats and meat products).
You may bring bakery items and most cheeses into the United States. As a general rule, condiments, vinegar, oils, packaged spices, honey, maple syrup, coffee, fish, tea, and baby formula are admissible. Because rice can often harbor insects, it is best to avoid bringing it into the United States, particularly if it is in loose burlap packaging. Foods in packaging that appears unsafe or contaminated may be refused entry.
Bringing Fruits and Vegetables into the US
Canadian-grown fruits and vegetables grown during the typical Canadian growing season, May-October, are generally admissible if they are labeled identifying them as products of Canada. The best source for the current fruits and vegetable status on crops originating from Canada can be found on page 140 of the Animal and Plan Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website: You may also call APHIS at 301-851-2046 or toll-free at 877-770-5990.
Every fruit or vegetable must be declared to a CBP Agriculture Specialist or CBP Officer and must be presented for inspection – regardless of its admissibility status. Fresh fruits and vegetables need to be clean and may be prohibited if they have insects or diseases.
Bring Animal Products and Animal By-Products into the US
The importation of fresh, dried or canned meats or meat products is generally not allowed from most foreign countries into the United States. This includes products that have been prepared with meat. However, currently, pork and poultry, which has proof of origin, from Canada are allowed into the US. Not all ruminant material (products from cattle, sheep, antelope, deer, giraffes and their relatives) can enter however personal use amounts of bovine meat or foods containing bovine meat or meat products (e.g., beef, veal, bison) are allowed in passenger baggage and mail, no import permit or other documentation is required.
The regulations on importing meat and meat products change frequently because they are based on disease outbreaks in different areas of the world. The best source for the current disease status can be found starting on page 19 of the APHIS website: USDA APHIS.
Bringing Wild Game into the US
Meat products from wild game are subject not only to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulations but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
Bringing Food, Plants, and Animals Into Canada
Travelers are required, by Canadian law, to declare all plant, animal, and food items they bring into Canada. This includes items related to plants, animals, and food, or their by-products.
If you bring these products into Canada, you may go through further inspections at the point of entry (that is, border crossings, airports). Be prepared for delays if further inspection is required.
Restrictions on what food items you are allowed to bring into Canada vary, depending on the product. Some restrictions also vary based on the province. Because pest and disease situations are constantly changing, these requirements may be adjusted at any time.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for determining customs and duties for items coming into Canada.
There are many regulations as to what you may or may not bring into Canada please visit this website for more information, http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/information-for-consumers/travellers/what-can-i-bring-into-canada-/eng/1389648337546/1389648516990#a1.
If you travel with a pet you may need to produce medical and vaccination records of your little darling. Also, be aware that many states and provinces have restrictions on certain breeds and you will be denied entry.
Canada and Mexico have strict gun and ammunition laws. Firearms are not permitted in these two countries, without special permits. Pellet guns and air rifles also may be restricted according to the velocity of the projectile
The Last Word
Lynda and I have been to a secondary search many times while traveling into the US from Canada. We have been ordered to dispose of fruit, vegetables, dog food, and many other food items.
Here are a few guidelines we use when crossing the Canada/US border.
We take precautions not to bring any perishables (vegetables and fruit) across the border from Canada to the US, and only enough dog food for our first night. Most cooked foods seem to be acceptable, except for meat products.
Acceptable products change constantly depending on the occurrence of livestock diseases in one country or another.
On trips south my theory on border crossing was that the bigger and busier the crossing the easier it would be to get through without a hassle. I quickly learned the opposite was true. We used busy border crossings several times with our motorhome and every time we were pulled over for a secondary search.
One time, in particular, we were subject to a full search and our poor little dog, Buddy, was imprisoned and Lynda and I were banished to an interview area to wait while our RV was searched.
We have found that crossing the Canada-US border at a less busy border crossing is easier and much less hassle. Since we reverted to an out of the way less busy crossing we have not been subject to a search and only routine questions. Although if you are towing a trailer jot down the license number, the officer always asks what the plate number is.
Returning home to Canada has never been a problem. The only questions are concerning the dollar value of goods purchased in the US and the amount of liquor and tobacco products. The questions, however, change often.
Check out my new ebook on travel preparations.
"The Snowbirds Guide"
Lynda and I have created extensive travel list to help with your preparations.
From Conception to Destination. Not Just for Snowbirds
I hope this article is of some use to you when crossing the US/Canada border.
Thanks for visiting.