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Old 07-04-2013, 09:04 AM
1,915 posts, read 4,603,555 times
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I recently traveled to Canada for a day trip from Michigan and encountered some "interesting" questions from the US customs official upon re-entry to US. This was a day trip, leaving US at 9 am and returning at 9 pm. Going to Canada was easy, only got asked about citizenship and purpose of the trip. However, on the return trip, it was a grilling and we were asked questions that I have never encountered in all my trips to and from Canada.

The US customs official started by asking about citizenship and where we lived. He checked the documents (passports). Then it proceeded to ask: "what is the relationship" of the people in the car (there were 3 of us: a married a couple and a friend (me)). The driver answered politely that he and his wife were in the car along with a friend (me).

Then he asked if we had purchased anything in Canada (we had not), and then he asked the driver (surprisingly): "is this your car?" What? The driver answered yes. Then the official wanted to know who the car was registered to.....I didn't know that customs officials could ask about car registrations, plus he likely had all that info right in his computer! Anyway, the driver answered that it was registered in his and his wife's names.

Then the customs official asked to look in the trunk. So the driver popped the trunk open, and he rummaged around our picnic food remnants. He asked if all the food was purchased in the US prior to the trip (we said yes, since it was). All he had to do was look at the brands of food we had packed, such as peanut butter, bread, etc, (all Trader Joe's, which is not in Canada). There were no fresh fruits or vegetables other than a few bananas (not on any restricted list).

We left the situation feeling that the questions about the car registration were "over the top" and I'm wondering if customs can ask about car registrations at the border. Don't they have DMV info in the computer when the car license is photographed on your way to the customs booth? Never had that question before.
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Old 07-04-2013, 09:37 AM
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They most certainly can ask questions like that, and no, they don't necessarily have access to registration info in their kiosk computers. Those are actually pretty standard questions.

If that. Others you, please don't ever travel to Israel.
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Old 07-04-2013, 10:03 AM
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Was that the Sault Ste Marie border?
We had a real hard time there last summer, for some reason the guy in the kiosk didnt like me,he said drive to gate 8,we were escorted on one side of the car with a guy in camouflage with a big gun and a guy on the other-side ready to use a spike strip the kids were crying and were wondering if we were going to be shot, after an hour of grilling basically wanting to know every aspect of our lives they finally let us continue on our journey.
Basically border guards have unlimited power they can ask or do anything they please, most times it goes smoothly but be aware you are at their mercy...
A video i like to post in this type of topic showing just how fast it can all go to h ell
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Old 07-04-2013, 10:25 AM
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In happens on BOTH sides of the border. I spent ten minutes at a border crossing in Manitoba with no less than a dozen questions as to whether I was carrying firearms of any kind.

90% of the people who have trouble at border crossings are those who develop an attitude.
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Old 07-04-2013, 10:42 AM
Location: Island of Misfit Toys
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^^While that can be true, I'd bet it's 90% the other way. I think it's more likely an agent with an attitude, bad day, or a superiority complex.
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Old 07-04-2013, 11:06 AM
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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As a Canadian, who spent five years as a Owner/Operator, for a expedite freight company, based in Ontario, I crossed the border at least two or three times every week, with commercial shipments, so I dealt with US Customs AND Immigration, all the time.

This was in the years from 1999 to 2003. So before 9/11. That is a very important point here.

I had served in the Canadian Forces for 30 years, 1966 to 1996, as a military Police investigator, so I was very used to doing things "the right way " and being 100 percent in compliance with all the regulations that applied to me. I knew my rights and what could and could not be done, at the border, in both directions.

Having said all that, 98 percent of the time, I was treated properly and fairly by US inspectors, as a commercial driver, entering the US with a commercial load. On a few occasions, I ran into a US agent who was more nasty than the situation required him/her to be. I kept my mouth shut, but also made note of his name and badge number, and AFTER I had been cleared, and told that I was "free to go " I asked to speak to the Supervisor in charge of the shift at that post. I then told the Supervisor exactly what the agent had said, and done, and I stated that I wanted to make a written complaint, right there.

In every case, I was allowed to write out my complaint, which was forwarded to the area Supervisor, and usually within 15 working days, I received a written reply, through the mail, to my home address in Toronto. In every case, the agent was reprimanded, and had a negative report lodged in his file, to remain there for two years. I also received a written apology, from the agent that had been censored by his supervisors.

My point is simple. No agent of the US government works in a bubble. They are held to account, for their actions with the public, during their working day. Being professional is not that hard, if you have been trained properly, and are reminded frequently that the travelling public, from whatever country, are to be treated with respect, and politeness.

The vast majority of the US agents at the border, both north and south, are professionals, who have a tough job to do. It is wearing to have to be alert and skeptical of the hundreds of people that they deal with on a shift, at the booth. The repetitive questioning, is a investigative tool, that I have used, myself, to see is a person's story is changing over time.

As for asking about vehicle registration, YES they can and do ask about that, and dozens of other things as well. Remember that NO ONE, except a US citizen, or permanent resident of the US, has a RIGHT to enter the country. And as of 2009, EVERYONE from ANYWHERE has to produce a passport, NEXUS card or US state issued "enhanced driver's license " to be admitted to the USA. PERIOD.

Jim B

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Old 07-04-2013, 11:41 AM
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Not over the top at all and quite normal. They randomly select drivers (1 out of 20? 1 out of 50?) for searches, or maybe you just triggered there curiosity. More then likely it's just random, don't afix and god-like sensory perception of customs officers. Did they ask the trap question "do you know why we are searching you?". LOL, that's a trick test question for the random searches, trying to elicit a confession of snuck in cuban cigars or something. The proper response is "are you telling me you don't?". ...on second thought no don't do that, just shrug your shoulders and let him do his thing.
Just be lucky your name isn't shared by some badguy on some list somewhere. Getting through customs for me was tough for about 5 years before the CBP cleared me. Amazing - the NSA can cross reference billions of bits of metadata on the internet, email, and cell but they couldn't do a simply process of matching my passport number and clear me even after flying accross the pond and back 6 times a year.
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Old 07-04-2013, 11:41 AM
Location: So. of Rosarito, Baja, Mexico
6,652 posts, read 18,667,875 times
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Crossing the Border into Canada or back into the US can result in a variety of questions on both sides.

One trip to Canada at the Toronto Airport was asked a couple of questions as per the purpose of the trip on which I replied "to visit family" and another that I was "born" in Hamilton".

Another trip on returning to the US at British Columbia crossing (via auto) was asked by BP if I was bringing back any souvenirs upon which I replied "I was born in Canada and don't need any souvenirs".

My US Passport then and my current valid Passport along with my Passport Card all stated Place of Birth "Canada".

EDIT:A little Humor

On the Toronto trip I purchased some over the counter (Pharmacy) pain pills for my mother that were referred to as "222".

There is a Joke of a woman returning from Canada into the US and was asked by the BP if she had any "222" in her bags upon which she replied " I don't have one 22 let alone 222's since I don't like GUNS.

Last edited by Steve Bagu; 07-04-2013 at 11:53 AM.. Reason: Add JOKE
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Old 07-04-2013, 02:07 PM
26,590 posts, read 54,571,346 times
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Originally Posted by JonasW View Post
^^While that can be true, I'd bet it's 90% the other way. I think it's more likely an agent with an attitude, bad day, or a superiority complex.
CBP are very different than TSA. I've found them to be extremely professional, polite, and efficient at doing their job. I can't begin to count how many times I've crossed the border, dozens anyhow. I've NEVER been given an attitude by a CBP agent. I've been asked some wonky questions (Do you have any relatives in Buffalo was one of the strangest) but I've answered them without an attitude and been sent on my way. I always have my passport ready and declare everything--and hand them the receipts with the passports.

I've brought back cases of wine (via both air and car) and trunk loads of beer and have always declared it and immediately stated, "I know I have more than the limit and have no problem paying the duty." The response has always been to request an invitation to the party and to tell me they don't worry about pennies and to have a nice trip home.

I've seen people pulled aside, usually because they have either gotten an attitude or have acted suspicious, as if they are trying to hide something.
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Old 07-04-2013, 02:10 PM
26,590 posts, read 54,571,346 times
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Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post
Just be lucky your name isn't shared by some badguy on some list somewhere.
My brother's name is on a watch list as it's a common name within the IRA, he's got a redress number, but he still gets a secondary screening every time he flies or crosses the border. He just allows a few extra minutes and deals with it.
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