Border crossing requirements have been changing and tightening since September 11, 2001, although the U.S. requirements are more stringent than the Canadian requirements. The Waggoner recommends that any boater crossing the border, either direction, be able to meet U.S. requirements. Basically, the U.S. wants to know who you are, where you live, and your citizenship or residency status. The best single document for that purpose is a valid passport, even for children. We have ours, and our grandchildren have theirs. Passports are expensive and a nuisance to apply for, but that’s the world we live in. One big benefit is that the passport is good for all travels—land, sea or air.

U.S. residents who might be flying home from B.C. must have passports.

For Pacific Northwest boat traffic other acceptable documentation includes:

U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Card or other valid evidence of permanent resident status.

U.S. Passport Card, that fits in a wallet. It costs less than a passport, and it’s good for travel by land or sea, but not by air. It won’t work if you’re flying home to Seattle from B.C.

Enhanced Driver License, issued by the state of Washington, which shows identity and citizenship (applies only to U.S. residents).

Nexus Card, also called the Trusted Traveler program. It allows pre-screened, low-risk travelers an expedited process to enter the U.S. and Canada. Every person aboard must have a Nexus card or I-68, or the entry will be treated as if no one has a card. If entry is into the U.S., a combination of Nexus and I-68 will suffice. I-68 is not valid for entry into Canada. The Nexus card is good for five years, and now is valid for crossings by pleasure craft, by car at highway crossings, and by air from principal airports. U.S. and Canadian customs officials must interview applicants as part of the process. The cost is $50 per applicant.

If they have nothing to declare, once inside the U.S. Nexus and I-68 holders entering the U.S. can call 1-800-562-5943 to enter by phone. If something is to be declared, a standard stop at a customs port of entry will be required.

Nexus holders entering Canada can call 1-888-226-7277 to arrange clearance. You will be directed to a reporting location. If no agent appears for inspection at the appointed time, you are free to proceed.

I-68, for entry to the U.S. only. Issued by appointment at a U.S. Customs office in the Puget Sound region, and similar to a vehicle registration It is valid for one year only. It is not an identity document or travel document, and use is limited to entry by pleasure boat in the Puget Sound area only. Cost is $16 per person, $32 for families. Families do not include grandchildren. Our 13-year-old grandson Zachary travels with us to Canada for a week each year, and has his own I-68 in addition to his passport.

CANPASS, for expedited clearance for low-risk pre-screened persons entering Canada by private pleasure boat from the U.S. Annual, $40 Cdn. per year. As with Nexus or I-68 into the U.S., all on board must have CANPASS or Nexus pre-clearance.

Boater Registration Number, for Nexus or I-68 entry into the U.S. If you’re going to be on your own boat and don’t have a BR number, call a Puget Sound U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office to get one. You will be asked questions about your boat, and the answers will be assigned to your number. Otherwise, you’ll have to answer the questions when you call to clear. Our grandson Zachary’s I-68 includes our BR number.

Helpful web sites

U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Canada Border Services Agency

Our advice

Don’t be sloppy about entering another country. Go directly to a customs port of entry and clear customs before doing anything else. Don’t smuggle anything in. Except for docking and tying up the lines, no one but the vessel’s master is permitted ashore, and then only to meet with customs officers or call in. Customs officers are trained in professionalism and politeness, but if you get cute with them they have a rule book that can make your life miserable.

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