Crossing the Border
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New passport laws in the United States now require anyone entering the country from any location to present a passport. That means if you are a United States citizen or permanent resident who traveled to Mexico, Canada, Europe, or anywhere outside the United States, you will need to present a passport to re-enter the country. You will also need to present a passport upon leaving the United States, so get one now.
All children, including infants, are required to have their own passports. If you're taking your children into another country, you must provide documentation showing you have the legal rights for the children to travel with you. If divorced, you will need to present divorce and custody papers and a notarized letter of consent from the other parent.
Certain items are restricted or prohibited when you cross the border.
- You may be able to bring firearms if you declare them and meet other requirements.
- Tobacco: 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars are allowed.
- Alcohol: Spirits are limited to 1 item of the following: 40 oz. of liquor, 53 oz. of wine, or 24 cans of beer. You must be the legal drinking age in whichever province you are entering in order to bring alcohol into that province.
- Pets: Pets must have current shots; they cannot expire while you are in Canada. Have all signed vaccination records with you. Consider having your pet implanted with an information chip, providing contact information.
- Prescriptions: Should be in its original container. If you don't have the bottles, get a copy written prescription to carry with you. Also bring your doctor and pharmacy numbers available at all times.
Also take proof of citizenship, like your driver's license or passport, just in case.
Driving your vehicle across the Mexican border has many requirements. You need to show your current vehicle registration, and show a valid credit card under the same name. At some border crossing locations, you will be required to pay a permit fee, while others do not require it. The permit states that you will keep your vehicle within 25 miles of your entry point, not sell your vehicle in Mexico, and that you will return the car to the United States within that period.
Drivers must obtain Mexican insurance, which you can purchase at the border, or through some travel agencies located near the border in Texas.
A free tourist card is also required if you plan to be in Mexico longer than 72 hours. You can get one at the border, or at Mexican tourist offices in the States.
It's a good idea to register some of your belongings, such as jewelry, cameras, and watches, as you enter Mexico, too. This registration will serve as proof of ownership as you re-enter the U.S. so you won't have to pay duty taxes on them.
Don't take any weapons into Mexico. Also note that if you travel by air, you WILL need a passport to get back.
Re-Entering the U.S.
Coming back into the United States from Canada or Mexico, certain items are prohibited. These include, but are not limited to, narcotics, food, plants, animals, and products made from endangered species.
Don't think you can bring back those Cuban cigars you bought. It's illegal, and they'll probably be confiscated. You may also be fined or jailed, or at least yelled at.
You may bring back up to $800 worth of purchases made from non-U.S. territories without paying duty taxes on the items. If you visited a U.S. territory, such as Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands, your duty-free limit is $1,600.
Traveling to our neighboring countries is relatively easy, as long as you follow the rules. Educating yourself before you go will prepare you for most circumstances. Prepare ahead of time, then relax and enjoy!