You’ve done all the heavy lifting and your paperwork seems to be in order. You’re ready to get on the road and get across that border to fulfil contracted dates. Before you head out the door, here are some last-minute border crossing tips to ensure a successful crossing:
Organize your paperwork. Have your approved I-797 or visa document with you (perhaps in a binder) and be sure that everyone crossing has a valid passport. If crossing by land, you may need to show vehicle ownership; if travelling by air, you need to have evidence of a return ticket. You may be asked to show proof of accommodation and/or proof that you can support yourself while in a foreign country. If you are travelling with gear, have a complete inventory with you. If you are a lone parent/guardian travelling with a child, you may need written travel permission from another guardian or parent.
Appearances are important. At the border, you need to look and sound like a law-abiding citizen who is respectful of authority and poses absolutely no risk. Your demeanor and attitude need to send the right message to border crossing officials. Turn off the radio and remove the sunglasses. If crossing by land, your vehicle should be orderly, neat, and clean.
Declare what you are bringing with you. If you are bringing in CDs for sale or promotion, let the border officials know. You may have to fill out some paperwork, but it’s better to be up front then to have merchandise discovered in a routine inspection and have to deal with the repercussions of not having declared them.
Be prepared for search or inspection. Border officials routinely inspect personal belongings and search vehicles. Your suitcase or purse might be emptied, if border officials need to confirm what they have seen on the x-ray machine, or they might just be searching at random. An inspection might be as simple as a drug-sniffing dog being led on a leash around your vehicle to see if anything turns up, or a complete emptying of the contents of your vehicle. Whatever happens, grin and bear it.
Answer all questions pleasantly. Whatever you are asked, answer with a smile. Border officials can throw you a curve and may try to get a rise out of you, depending on the kind of day they are having. Just remember that their job is a difficult one and they certainly do not need, nor do they deserve, any attitude on the part of someone trying to cross a border and get into their country. Even if you are subjected to aggression or intimidation from a border crossing official, remain calm and polite. Whatever you do, don’t lie.
Do not volunteer extraneous information. As interesting as our life may be, border crossing officials really do not have time to listen to anything other than straight answers to the questions they ask. Answer briefly and directly; the fewer words the better. Use language carefully to avoid any suggestion of impropriety. Do not make jokes or any kind of extraneous comment.
Relax. It may take a while to cross a border and the waiting can be nerve-wracking. At the border, you may be searched, detained and interrogated. Whatever happens, be cooperative and reserved.
See you on the other side.
I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.