Tag Archives: border crossings

Important travel documents

Do you know what documents you need to travel out of the country with? Other than a passport that is valid for the next 6 months? Most people don’t. Being prepared can ease a lot of the stress one can potentially face at airports and border crossings. Some of this I have learned the hard way, some is just common sense. I have never regretted bringing a couple of file folders with me with potentially relevant documents.

Even when my ex and I were still married, if one of us travelled with the kids without the other parent, we made sure that the non-travelling partner took with a letter of permission to prove that the other parent is aware of where the children are and with whom. Now that we are divorced and I have custody, I still make sure every time I leave the country with the kids I get a letter from him. Most times they do not ask to see it, but they have asked a few times. You must always ensure that there is a contact phone number just in case. If you are travelling with children, and you are divorced, it is a good idea also to bring with a copy of your judgment of divorce that specifies custody. I have been asked to show it a time or two.

Because I have started the immigration process, I travel with copies of all the relevant forms. Just to back myself up if they want proof.

I bring my recent utility bills – it proves that I maintain a residence in Canada, and therefore probably do not pose a risk of staying in the destination country longer than my brief planned visit. I have had to show these at the border crossing a couple of months back. A recent pay stub is good too, along with a mortgage statement or a copy of a rent receipt.

If you are driving, you need your license and registration, and if it is NOT your car, you need a letter of permission from the owner of the car along with the registration for the car. The letter should state the license plate number, until when you have permission to drive it, and provide a contact number.

I remember once flying through the USA to get somewhere, and not having a ticket back into Canada as I had a friend that was going to drive me upon my return. At the airport in NY they gave me a hard time because I could not prove I had plans to return to Canada. A return ticket helps avoid that hassle.

If you are entering a foreign country for a conference or for a work purpose, you must be prepared to show proof. They have every right to quiz you on why you want to come into their country.

I also shlepp birth certificates (the long ones, that prove I am my kids mom), and my marriage certificate – I have nothing in my married name yet. In Quebec one doesn’t adopt one’s husband’s last name legally, and I have yet to be official in the States, so if for some reason I have to prove I am who I say I am, well, I have the marriage certificate to prove it.

Is there anything I have left out? What documents do you travel with “just in case”?

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Profile of a dangerous person?

I said goodbye to my KoD this morning, tucked my heart into his pocket, and began the 6 hour trek back to Montreal, to my babies. Ahem. Sorry. My big boys. My Boybies (that works for me).

The drive went really well, I didn’t even cry when the mushy romantic songs came on the radio. Took a concerted effort, but I did it. The roadwork has been finished up, so there was no going slow…the weather was perfect and I made excellent time.

I get to the US / Canada border and they have closed it off except for one booth a few yards before the usual line of booths at the Lacolle border crossing. It seems they are prescreening cars before allowing them to get to the regular border crossing booths. There is a much more obvious presence of border guards than usual.

No problem, I have my landed immigrant card, my passport, I do this a bajillion times a year. Piece of cake. Right? Noooo.

The cars ahead of me showed passports and sailed through. Initially the border guard did not take my passport from me. Started asking me the regular questions. All was fine until he asked me who I had been to see. I said my husband. Then he asked for the passport. He started quizzing me on the status of my marriage, who lives where, how often we see each other. Meanwhile his cohort was walking around my car peering in windows etc.

They asked me to pull over to the side, ma’am.

Who owns your vehicle? My neighbour.

Your neighbour lets you drive his car? Yes sir.

What does he drive? One of his other cars, sir. I have a letter authorizing me to use this vehicle, sir, would you like to see it?

I also told him he could check in the computer that I cross the border all the time with this car. He did so. And I was right. Wow.

Then he asks me, why are you not driving your own vehicle? I so wanted to say “because you idiots won’t let me drive my brand spanking new Town and Country Touring minivan with US plates into Canada (More info here) so it has to stay in our garage in Monsey collecting dust, and I have to drive this freaking rust bucket that’s older than I am, just so I can see my husband. That’s why the freaking hell I am not driving my own vehicle, rectal orifice!!” But instead, I replied sweetly, “because I don’t have one.” (May God forgive me for the lie, but I wanted to get out of there)

The guys were pounding on the panels of the car, looking underneath it, in the spare tire, pulling my suitcases apart. Looking in my make up kit, holding my excedrin bottle up to the light.

“What does your husband do in the states?”

“Where did you meet him?”

“What’s his name, address?”

“What company does he work for?”

“How much money does he give you?”

“What’s his salary”

“Did he give you anything to bring back?”

“How much child support and alimony do you get?”

“Where are your children?”

“Why did you leave them for the weekend?”

“Who has custody of your children? Prove it” (I carry my divorce and custody agreement with me whenever I cross the border)

“What’s your profession?”

“How do you pay the bills if you are a stay at home mom?” I answered “with difficulty”. He left it alone, smart man, because I was about to get ugly up in his face. They then started in again on the immigration questions. What? My answers were going to change?

Then I unwittingly caused some trouble for myself. I raised my left hand to smooth back my hair. My engagement ring caught the sun. They spent five minutes quizzing me on the provenance of the diamond on my finger. Do I have proof on me where it came from? Uh…no. Who carries that with them? If I was smuggling diamonds would I be so stupid as to wear it on my finger? They looked at my other rings too. Asked about those as well.  Asked what the pendant I wear means. I wear a gold letter “Hey” (fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet that starts off my name) that my great uncle made for me decades ago. No certificate of provenance for that either.

I was shaking. I knew I had nothing contraband on me, nothing I shouldn’t have, no drugs, tobacco or alcohol. No weapons. I was coming back into Canada, my home for the last fifteen and a half years, and they made me feel so very guilty. Of what, I have no clue. I was sweating and shaking. They had me standing by the side of the road for nearly 30 minutes while they quizzed me back and forth, both guards with hands resting on the butts of their weapons. They had a team go over the car. I know they were just doing their job, but come on, I so do not fit the profile of a terrorist or a drug smuggler. I am just a mom. That’s it that’s all.

Eventually they let me go. I had to sit in another line of cars for 30 minutes until I finally was able to cross the border. By the time I crossed I had calmed down. But now I am on a slow burn. Why did they pull me over? Did I fit a certain profile? Was it anti-Semitic? Why did they start to freak out when I said my husband lived in NY and I live in Montreal? Is this going to happen now every time I cross the border? Am I red flagged? Do I dare do the border crossing thing again? I am so sick of this back and forth, and of the border sagas. It’s time for those flippin’ visas to come already.

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