At one time, crossing the border to the south by car was a given. A simple verbal confirmation of your citizenship was all you needed to make it to the land of cheap booze and chicken wings.
The standard questions were: Citizenship? Where are you going? How long will you be there? And finishing up with ‘Have a good trip.’
On the way back it was: Citizenship? Where were you? How long were you gone? What are you bringing back? Welcome home. (I’ll never forget our answers for one special trip…Canadian, Florida, the weekend, five plastic Florida pencils to prove we went, no we’re not kidding). My how things have changed.
Since 9/11, we are consistently being subjected to new cross-border criteria. The other day I downloaded the Applicants Guide for the new Ontario Enhanced Driver’s Licence (EDL). Between business and my in-laws, I figured that possessing one would allow me to leave my passport at home.
They are designed to fit in your wallet, a good thing considering I’ve been known to lose certain documents that border guards now deem important while on the occasional wayward road trip.
The EDL displays your citizenship with the letters ‘CAN’ on the top right of the card. Some sort of radio frequency chip is also embedded in the licence. Border guards will scan your licence to confirm your identification number. In turn, that information is transmitted to the US Customs and Border Protection network, who then contact the Canadian Border Services which then responds.
The end result gives you the thumbs up or thumbs down. Sounds like a long, complicated process but in reality it takes place within a matter of seconds. Scary stuff. There is a snag here. If you get suspended from driving, you must immediately surrender your EDL in person to a ServiceOntario office.
If you are relying exclusively on that EDL to get you into the States, don’t be surprised when you get turned back.
You will still need a valid passport or Nexus card to enter the US by air. I’m not sure why, but they must feel these cards offer a higher level of security. I do know that a passport is more expensive than an EDL, the main advantage being that they are an acceptable entry document for most countries around the world.
If you’re heading south for a summer vacation don’t forget the EDL, with the CAN or the CBS will contact the CBP. Good grief.
-Rob Wilkins is the publisher of Truck News and he can be reached at 416-510-5123.
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