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Aug 012013
 

The Canadian Civic Holiday long weekend is typically one of the heaviest traffic weekends of the entire year for U.S. and Canadian border crossings.   Traffic is at least 25 to 30% higher than normal and delays can run over an hour at larger ports.  The holiday period runs from Friday August 2nd through Monday Aug 5th.   Peak periods are typically Friday evening, Sunday afternoon, and Monday afternoon.

August is the heaviest travel month along the border so you will experience increased traffic backups and border crossing delays for the entire month.

UPDATE:  This has proved to be an even heavier travel period than expected.  The Peace Arch and Pacific Highway ports in Washington state saw waits of up to 5 hours on Friday.  Officials are warning that Canadians returning home could see equally long delays on Monday as the holiday ends.

  • Make sure to get gas and a restroom stop before entering a long queue at the border.
  • If there can be any silver lining to being stuck in line for hours at the border it might be that Canadian officers are frequently told to waive through travelers who owe duties on goods purchased in the U.S.  This is done to keep the line moving.  Obviously there is no guarantee this will happen and you are still required to declare all of your purchases.

Civic Holiday Border Wait Times

We will update this post if we recieve traffic projections from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) or the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) so check back regularly if you are planning to cross the border.   Also, remember that before heading out you should check current traffic conditions and border wait times on ezbordercrossing.com for the specific port you are planning to use.

In general, the larger border crossings can see huge delays during this holiday period.  Border crossing in Washington such as Peace Arch and Pacific Highway can see backups of up to 2 hours.  New York ports such as the Lewiston Bridge and Peace Bridge can see even longer delays.

Border wait times will be impacted in both directions at various points throughout the period.

Peak Periods from the Canadian Border Services Agency 

Below are projected peak traffic periods provided by the CBSA for ports in the Ontario region.  These are the anticipated wait times for entering Canada.

Lansdowne / Thousand Islands Bridge port of entry:   peak traffic volumes are anticipated between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, August 2, between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday, August 4, and between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Monday, August 5, when border wait times may exceed 60 minutes.

Prescott port of entry:  peak traffic volumes are anticipated between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, August 2, between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday, August 4, and between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Monday, August 5, when border wait times may exceed 60 minutes.

Cornwall port of entry:    peak traffic volumes are anticipated to be between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday, August 2, between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday, August 4, and between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Monday, August 5, when border wait times may exceed 60 minutes.

Sault Ste. Marie port of entry:   peak traffic volumes are anticipated to be between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday, August 2, between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday, August 4, and between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Monday, August 5, when border wait times may exceed 45 minutes.

Fort Frances port of entry:  peak traffic volumes are anticipated to be between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 1, between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, August 2, and between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, when border wait times may exceed 30 minutes.

Rainy River port of entry:  peak traffic volume is anticipated to be between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, August 2.

Pigeon River port of entry:  peak traffic volumes are anticipated to be between 4 p.m.and 7 p.m. on Sunday, August 4, and between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday, August 5,when border wait times may exceed 30 minutes. Higher than normal traffic could also be expected on Friday evening, August 2, and on Saturday morning, August 3.

Traffic Warnings for American Ports

Blue Water Bridge port of entry:  Unscheduled repairs on the Michigan half of the westbound span of the Blue Water Bridge may still be underway over the long weekend and could add to delays entering the U.S.

How to Avoid the Heaviest Civic Holiday Traffic

Both the U.S. CBP and the CBSA typically open additional lanes for heavy travel periods but you should still expect longer than usual delays. You should therefore consider the following tips:

  • Your best chance to avoid traffic is to arrive at the border before 7 am or after 8 pm. Some ports will open additional lanes at earlier times than usual.
  • Be aware that traffic is especially heavy when it mixes with normal commuter traffic on Friday or Monday
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative port rather than the major ports.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder.
  • Make sure to get gas and a restroom stop before entering a long queue at the border.
  • Customs typically opens all available lanes and adds staff to handle the heavy traffic over the weekend. You should be prepared to move into lanes that might not normally be open.
  • You should always check our page for the specific port you are going to use to see if there are any traffic alerts or updates on wait times.
  • Visitors and returning residents should prepare for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth. Make sure you are prepared for your border crossing by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experienceprohibited items, and required documentation.

Increased Civic Holiday Police Activity

Across both countries, you should expect to see an increased police presence including many more unmarked patrol cars and random roadside drunk driving stops. The bottom line: drive safely, don’t drink and drive, no texting while driving, and make sure you know if you are travelling in a province or state that requires hands-free cellphone use.

Prepare for your Border Crossing

To reduce delays, make sure you are prepared for your border crossing by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experience, prohibited items, and required documentation.  You should also check our page for the specific port you are going to use to see if there are any traffic alerts or updates on wait times.

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Mar 052013
 

UPDATE – 6/1/13
Although the U.S. Congress has passed legislation which allows the CBP to better allocate cost reductions, the border protection service is still suffering from manpower reductions and a reduction in overtime authorizations. You will most likely have longer border wait times at all ports including land crossings, airports, and ferries.

Original Article

U.S. budget problems have the potential to severely impact border operations – particularly during heavy travel periods such as summertime.  The “sequestration” process that went into effect March 1, 2013, could lead to the loss of several thousand Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at ports of entry across the U.S.   There would also be significant cuts to operating budgets and numerous programs.

What Will be the Impact of these Budget Cuts?

It is too soon to know exactly what the impact of the budget cuts will be.  In addition, the U.S. Congress is proposing bills that would give some of the money back so the true impact won’t be clear for several months.   However, if the cuts do go through, you can expect the following:

  • Significantly longer border wait times for vehicles at land ports, airline passengers, and even pedestrians crossing the border.
  • Longer cargo processing times at all ports.
  • Possibly reduced hours of service at some ports.
  • Longer approval times on new trusted traveler applications.

In general, nothing will go away.  The CBP will continue to police the border, trusted traveler programs will remain in place, cargo will be inspected, and taxes and duties collected.  However, all of those things could take a lot longer to accomplish, and your wait to cross the border could grow substantially.

 

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Mar 052013
 

Passport Day is the State Department’s annual, no-appointment-needed, passport event and it takes place this year on Saturday, March 9th.  Unfortunately, because of the U.S. budget problems, Department of State passport facilities will not be participating this year.  However, you can still apply for a passport at many facilities such as post offices, libraries, and various government buildings.  You can get the address of a location near you and their hours of operation from the Department of State Passport Acceptance Search Site.

The primary benefit of this event is that U.S. citizens may renew or apply for a passport without making the usually required appointment.  In addition, you can get a passport on a Saturday.  This is particularly helpful for parents with children as you don’t need to miss work or school to apply for your child’s passport.    Passports for children under the age of 16 expire every five years and both parents must be there to sign the paperwork.

How to Renew Your Passport on Passport Day

You may want to get to the passport facility early as it is possible you will have to wait in line.   In 2012, over 57,000 passport applications were received on this one day alone.   Some New York locations sported lines that at times ran clear around-the-block.

Make sure you have everything you need before you arrive, especially if you’re applying for your first passport.  To expedite the process, we suggest filling out your application ahead of time, printing it, and then bringing it with you, unsigned.

It takes approximately 4-6 weeks to process a passport application, although for an extra $60 you can expedite the process and get your documents in about half the time.

You should check out the Department of State Passport website for detailed information on what you will need to bring but below are the basics.  You can also get passport information by phone, in English and Spanish, by calling the National Passport Information Center toll-free at 1-877-487-2778.

Form DS-11

Form DS-11 is the official application for a U.S. passport and it is required for all first-time passport applicants, and for adults who were issued a passport before the age of 16 or have not renewed their passport for 15 years or more.

Proof of Citizenship

You must be a citizen of the United States and submit proof of your citizenship when you submit your application. There are several acceptable documents, including a certified U.S. birth certificate, a previously issued U.S. passport, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship.

Identification

Proper identification is required. Acceptable forms of identification include a naturalization certificate, a previously issued U.S. passport, a valid driver’s license, a current government identification card or a current military identification card. You must have the identification with you, as well as a photocopy of the front and back of your identification when you apply.

Passport Photo

You will need to bring a passport photo which must be two inches by two inches and in full color taken in front of a white background. Your head should be 25 to 35 millimeters from the bottom of your chin to the top of your head. The photo should also be no more than six months old and taken directly from the front.  There are many locations that will take a passport photo for you including many drug stores and camera shops.

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Jan 042013
 

Update 1/16/13:

A new protest by First Nation and Idle No More activists on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 has blocked traffic for a time in Windsor near the Ambassador Bridge.   This was a peaceful march starting at 11am from the intersection of Huron Church Road and Tecumseh Road West which then headed northbound towards the foot of the Ambassador Bridge.  Protesters assembled at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge in the area of College Avenue before walking back to Tecumseh Road West.

This protest was not intended to close down the border crossing completely but at one point, trucks were lined up for about a kilometre.   One entrance to the bridge was blocked, but a second remained open and there was slow traffic throughout  the area.  As a result, truck traffic was higher than normal at the Blue Water Bridge.

There is also talk of protests along Ontario Highway 17  as gatherings are planned from North Bay across to Sault Ste Marie..

Original Post

Protests by native North American Indians could cause temporary closure of  some border crossings between the U.S. and Canada.  Various demonstrations are planned at border areas and some aboriginal Indian leaders have called for blockades of border crossing ports.  The demonstrations are set to begin Saturday, January 5th, 2012.

We will update this post with any new information we receive so check back if you are heading to the border this weekend.

Indian Protests at Peace Arch

Update:  About 1,000 demonstrators showed up at Peace Arch but the protests are not affecting border crossing operations.
Protesters are planning a ceremony at the Peace Arch monument on Saturday.  This is not intended to be a disruptive event and there is no call for a blockade.

Indian Protests at the Peace Bridge

Final Update:  the bridge is now operating normally.
One lane of traffic on the bridge was closed between between 1 and 2 p.m. noon on Saturday as members of native groups from the American side of the border  plan to meet in the middle of the bridge with Indians from the Canadian side.  The Peace Bridge Authority has granted a one-hour permit for the event.

Indian Protests at the Cornwall – Seaway International Bridge

Final UPDATE : The border crossing has reopened and normal operations resumed. 
Cornwall police closed the International Bridge Saturday morning due to the protest.   They do not know how long the protest will last but it will likely extend into the mid afternoon.   You need to consider using alternate crossings such as Fort Covington / Dundee, or the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge .

Indian Protests at the Blue Water Bridge

Final UPDATE: Indian demonstrations had closed the bridge but it is now open.
Local police are co-operating with the demonstrators and had planned to close the bridge in both directions from noon until 1 p.m.   Drivers in the area of Exmouth and Front streets should expect traffic to be heavy and even stopped at times during the demonstration.  The protesters will meet at Soul’s Memorial in Point Edward around 10 a.m.  They expect to march to Highway 402 and plan to block traffic near the currency exchange until noon.

Queenston/Lewiston Bridge Protests

Final UPDATE 1:00 pm 1/5/13:  The bridge is open and operating normally.
Protests are planned for this bridge as well.  We have no details on expected or actual impact but the bridge is open.

Why the Protests?

These actions stem from long simmering discontent by aboriginal Indians over alleged abuses of land rights and other grievances.  A three-week-long hunger strike by a Native American chief Theresa Spence has stimulated calls for action among Indian activists. Another group, Idle No More, has promised a series of national protests and has set up a number of rallies across Canada.

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Dec 142012
 

Traffic was disrupted at the Emerson Manitoba port of entry on Thursday as some Canadian border officers walked off the job in protest of a new Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) policy requiring officers to wear name tags.   This follows similar disruptions on Wednesday at the Blue Water Bridge and Ambassador Bridge in Ontario. The policy was put into effect by the CBSA on Tuesday December 11, 2012, and there have been protests each day since then.    The CBSA is holding firm on the policy so there is the potential for additional protests and traffic delays in the coming days.

The CBSA argues that this policy simply puts it’s officers in line with the practice followed by the Canadian Forces, Correctional Service of Canada, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection – all of whose front-line uniformed officers wear ID tags.  The unionized officers are concerned that wearing a name tag exposes its officers to additional personal risk.

Until this plays out you should keep an eye on the border wait times entering Canada.  We have the wait time information for many ports on the pages for each individual port.  We will update this post with any new developments so check back if the protests continue.

 

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