Jun 182012

Canadians Can Now Bring U.S. Rental Cars into Canada

As of June 1, 2012, Canadians will be able to drive a U.S. rental car across the border into Canada without paying GST, HST, or Green Levy taxes.  This will be very helpful if you fly into the U.S. for a visit and then decide to drive back home to Canada.  However, to qualify for this exemption you must satisfy each of the following requirements:

  • You must have been out of Canada for more than 48 hours
  • The vehicle must be for non-commercial use
  • You have to return the vehicle to the U.S. in no more than 30 days

If you meet these requirements, you will not pay any taxes, and the vehicle will not need to conform to Canada’s vehicle importation safety laws.

These changes were made through revisions to the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA).

For more detailed information you should view our dedicated page on driving a rental car across the U.S. Canadian border.

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Dec 102011

The U.S. and Canada announced an initiative to speed up travel between the countries while at the same time tightening security.   “Beyond the Border”  is an action plan that covers such a wide range of issues that it may never be fully implemented.

The initiative will proceed with a host of pilot projects, committees, and most importantly, funding requests. If the political will to push this along disappears, funding and agreement on tough issues may derail parts of the program. Actual changes are likely to come slowly over the next 3-5 years.

Speeding up Passenger Traffic at the Border

The goal is to stop the bad guys but shorten the border wait time for “trusted travelers”.

  • Each country will share more information about their citizens and convicted criminals.
  • The countries will exchange entry and exit information so they have a clear record of when a person entered, and exited, a country.  This will start in 2012 and should be fully implemented by 2014. This already happens between the U.S. and the European Union.
  • The countries will exchange more information, including biometric data, on foreigners coming from other countries to either the U.S. or Canada.
  • The NEXUS program will be improved and more NEXUS lanes created.
  • Where possible, the United States and Canada will try to align hours of operation and co-manage facilities at smaller ports.

Effect on You

Critics are concerned about how much personal information will be shared between the countries. Here are some other things to consider:

  • The days of fudging the length of a personal visit in order to bring more merchandise back will be over.  Each country will know exactly when you crossed the border on every trip.
  • Agents will be able to easily identify people who overstay their visas. They will also be able to track whether people subject to removal orders actually leave the country.
  • It will be much easier for the government to verify that people seeking immigration and benefits have met residency requirements.

Promised Infrastructure Improvements Include:

Making it Easier to Get Goods Across the Border

The goal is to streamline the flow of goods by pre-inspection, pre-clearance, and by harmonizing the vast array of regulations that affect border transit.  Key elements include:

  • “Inspect once, accept twice”.   Freight arriving in North America will be inspected by only one Customs agency but will be accepted by both countries.
  • A pre-clearance pilot program is slated for September 2012 at the Peace Bridge. This would allow trucks to be pre-cleared on the Canadian side of the border by CBP before entering the U.S.
  • The creation of a “single window” to electronically submit the required documentation to both countries.
  • Harmonize the vast array of rules on the inspection and certification of products crossing the border such as meat and poultry.
  • Harmonize trusted trader programs and create a “trusted” status that enables a shipment to be pre-screened at the factory instead of at the border.
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Sep 242011

The Canadian Province of New Brunswick has enacted a ban on using cellphones or other hand-held devices while driving. The ban became effective on June 6, 2011, and Canadians and Americans who are unaware of the new law are being ticketed by police.  Although the ban was advertised on radio and TV in Maine, there are currently no signs at the border informing visitors of the change in policy. The law is strictly enforced, and police will not let violators off with just a warning.  The fine for holding and talking on a cellphone while driving is $172.50.

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Apr 052011

The databases being shared by the U.S. and Canadian Customs and Immigration officials contain a vast amount of personal information – including health related issues.

A Canadian woman was denied entry to the U.S. because of a suicide attempt years earlier.  Although officials cannot get into your personal medical records, they do have access to any record that involves law enforcement.   In this case, the woman was judged to be a mental health risk and was not allowed to enter until she paid a fee of $250, and her family doctor provided certain medical records.  She was also required to sign a form stating she understood the information would be passed to the U.S. government and that she had no control over how it would be used.

See for more information on what a border official knows about you.

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Mar 262011

A new paper released by Researchers at the University of Washington spelled out several privacy and security vulnerabilities of the RFID tags embedded within Enhanced Driver’s License’s (EDL) and U.S. Passport Cards.  The researchers found that the RFID tags in these documents can be remotely copied from as far away as 50 meters away (162 ft.).   Even if EDL cardholders have their card within a protective foil sleeve provided by the Washington State Department of Licensing, the unique identification number on the RFID still can be read from up to two feet away.

They also found that a malicious intruder can permanently disable the RFID tag within an Enhanced Driver’s License, without the cardholder ever knowing.  This will invalidate the enhanced driver’s license.

You should consider using some of the protective sleeves found in travel store.  See our website for more information on Passport Cards and Enhanced Driver’s Licenses.

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