How to Cross an International Border

Two Methods:Before you crossCrossing the border

At some point in most travelers' adventures, legally crossing an international border will be a necessary requirement of their journey. While doing so can be both confusing and time-consuming, the process is fairly simply for the majority of countries, and in fact can become a memorable experience transitioning from one culture to another. This article explains the steps you will need to know to cross an international border.

Method 1
Before you cross

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    Determine the state of national security in the country of which you plan to enter. A number of countries, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, are currently controlled by dangerous rebel forces or unrecognized governments that make border crossings a difficult and inadvisable situation for foreigners. In addition, some countries may be unwilling to admit tourists for health contamination reasons, which is another important consideration.
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    Ensure that you have all of the documents, visas, and/or passports required to make a legal crossing. Find out what you will need to have well in advance, as some entry permits can take weeks or even months to process. Update your passport and apply for any visas that may be needed; the price and conditions of visas may vary depending on the purpose of your visit (e.g. tourism, work, humanitarian aid, research). Know what personal belongings you can and cannot take into or out of the country.

Method 2
Crossing the border

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    Answer all of the questions you may be asked by border patrol agents. Be as truthful and detailed as possible about your intentions within the country and why/who you are visiting. You don't have to give them your life story, but should share just enough information not to give them reason to suspect you might have an ulterior motive.
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    Be patient as you are inspected. The agents are simply looking for any prohibited items, weapons, drugs, etc. you may have that are not allowed in the country. If crossing by vehicle, you may be asked to step out as the car is searched.
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    Cross the border. If you have cleared customs inspections and are traveling by vehicle, an agent will allow your car to continue onward in the country. If in an airport, seaport, or train station, you will be permitted to go on and leave the facility.


  • Register your border crossing with the State Department or the embassy of the country where you live. It isn't mandatory to do so in most countries, but by registering, you will have a relative lifeline should there be any diplomatic issues or you run into trouble during your stay.
  • Contact the embassy or consulate of the country you will be visiting should you have any questions.


  • Do not attempt to cross an international border illegally. This is considered a significant offense in many countries, and you will likely face consequences ranging from a steep fine and deportation to harsh interrogation and imprisonment.

Article Info

Categories: Country Specific