How to Cross the American Canadian Border from Detroit

Five Methods:Entering CanadaEntering the USUsing a Student VisaKnow Where You Are GoingKnow What to Declare

Generally, crossing the American-Canadian border at any checkpoint along the northern coast of the United States is going to be quite similar in terms of standard documentation and procedures. However, if you are planning on crossing the border near the Detroit area, follow these steps to know what to expect and make a hassle-free trip.


  1. 1
    Make sure you have the right documents/currency before leaving.
    • Traffic can often get pretty backed up at the crossing of the Canadian-American border, so one thing you don’t want to happen is get all the way to the front only to realize you forgot some of your paperwork. This can lead to making you leave and come back or possibly getting subjected to a secondary screening. Again, as stated above, a secondary screening is a very long and thorough process and you wouldn’t want to put yourself through that, especially if it is not necessary.

Method 1
Entering Canada

  1. 1
    Be sure that you have your passport. If you don’t have a passport, you will need your birth certificate and photo ID or an enhanced license. If you are not a natural born U.S. or Canadian citizen, you can use a student or work visa or a certificate of naturalization.
  2. 2
    Bring some method of payment. You will need some form of payment when you reach the toll ($4.50-5.00). There are many methods of payment, including cash, credit (MasterCard or Visa) or an Express card.
Image titled Paying 1.png

Method 2
Entering the US

  1. 1
    Have your passport and some money. Entering both the U.S and Canada require similar documentation and payment methods. However, the U.S can oftentimes be more stringent on accepted documents. To avoid delayed trips, make sure that you provide at least one of the listed.
    • Valid Passport or Visa: This is an internationally-recognized travel document that verifies a person's identity and nationality. It is accepted for travel by air, land, and sea.

Method 3
Using a Student Visa

  1. 1
    If you are a Canadian student studying in the U.S (or vice versa), show a student visa upon entry into the U.S. Typically depending on the student’s status, the visa will outline basic personal and institution information.
    • U.S. passport card: This card contains the basic information of a passport, but can fit in one's pocket. Although they are useful, they are only valid for travel by land and sea.
    • Alien Card: This is a card issued to lawful U.S. permanent residents.
    • Enhanced Driver's License (EDL): This should not be mistaken for an ordinary Driver’s License. This card is specifically altered to allow for cross-border travel. You would get an enhanced driver’s license by filing the form and paying the fee for it at Secretary of State. Again, this license is specifically designed for cross-border travel into the U.S. by only land or sea.
    • One of the Trusted Traveler Program Cards: NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST enrollment cards can speed your entry into the U.S. and are issued only to pre-approved, low-risk travelers.

Method 4
Know Where You Are Going

  1. 1
    There are plenty of border crossings available, so be sure to look up the nearest location. Also, know if you are planning on going through the tunnel or across the bridge so that you can follow the routes accordingly. Both the tunnel and the bridge charge tolls and require the same documentation, so which ever method you choose depends upon your personal preference.
  2. 2
    Make sure you plan ahead for a wait at the border, especially on weekends or holidays. Border crossings often have websites that enable you to check wait times to plan your trip accordingly.
  3. 3
    Check with Port Huron, which also has a bridge to Canada if it so happens that the Detroit border isn’t going to work out for you.

Method 5
Know What to Declare

Crossing the border can be a breeze, but if you do not do your research beforehand, you may cause yourself many delays.

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    Read the list of rules and regulations for your specific port of entry. Often times these rules are different for entry into Canada and U.S.
  2. 2
    Make sure that you follow these rules and that you do not bring any prohibited items (illegal drugs, citrus fruits, etc), as this can not only cause delay, but may subject you to additional screening every time you cross the border.
  3. 3
    Remember when you declare something it means that you are acknowledging a possession. So when asked if you have anything to declare, use the following list as a reference. They should not be used alone, however, as many ports have their own specifications.
  4. 4
    Follow these guidelines to declare food:
    • Travelers to the U.S. must declare all food, plants and animals. This includes fruit, vegetables, snacks, and beverages.
    • Food prepared at home, such as a sandwich, does not require declaration. However, to avoid an innocent mistake, it is safer to declare. Be aware that if the value of the food you bring is above your customs allowance, you may have to pay duty.
  5. 5
    Follow these guidelines to declare medications:
    • Prescription medication is allowed only by ensuring that you follow these guidelines:
    • Keep each one in its original container with identification label.
    • Carry a copy of the prescription in case you are asked for it.
    • Check that your medicine is legal in the country that you are entering.
  6. 6
    Follow these guidelines to declare firearms:
    • Canadians will need an export permit. Contact the Export Controls Division of International Trade Canada to find out more information
    • Americans should have registered their firearm with the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms before leaving the U.S.
  7. 7
    Follow these general guidelines:
    • Declare any items that you:
      • Purchased
      • Inherited
      • Bought in duty-free shops, on the ship, or on the plane.
      • Repaired or altered abroad and then brought back, even if the repairs/alterations were performed free of charge.
      • Intend to sell or use in your business, including business merchandise that you took out of the United States on your trip.
  8. 8
    Follow these guidelines to declare currency:
    • You are allowed to carry up to $10,000 USD without declaring it to the U.S. If you exceed this amount, you must declare it to the official.


  • When crossing the border, a phrase you do not want to here is “please drive up to the front building.” Secondary screening can often result from a failure to follow general rules. The officer will lead you to a building for a physical inspection. Next, you will enter the building and sit through a thorough search of your personal records. The search can take several hours. This exhaustive process can be eliminated by keeping the following general tips in mind.
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  • Your first stop will be the toll. Know your method of payment. Some lanes will be open with “Full-Service” and some will be labeled “Self-Service.” If you hold a credit card, it is oftentimes better to use the self-service lanes as they are much less crowded.
  • You will need to remain in your car throughout the wait. So do not get out of the car to see get your answers questions or whatever the case may be. Just wait until you reach the booth.
  • Make sure to smoothly follow traffic. When you are waiting for the car ahead, stop before the stop sign. In other words, do not tailgate. If the officer must close his/her lane for some reason, you do not want the bar hitting the front of your car.
  • When approaching the booth, lower your driver and passenger windows to speak. Do not open your door. Use formal language when answering questions. Officers take their job seriously and will not appreciate any jokes. Answer all questions you are asked in a polite manner.
  • When you are given your passport back, slowly exit the booth to your destination.


  • Make sure to have money (for your toll), receipts, and documents nearby as officers will be expecting you to be prepared.
Image titled Border officers.png
  • Do not speed in the tunnel. Traffic can often times get backed up and you do not want to rear-end a car.
  • As you exit the tunnel, various lanes will be available for your crossing. Some will display a green open sign, a check, or the words “ALL TRAFFIC”. These lanes are available at the time. Other lanes will be labeled as closed or have a red X, which indicate that you should not enter. Typically, the last lane will display a NEXUS sign and will only be available to NEXUS cardholders. Do not enter this lane if you do not have a NEXUS card. This will often subject you to secondary screening.

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