A U.S. - Canada Border Crossing Is Inevitable For Long-distance Cruisers - and can be painless too


The Canadian - U.S. Border is closed in both directions to all recreational vessels until August 21st, 2020

For many sailors, a US Canada border crossing is a technicality in our lives. Canadians and Americans share one of the most successful national 'friendships' in the world. We have a common language, shared values, similar traditions and a long history. We work together, play together and, despite rivalries over the Stanley Cup or World Series, when the chips are down, we fight together. When we think about it, maybe when crossing the border to a sports event or a weekend shopping trip, we are mostly concerned about long line-ups or processing times.

But, the US Canada border is a lot more than a technicality. It is a real, legal and properly policed boundary between two sovereign nations. And it needs to be treated as such. Each country has detailed, well-established procedures for entering their national territory. The challenge is sorting out all of the information that is floating around out there to ensure that when you cross the border or arrive in either country, your entry is smooth and problem-free.

What this section does is try to clearly outline your duties and responsibilities when undertaking a US Canada border crossing. The information presented here is from the official government agencies of the relevant country.

I strongly urge you to avoid like the plague all of the many 'sea lawyers' out there who lurk in the many sailing forums and chat rooms. Advice from them is frequently incorrect, based on outdated sources or simply a political rant.


I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. This is my understanding regarding the US Canada border crossing regulations as of April 2014. The only authoritative sources of information are the official publications of the relevant government border agency. The links in the following articles will take you to pages on those agencies' websites that I believe will be helpful. However, it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that you are in full compliance with each country's customs and border regulations. By clicking through to the specific information pages, you acknowledge this.

This section is organized as follows.

  • Overview (Where you are right now)
  • General Information
  • Information for CANADIANS entering the United States and returning to Canada
  • Information for AMERICANS entering Canada and returning to the United States

This type of information is subject to change. Both countries adjust their regulations to address their own specific concerns and to reflect the will of their citizens. To be absolutely certain, contact the relevant country's border agency either by telephone or on their website. That said, this information is as complete as I can make it.

General Border Crossing Information

Information For CANADIANS

Information For AMERICANS

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