Keep the answers simple and to the questions asked. Don't volunteer information if they don't ask. Also advise others in your vehicle to let the driver do the talking, unless a question is directed to one of the passengers. Many of the problems folks have reported, have come up based on comments made by passengers. Many times, it would seem, that everyone wants to get involved in the Q & A portion of the crossing. A real "no, no".
If they don't ask about food, then take it that they are not interested. Keep in mind that the border officials are all federal employees, not state or provincial. Some states and provinces have different vehicle laws, such as whether or not a supplemental brake system is required for the towed vehicle, if one is being pulled. The border officers are not usually interested but they may volunteer the info as to if the state or province you are entering requires such. Most officers have zero interest in looking into state or provincial laws/regulations, etc. unless it is of a felony nature.
They do listen in, both when you are in line or inside the buildings, they can profile, don't need provable probable cause, etc. Make sure passengers, especially younger members with you, of the seriousness of trying to be "funny" with their comments. Most of the time by you get to the window, and shut off your engine, remove your sunglasses, have your passport or other paper work ready to hand over, they have already run your vehicle tag, know who is the registered owner, good chance they have a photo of that owner, etc. showing on their computer screen. Both sides share computer info or work off of a single system for all I know.
Both side know the other's regulations etc. After the 9-11 incident, the US lines were being checked so closely, the back ups were getting out of hand. So the US requested assistance from the Canadian border officials, which was granted. So for about month the officer clearing travelers into the US may have been wearing the uniform of the Canadian Border Service at their border station.
So depending on how many times you have crossed, what state or province you are from, your line of work, any infractions of the law, the random selection of the computer system, the level of boredom of the officers, have you in the past been caught with non-approved items and other stuff will determine, if you get the 3 minute border crossing or the several hour one. The driver's attitude may also play a role in the process. LOL
In the many crossings into/out of, Canada and the US, I have drawn the lucky card twice and gotten the full vehicle search. Over the 50 years I have been running back and forth to Alaska, I suspect I have crossed the border well over 100 times.
I find the crossings to be much less intrusive, than trying to get through security at the airport, with the X-rays and pat downs. I really don't like having to chose, which I want to go through, for as a senior citizen, seems I should be entitled to both. LOL
Formerly of Colorado and Alaska
Chevy 3500 DRW Dmax CC - Rockwood 8281 SS 5th Whl & 2008 Lance 845 TC www.pajbcooper.com web site
Alaska Trip 2011 posted
Colo-Utah-Ariz 2012 trip posted
"Without challenge, adventure is impossible".
For us, it's never clear what's on the latest list of items that can't be taken into the US or Canada at any given time, other than the obvious no-no's indicated in previous posts here. In the past we've had non-meat dog food taken because "it could have been packed on the same production line" as the meat based dog food. You can't argue with the border folks as they have "the power of God" over you.
Before we cross the border we don't dump anything, we declare what we have and if the border folks dump it, it's not a big issue. It actually saves us some $$ as clearing our fridge at home costs us $2.00 per garbage bag, at the border it's free!
We have made at least 30 crossing in the past 9 years. Going into Canada we are always asked about liquor and a couple of times have been asked about cigarettes. We all ways have a written inventory of the liquor and don't smoke. We are always over our duty free limit and have only been charged duty one time going into Canada. Have never been questioned about the amount of liquor we are bringing back into the US.
Three years ago there was a big beef scare and the officer took 2 cooked hamburger patties from us. We know beef is usually a problem so we try to eat it all up before coming back to the US. In 2007 had several potatoes confiscated coming back to the US. This year they took 2 grapefruits and one tomato.
Have never had any food products confiscated going into Canada.
Have had full coach searches twice going into Canada and once returning to the US where we have had to leave the coach. Have had the officers, on the US side, walk through several times while we were still inside.
Just be polite and answer the questions and if you are not carrying an undisclosed firearm you shouldn’t have any problem. Note of caution - if they do fine undisclosed firearms they can and will confiscate your vehicle.
Lonnie and Sue
2007 HR Ambassador 40'
2008 Chevy Colorado Z71 4x4 Crew Cab
West Texas, Retired
Fulltimers. No more grass to cut, no more leaves to rake, and can move if we don't like our neighbors.
States we spent time in, drive throughs not marked.
Four crossings in the last 11 months. (Two into US, two into Canada.)
The ONLY things that were the same every time were "weapons, alcohol, tobacco".
And, I'm not even sure about being asked those things on the US side or if it was just at the Canadian crossings.
I think we were only asked about firewood once. Produce twice. Three times maybe. But, sometimes they only wanted to know about citrus. Never asked about computers. Asked about "how much money" we had one or two times. Asked a lot of questions about "how where are you going and how long will you be there?" (Really surprised me how many questions I got at Canadian customs about "where I was going in the US." I was only passing through Canada.) Seems hard to answer some of those questions when all you're doing is "wandering around the southwest" for a few months. And, "where are you coming from?" is also an interesting question (or answer?) in a case like that! (We decided to keep it simple as "mostly Arizona and Nevada.") In one case got asked about salmon/halibut.
So, I figure it varies from one border to the next (all were at different crossings), one guard to the next, your answers to their questions, and, of course, the "area of emphasis of the day/week."
Border guards can't ask all the questions about all the regulations in existence all the time. They have their priorities, which like are influenced by current events.
Take pet food. If bird flu exists in either of our countries, maybe even in Mexico, you can bet your bottom $ the questions about pet food will popup, however rare they may be in other years,
Now, I don't think anyone has said to look at the stickys at the top of this section. The stickys in this section will give you links to the regulations, and not just trends for what people have been asked recently.