By Jordan W. Charness
When you pull up to the border, you are actually asking for a temporary visitor’s visa. Even though you’re not actually given a paper visa, the mere fact that you’re allowed to enter means that you have been granted the visitor’s permit. It comes with certain restrictions which include the prohibition to work or to stay longer than three or six months.
Although you are permitted to take your car into the United States you’re not allowed to sell it there. In fact if they even suspect that you intend to leave your car behind, it may be seized and you could be charged with smuggling. Oddly enough, in many cases it is up to you to prove that you had no intention to bring your car into the U.S. with the intention of selling it. Sometimes, the mere fact that you may have a U.S. address for a summer or winter residence may be enough for the customs officer to think you are engaged in something illegal. Having more than one driver’s license is another clue that will indicate that your intentions were not exactly as stated.
Another great way to have your car seized is to attempt to bring along even the tiniest amount of an illegal drug. The United States now has a zero tolerance rule, which means that they will not allow you any leeway at all in this matter. If you are refused entry for this reason you will also be black-listed and not allowed into the U.S. for several years.
You must also declare any animal products that you’re bringing across the border, as well as plants, fruits and their byproducts. This rule is in effect when crossing both into and out of Canada.
Driving internationally often means that you must have an international driver’s license or additional insurance. Each state and country has its own rules of the road and you must learn what they are before getting behind the wheel.
In some countries you must call the police if there’s even a small accident causing minimal damage. Don’t rely on your home insurance to pay for the damage as you must sometimes purchase country-specific insurance. Mexico and most of Central America are countries in this category. Often, insurance is available at the border or from rental car companies; and remember that too much coverage is much better than insufficient insurance.
If you are travelling in a foreign country, you must follow all laws of that country. Your Canadian citizenship does not protect you from being pursued for any criminal acts committed abroad, though the Canadian Embassy may provide you with legal assistance. They will try to ensure that you will get fair treatment under local laws which may be quite different from those in Canada.
If you’re planning to stay out of Canada for more than three months, it is recommended that you formally register at the nearest Canadian Embassy. In countries where Canada has no direct representation there may be special arrangements made so that you can register with another country’s embassy or consulate. Registration is voluntary and is not available in the United States, New Zealand, Australia or Western Europe.