DISCLAIMER: Lying to border guards, Canadian or otherwise, is almost definitely illegal and certainly naughty. You'd better have a damn good reason for doing it; one that will keep you comforted while you languish in some rathole Canadian prison in which they whip you with scorpion flails and feed you rancid blood. Seriously, you probably shouldn't do this.

"If you're not a good actor, you're a bad actor. And bad acting is bullshit in this business." "It's like a joke; you can tell a joke, can't you? You memorize the details and make the rest your own. And the only way to do that is to keep sayin' it, and sayin' it, and sayin' it, and sayin' it and sayin' it."

All of us harbor dreams of international espionage. However, it's best to start small. Canada is not small; in fact, it's the second largest country in the world by land area (fun fact!). However, it and the United States of America share the worlds longest unmilitarized border (fun fact!)! This is the perfect training ground for you, the neophyte clandestine traveler.

The following tips are intended for those who have a serious reason to believe they may not be allowed across the border, but need to get across very badly. People who simply want to get a laugh out of telling the guard they are heading for Calgary while intending to go to Yellowknife can go forth and deceive with impunity. Wimps.

Preparation

The absolute best way to cross a border is to not need to lie in the first place. As we've already established that, in your case, the truth will imprison you, the only way to avoid lying is to cross where there isn't anybody watching. There are innumerable small, guardless border crossings. A high resolution map of the, for example, Vermont/Canada border will reveal many of these. Google maps can do excellent intelligence gathering for you. However, the majority of these types of crossings will be dirt roads, so you'll need 4-wheel drive. They also, sometimes, have ropes and other things strung across them which will need to be bypassed. Remember, if you are caught crossing in this manner you will almost definitely be detained, and you will lose any credibility you might otherwise retain. If this method isn't for you, then you should try to cross at a very small patrolled crossing. This means avoiding Interstates and major highways.

If you're pretty sure you need to lie to be granted Canadian ingress, chances are it's because you're part of some unpopular group. Disguise is your friend. You must eliminate all visual evidence of connection to said group. For example: if those dirty Canadians are trying to keep, say, a bunch of radical-leftist anti-globalization protesters out, you've gotta present yourself in as bourgie a manner as possible. Prep yourself out: wear clothing with visible logos or sports-related apparel, be clean and neat. LOOK LIKE YOU HAVE, AND ARE INTENDING TO SPEND, A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF MONEY. Do not have any "questionable" music in your car. Do not have propaganda, "literature", or hand-painted signs in your car. DO NOT HAVE ANYTHING POLITICAL OF ANY KIND WITH YOU. Remove piercings, cover tattoos, and wash garish dye out of your hair.

Create a plausible, thorough cover story. You will need to know:

  • Where you are going.
  • What you are doing there.
  • Where you are staying.
  • How long you'll be staying.

These are the basics. The devil, as usual, is in the details. Your cover story must account for everything you have with you. If you happen to have helmets with you to protect your fragile head from flying tear gas grenades (for example), your story must account for them. To generalize: ANYTHING POTENTIALLY SUSPICIOUS MUST BE EXPLAINED AWAY BY YOUR COVER STORY. If you can't explain it, don't bring it. A good strategy is to build a cover story around said suspicious item. Carrying helmets? Perhaps you're going rock climbing. Where is there good rock climbing near where you're really going? Val David. Ooh, Val David's not far from Montréal! We could be going there for a couple of days, too! Why are you bringing them, and not renting them? Oh, well, this is our first time; we didn't know what to expect.

You get the idea. However, as with all lying, SIMPLICITY IS PARAMOUNT. Just think: what would you know if you were actually planning on going where you claim to be? It's okay to not know everything; you're just a bunch of dumb, rich Americans looking for a good time.

DO NOT HAVE ANYTHING WITH YOU THAT COULD POSSIBLY HINT ABOUT YOUR REAL DESTINATION. If you must carry written information that could be compromising, make sure it's disguised in some way. Use "safe" city names. Use plain text, with some sort of word substitution you can memorize.

If you are travelling with a group, it is essential that everyone have the cover story information down cold. Practice. Quiz each other. Come up with anything the border patrol could possibly ask you, no matter how ludicrous. EXPECT THAT EVERYONE WILL BE INTERROGATED SEPARATELY. However, do not have any kind of word-for-word "story" for each person to tell. Again, simplicity: think about what people travelling in a group together would know about the trip.

Okay. You have your disguise, and you have your cover story. Ready?

Execution

If you've followed this advice so far, you should be crossing at a small, backwater border post patrolled by one or two officers. You will be stopped and questioned about the above four items (at least). If you are extremely lucky, you will be waved through and that's it. If you are anyone other than Longshot, you will be asked to pull off to the side and park. The driver will be asked to get out of the car and come inside the post. This is when the fun begins.

The most important thing to do now is relax. They don't know. They don't know a thing, 'cause you're supercool. You are fucking Baretta. Your driver's license (and as of 2008, passport) will be examined, and probably verified. Make sure you have a real one before leaving home. At this point, if you have a criminal record you're probably fucked. The officer will again ask you about the things on the above list, this time in more detail. DO NOT OFFER ANY MORE INFORMATION THAN IS SPECIFICALLY ASKED FOR. Blabbing out a bunch of very meticulous data is a sure sign you're lying. Look pleasant. Don't make jokes; you look nervous. Chances are you'll be asked something that you haven't anticipated. Remember: it's okay not to know. It's also okay to improvise something very simple. Simple, simple, simple. "Why are you crossing so far off the Interstate?" "Oh. I dunno... no reason. We wanted to see some of rural Vermont." Do not get defensive. Remember: you are innocent. You are doing nothing wrong. They have nothing to suspect.

Eventually the driver will be allowed to return to the car, usually with instructions to send another passenger in. At this point you have a very few seconds to inform them of how you answered the unanticipated question. This passenger will undergo the same drill, and the same advice applies. The new variable is your behavior while you sit in the car.

Did you notice, while you were inside, that the second border guard was somewhere out of sight? He or she is probably watching your car. Therefore, the proper assumption is that you and your fellow travellers' activity in the car is being noted. So, again, relax. Try not to talk too much. DO NOT TALK ABOUT YOUR COVER STORY, BEING INTERROGATED, OR ANYTHING ELSE REGARDING YOUR CURRENT SUBTERFUGE. If you absolutely must refer to something negative, do so while smiling. Yes yes; they can't hear you, right? Tell that to Dave Bowman and Frank Poole.

Repeat n times, where n is equal to the number of travellers. Then, wait for the guard to return your IDs and deliver the verdict. If you fucked it up, you are not passing Go. You'll either be refused entry, or, worse, detained indefinitely. However, if you and your companions remained ice-cool muthafuckas, that's it: you are a fucking Canadian, you little piece of shit!

Caveat:The above method will NOT help you if your intention is to smuggle drugs, weapons, or other dangerous and/or illegal items. You will be caught, and you will go to jail.


DISCLAIMER THE SECOND: QXZ accepts absolutely no responsibility for anyone else's actions, and provides no guarantee that you won't get your head stomped in by those incredibly violent Canadian border guards. The above information is for entertainment purposes only, and absolutely did not work perfectly last April.

What are the risks of doing this?

Just how dangerous is this? A good way to get Interpol on your ass? Probably not, but you could have your weekend severely inconvenienced, end up spending a considerable sum of dough, be barred from Canada for life, and maybe tip off the FBI to other things you might be up to.

I don't want in any way to dissuade anyone from lying their way into Canada, I just want you to be armed with the facts.*

Canadian immigration law mandates procedures for U.S. citizens crossing in is as follows: Everyone at every border post will be met initially by a customs inspector. The initial customs inspector is authorized to
1) let you in,
2) interview you individually and/or search your vehicle then let you in, or
3) demand that you be held for further questioning by an immigration official at a hearing.
No reasons have to be given for any of these actions. The customs official cannot just demand that you leave without further hearing.

You are entitled to this hearing within 48 hours, and the said immigration official is authorized to
1) let you in,
2) interview you further individually and/or search your vehicle then let you in, or
3) demand that you be held for further questioning by a SENIOR immigration official.
You are entitled to your hearing with the Senior official within another 48 hours. The immigration offical cannot demand that you leave without further hearing.

The senior official can either
1) let you in,
2) interview you further individually and/or search your vehicle then let you in,
3) Deny you entry, or
4) hold you for trial and imprisonment/deportation for a felony criminal offense.
Since we have supposed in this node (see above) that no weapons, drugs, or illegal immigrants are involved, we are going to assume that nobody is in dander of facing #4. If you are, you are on your own. Merely lying to a customs or immigration official about the plans for your visit is NOT a felony in Canada.

And so, we see that the most you risk as far as time goes is as total of 96 hours in detention. Usually, they want to adjudicate things sooner, but then again, since they legally can be deeks about it and keep you there for the maximum, they just might.

At any point during detention you are free to give up your attemptt to enter Canada say you will turn around and leave if released. They may release you, but they don’t have to until after your meeting with the Senior immigration official. If you look like you might be doing some sort of serious felony, or that you might have some information to ‘share’ if enough pressure is applied, or if holding you for 96 hours will prevent you from engaging in whatever activity they think you will, they might just make you sweat it out for the full 96.

If the end result is that you don’t get in, whether you are explicitly denied entry or agree to give it up in exchange for release from detention, you can
1) be banned from Canada for eternity (unlikely but possible) or
2) for a set period of time (more likely), or
3) you will go on a ‘red flag’ list and will be under increased scrutiny at the Canadian border for the rest of your life (most likely).

Anyway, your car will have been kept safe the whole time and you will be free to leave. You cannot be denied entry back into the states (again, assuming no weapons or drugs), but operate under the assumptions that all ‘incidents’ (detentions) will be shared with American law enforcement. If you don’t want to start a file at the FBI, this is something to consider.

Something else to consider: What if you are in a group, and some of you get detained and some don’t? Or some get detained for a long time and some for a short time? That’s potentially up to 96 hours that you are separated and don’t know what’s happening to the rest of your group. They might keep you updated on the status of your friends - on the other hand, they might not. What if the driver, or the person with the keys is detained and the rest aren’t? What do the rest do? What if everyone but the driver is detained? As you can see, the possibility might arise that a hotel room or sleeping bags are needed. Contingency plans should be worked out for every situation. As far as I know, only the driver who entered customs is allowed to drive the car out. So if you’re not the driver and the driver is detained, only plan on getting as far as you can walk until he is released.

If you are making the crossing by bus or train, if detained the bus/train will not wait for you. You are responsible for securing your own transportation out of there upon release. They don’t let you ‘crash’ at the customs house and there are no refunds.

Now let’s talk about where you want to try your crossing:

Many posts are on secondary roads in rural places and are so small that the customs inspector is the only staff. Others, such as those along major highways in unpopulated areas, may have several staffers, including an immigration official in addition to the customs officers. The largest crossings (Detroit/Windsor, Buffalo/Fort Erie, Port Huron/Sarnia, and Seattle/Vancouver) have a staff of hundreds. At a one man post, you have the advantage that it is a pain in the ass for him to hold you there and wait for an immigration official, so he might be more pressed to let you through. On the other hand, he might not have anything better to do than watch you squirm. At large crossings, immigration officials are present in spades, so your wait might be less, but then again that just makes it all the more likely that your suspicious ass might be held for questioning. On the other hand, they might be too busy trying to intercept real smugglers and murderers to care about you. There are a lot of variables.

One more variable with a small crossing is that there is a small possibility that if you make it to the stage where you face a senior immigration official, this meeting might take place at a distant location, such as in a major city. As far as I’m aware, they will provide you transportation back to your crossing point upon release.

All of this sounds daunting and is a lot to consider, and we should always plan for the worst, but we shouldn’t lose site of the fact that it is damn easy to get into Canada.

Just remember:
Look like you’re not a threat
Give every indication that you are going to spend money
Give every indication that you have money to spend
Have an air tight story that everyone is well versed in
Have a reasonable explanation for everything suspicious

And, perhaps most importantly:
You haven’t actually lied until your vacation is over and you didn’t actually do what you said you would.


* It should have been stated, and cannot be emphasized enough, that the whole discussion in this node applies only to American citizens crossing into Canada overland from the U.S. Citizens of other nations crossing to Canada from the U.S., or Americans coming in from a third country, or foreign nationals going directly to Canada face much more intense scrutiny, and possible stiff life altering penalties. On the other hand, citizens of the U.S. flying or taking cruise ships to Canada face almost no scrutiny.

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