Missing receipts result in lengthy delays in border crossings

Erin Steeksma, a public affairs officer for the Canada Border Services Agency, stops at the Midway Border Crossing as a part of her tour of ports across the Okanagan and Kootenay region.

Erin Steeksma

Erin Steeksma

Crossing the border to pick up an online purchase can lead to extra charges on the way back when missing documentation cannot be shown.

Erin Steeksma, public affairs officer for the Canada Border Services Agency, is visiting the 16 ports of entries from Manning Park to the Alberta border and the idea is to see what are the different challenges and concerns facing the smaller ports.

She was in the Midway Border Crossing as part of that tour.

“I’ve worked out on the coast my whole career, but I’ve never worked in a small port like Midway, or an isolated port like Roosville, south of Cranbrook,” said Steeksma. “The concerns of a traveler crossing here would be a lot different than someone crossing at a bigger port.”

There has been no new regulations added to crossing the border, but the purpose of touring the ports throughout Okanagan and Kootenay district is to educate on existing rules.

With the age of the Internet, more mistakes occur when people cross the border to pick up their purchases and return without a receipt.

“It’s very common for an officer to say, ‘We need a receipt,’ and the public saying, ‘We didn’t know,’” stated Steeksma. “That’s one of the things we’ve been telling people; print it out at home and put it in your purse or wallet so that when you cross you’ll have it no matter what. Don’t rely on the shipper.”

Steeksma would like to remind the public to be knowledgeable about exemptions and the length of time one has to be away before it becomes free.

Another issue includes educating visitors to Canada, especially about firearms.

“We’ve seen a lot of firearms seizures in the past, usually in the beginning of the year for the first six months,” said the public affairs officer, though she added it’s not as frequent now.

In locations that are known for agriculture, there have been a lot of questions about what can be brought over and how much is allowed.

“We encourage people to educate themselves so that they don’t face those extra delays at the border,” she said. “We are here to help. We don’t want to trap you, we want you to come to us and say, ‘Can we bring this across?’ or ‘How much of that can I have?’”

Steeksma pointed out that “even before you cross, you’re passing the Canadian port, just pop in and ask how much beer you can bring through or if an apple is allowed.”

Canada Border Services Agencies is willing to answer any questions about purchases and rules  that the public may have in regards to crossing the border.

The same applies for larger purchases. The public affairs officer recommended that if you are purchasing something large from across the border, or picking something up, to always have the proper documentation and the right figures of how much it costs.

If you are charged once for improperly claiming an item, your name is entered into a databank and you will be searched constantly afterwards, stated Steeksma.

“If you have access to the Internet, we have great resources online at our website and other agencies we enforce regulations for, like food agencies.”

For more information on what items you can bring across the border and additional rules, visit www.cbsa.gc.ca.