A recent trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario, meant that I would have to deal with the current rules for leaving the United States and reentering the United States via automobile. I heard lots of warnings and quoting of rules from various people, but I stuck by the rules posted on the U.S. State Department Web site.  CustomsEven after checking out the real rules online, I had difficulty convincing some people that the official posted rules were the latest and most reliable. But they were.

I obtained my card passport several months ago, in preparation for the trip. This version of the passport works if you’re travelling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region, or Bermuda via land and sea. Good luck if you try the land option between the U.S. and Bermuda or the Caribbean region. If you find a way to do this, let me know.

The process for obtaining a passport is not really difficult. Just find a U.S. post office or other facility that can process your application. You must apply in person if you have not previously obtained a passport. You must show up with a completed application and proof of your citizenship. You must also show proof of your existence. Just saying that you exist is not enough.  A valid driver’s license with a photo is OK, but make sure it’s valid. I did not. My license was nearly a year overdue. Before I could formally submit my application for passport, I had to hurry to a local license branch where I tried to renew my license. Since it was over 6 months overdue, I had to take a written test. Luckily, I was able to pass the test without reviewing the driver’s manual. Back to the post office I dashed, after an hour and a half at the license branch. That was a day to remember.

After you submit all necessary paperwork and have your photo taken, you’ll wait several weeks for your birth certificate to be returned and your new passport to arrive. When they do, you’re good to go. You’ll feel very special with a nifty new passport.

Driving into Canada was relatively easy. I stopped at Customs and showed my new passport, and it was readily accepted as an indication of my legitimacy. Some questions I was asked: What is your business in Canada? How long will you be staying? Where will you be visiting? Do you have alcohol or tobacco? I answered the questions and we were waved through the border. Driving back into the U.S. was almost as painless. The passport was accepted with few questions. Just don’t tell the guard about the 12 cases of beer, 15 liters of whiskey, and 36 bottles of wine in your trunk, or the weed stashed in your tire well.

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