How do I cross the US border?
Different rule exist for crossing into the US by land, depending on the border. Both entries have prohibitions on the importation of certain items as well as requisite customs declarations. Express border crossing programs may also be in place for pre-screened individuals that meet stringent regulations.
Entry through the US-Canadian border
Although in the past, a verbal declaration of citizenship was all that was needed to cross into America via Canada, starting January 31, 2008 all U.S. citizens above the age of 19 had present documents that show proof of identity and citizenship. Starting in June 2009, this requirement was upgraded to require passports or a passport card.
The passport card is a smaller alternative to a conventional passport and can be issued to all US citizens. This form of ID is used to enter the United States by land or sea via Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda.
Individuals crossing the US-Canada border may be subject to mandatory searches and may be detained if they fail to cooperate, produce sufficient ID or fail to declare prohibited items.
What is the NEXUS program?
The NEXUS program allows low-risk travels to cross the US-Canadian border quickly. A membership card is issued to NEXUS members and they may use that card at any crossing, regardless of air, land or sea travel. Individuals wishing to join the NEXUS program for rapid border crossing must apply with the US Customs and Border Protection. The applicant must pay a $50 dollar fee. The applicant is then screened across law enforcement databases and interviewed based on his or her motives for using this program. One issues, the card is valid for five years.
NEXUS members are still subject to customs checks at the border and during land travel, all occupants of the vehicle must have NEXUS cards.
Crossing the US border via Mexico
Nearly 50,000 vehicles pass into Mexico every day which means that there may be a substantial wait involved with the border crossing. Coming back from Mexico into the US requires inspection by US officials and will take at least an hour, compared to the relatively quick crossing into Mexico. You must have your passport to verify your identity and citizenship for Customs and Immigration officials.
It is important to be aware of the prohibited items that are forbidden for importation to the United States as well as applicable customs and duties related to restricted goods. Especially when entering the US, you will be inspected by US officials and subject to a legal search.
Like the US-Canadian NEXUS program there is a border crossing program for entry into the US called Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI). Like Nexus, it requires a thorough background check but it can only be used for entry into the US and not entry into Mexico.