I know border patrol control agents have an important job to do.  They are law enforcement officers, working to detect and prevent unauthorized individuals (or agricultural products) from entering a country. In many ways, I really admire them and their dedication.  Other times, I wish the US-based agents could be a tad more friendly.

Border Control to Canada

On my recent road trip into Canada this weekend, I drove into Canada with little fanfare.  The border agent was quite nice.  He asked a couple of casual questions, and although initially serious, he actually smiled after he cleared our passport inspection.  He says, “Welcome to Canada”.

Border Control Coming Back Home

Things are a little different on the way back home into the states.  The line was about 10-15 minutes long on the Peace Bridge, so I organized the passports of everyone in my travel party and flipped them all to the photo pages.  It was a warm day, so I took off my hat and my sunglasses as I waited our turn.  These are little things that I think would make the agent’s work easier.

Citizenship Miscommunication

I won’t go into the whole interaction, but the agent spoke first before I had a chance to say hi.  She talked fast.

Agent: (or at least this is what I thought I heard):  Proof of citizenship?

Me: “Yes” and handed her the passports (ID).

(This isn’t unusual because there is signage to have ID ready.  Apparently, I heard her wrong.  This will reveal itself later.  She took the passports but she seemed annoyed about something).

Agent: What’s your citizenship?

Me:  It’s U.S.  (I had to admit I was slightly confused.  Isn’t that quite obvious by the passports?)

Agent (curtly and seemingly annoyed): So why did you say “Yes” when I asked you earlier what your citizenship is?

Me:  (Ah, touche!  She put me on the defensive immediately, and it was really weird when it was an honest mistake). “Sorry — I thought you asked for … proof of citizenship.”

She didn’t acknowledge my response either way.

Shopping Question

She continue with her lines of questioning. I won’t go into the rest of the details, but one other thing that also surprised me was:

Agent: “Are you bringing anything back?”

Me: “No”.

(We visited Toronto for the long weekend because I heard many great things about the great food.  Having traveled often, I tend not to buy a lot of material things. Because this isn’t my first trip to Canada, I didn’t bother buying things).

Agent:  (non-friendly questioning and disbelieving tone): “You didn’t do any shopping?”

Me:  “Yes, we did, but we didn’t buy anything.”   I then added, “We went to visit for the food.”   Whatever we bought, we ate already, but I decided she didn’t need to know since it might agitate her more.

After a few more questions, she handed me back the passports. “You are set.  You can go”.

Your Experience Depends on Who You Get

I am not going to paint all border patrol personnel in one broad stroke.  I’ve encountered a few friendlier ones at the airports when they welcomed us back home.

I also recognized that they are not in the business of customer service.  They are, after all, law enforcement officials, and I respect the role and the work they need to do.  However, it made me wonder:  If this is the welcome I get coming home, how is it like for others who are just visiting?

I should also mentioned that my previous visits to Canada and entry back home had been uneventful (as they should be).  I will admit that I probably play a good part in the miscommunication for this trip.  Still, I just wish the experience was a little bit more pleasant.  For more information, check out the official “Tips for Crossing” page.

To be fair, this isn’t the toughest border control experience.  That title still goes to the UK border control at Heathrow Airport, but that’s another story in itself.


Did you had a similar experience?  Which border control crossing did you have the hardest time with?