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CBP Issues Holiday Travel Reminder in Montana

Release Date: 
December 23, 2009

Sweetgrass, Mont. - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are reminding members of the traveling public to avoid crossing the border with wrapped Christmas gifts in an effort to expedite their entry into the United States.

"It is best to not travel across the border with wrapped gifts," said Larry Overcast, U.S. Customs and Border Protection area port director in Sweetgrass. "CBP officers may have to open wrapped gifts if the inspection dictates. It would be best to wrap gifts when you arrive at your destination."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reminds travelers planning trips into the United States to have their approved travel documents and to anticipate heavy traffic during the holidays from today through the first week of January.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative implemented on June 1, requires U.S. and Canadian citizens age 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable approved travel document that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea. WHTI-compliant documents include a passport, U.S. passport card, enhanced driver's licenses (EDLs) - now produced by the states of New York, Michigan, Vermont and Washington; also the Provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia - or a Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST). For more information, visit the WHTI Web site. CBP also wants to remind U.S. lawful permanent residents that the I-551 form (green card) is acceptable for land and sea travel into the U.S.

Border traffic volumes are expected to be greatly increased during the Christmas and New Year holiday and all travelers are reminded of a few simple steps they can employ to expedite their entry into the U.S.

  • Tip #1 - Refer to the "Know Before You Go" section of the CBP Web site to avoid fines and penalties associated with the importation of prohibited items.
  • Tip #2 - Prepare for the inspection before pulling up to the inspection booth by having travel documents available, being ready to declare all items acquired abroad or that will be left in the U.S., and by ending cell phone calls.
  • Tip #3 - Consult the CBP Web site to monitor Wait Times - Border and Airport for various ports of entry including Blaine and Sumas, Washington; Sweetgrass, Montana; and Pembina, North Dakota. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use or short waits.
  • Tip #4 - During periods of heavy travel; travelers may wish to consider alternative, less traveled entry routes.
  • Tip #5 - Travelers should build extra time into their trip if crossing during periods of heavy traffic (i.e. days immediately following Christmas through New Year's Day).
  • Tip #6 - Know the difference between goods for personal use vs. commercial use.
  • Tip #7 - Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and firewood into the U.S. without first checking whether they are permitted.
  • Tip # 8 - CBP officers have the authority to conduct enforcement examinations without a warrant, ranging from a single luggage examination up to and possibly including a personal search. Even during the holiday travel season, international border crossers should continue to expect a thorough inspection process when entering the U.S.

CBP agriculture specialists and officers at the Sweetgrass port of entry intercept prohibited agriculture items thousands of times each year. This time of year the majority of these interceptions are homegrown potatoes from Canada or citrus products. CBP reminds travelers that Canadian homegrown potatoes and citrus, including U.S. citrus purchased outside the U.S., are prohibited from entering the U.S. on the northern border.

Homegrown potatoes from Canada are prohibited because of a microscopic species of worm, called a potato cyst nematode that may be found in soil adhering to potatoes. This nematode primarily attacks potatoes and tomatoes causing stunted growth and plant death, resulting in huge economic losses in commercial operations. The pest can live for up to 30 years in the soil.

Citrus such as oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, and limes may be infected with bacteria that cause citrus canker. Citrus canker causes the citrus tree to decline in health and fruit production until it produces no fruit at all. The bacteria travels undetected on the skin of the fruit. Florida recently removed and destroyed 300,000 acres of citrus trees to prevent the spread of canker. The California citrus industry contributes $1.5 billion annually to that state's economy.

CBP continually monitors traffic and border crossing times at area ports of entry. The agency plans to fully staff all inspection lanes during peak periods and to implement various traffic management operations to maintain the flow of traffic during periods of exceptionally heavy usage.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017