Moving Fiancée's Stuff Across Canada US Border
January 27, 2020 9:16 AM   Subscribe

My fiancée and common-law wife is a UK-Canadian dual citizen. I'm a Canadian citizen. She's contracted to work as a theater actor in NYC for 14months under a P-2 visa. We've already moved the bare essentials by plane. I plan on driving down several bins of her stuff to her from Toronto a couple weeks from now. This includes lots of clothing, home wares, bags etc. How do I minimize friction at the border?

• I don't have a US visa.
• I'm self-employed in the arts in Canada so I can't provide a letter of employment.
• My travel partner is a woman my age and I'm moving several bins full of feminine clothing to my wife who just moved to NYC. Either way you slice it, it might look like we're trying to do a sneaky move South.
• The vehicle belongs to my travel partner.
• I've never crossed the US border by car as an adult but I've heard horror stories.
• I'm aware I need an accurate and complete list of the contents of each storage container we bring across.
• If it would help, I can book a return flight from NYC to show my intent.

I'd love to hear from anyone with similar experience on how not to get turned away by US Customs!
posted by Evstar to Travel & Transportation around United States (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The best thing you could do would be to have her with you for this crossing. If you're trying to drive a car that isn't yours into the US, filled with belongings that aren't yours, you're going to raise eyebrows. And if you're not technically married, it could be even harder. You may want to try to get in touch with the closest US consulate or the embassy in Ottawa to see if you can get someone from US Customs and Border Protection to answer your questions.

And do you have a passport? You'll need a passport.
posted by fso at 11:05 AM on January 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

The term I use is "personal effects", FWIW. Note that this applies to my own stuff, though.
posted by suetanvil at 11:25 AM on January 27, 2020

Best answer: The main thing you want to avoid is making it look like you're immigrating sneakily to the US. As noted above, it would raise fewer eyebrows if it looked like your partner was transporting some of her personal effects to the US for a long-term visit under a valid visa, and you were just along to share the driving. If there's any way your partner could fly up to Pearson and drive down to NYC with you, that would be better. (The best way to do it would be for her to move her stuff on her own, without having you along, but I assume that's not an option.)

Even if your partner is with you, you may still arouse suspicion that you're sneaking in on her (temporary) coattails. To counter this assumption, you may need to provide good evidence that you'll be returning to Canada. A return plane ticket is a good start. Other documents you should try to have with you, if they're applicable:
  • A lease for the next few months in Toronto, or the deed to whatever house/condo you own.
  • Any other documents showing that you have substantial assets in Canada.
  • A letter from an employer stating that "Evstar is employed by me and is expected to return to work by such-and-such date."
  • Up-to-date bank records at Canadian banks.
  • Any evidence of family ties to Canada, such as elderly relatives or children that you might be caring for in Canada.

posted by Johnny Assay at 11:51 AM on January 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

How much stuff are you bringing? If you could fit it into a few suitcases (I know it’s a year, but I used to have a not-ridiculously-huge-looking suitcase that I could fit the entire contents of my dresser into) it would be a lot less suspicion-inducing than bins full of household effects. And presumably your fiancée is going to be bringing these things back to Canada (or the UK) so they’re not actually being imported. Or consider the hassle of bringing this stuff over the border vs the inconvenience of going without vs the expense of replacement.
posted by mskyle at 12:02 PM on January 27, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks.

I'm not the one driving. My friend will be driving her own vehicle with me and the bins of stuff. It's basically a car-full.
Unfortunately my fiancee is working nonstop and won't be able to travel with us. I have no assets, no dependents and no job other than my sole proprietorship.

I'll try ringing the consulate and see if they'll offer any guidance.
posted by Evstar at 9:41 PM on January 27, 2020

Best answer: Try googling - cbp household goods. This might be helpful.
Since your fiance won't be present at the border the goods might be considered unaccompanied. You might also try calling the CBP port office where you will be crossing. Bring a copy of the ID page and Visa from fiance's passport as well.
posted by Carbolic at 12:10 AM on January 28, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks again, all. This gives me somewhere to start.
posted by Evstar at 7:54 AM on January 28, 2020

Based on personal experience I heartily second Carbolic's advice to call the office where you'll be crossing.
posted by tangerine at 10:21 AM on January 31, 2020

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