Border Confusion

     The more things change the more they stay the same.  Is that really a saying?  In any case it does pertain to people who want to travel into the Canadian side of Saganaga in 2008.  The requirements for entering Canada at a remote location such as Lake Saganaga have been the same since Canadian Customs closed on Sag however many years ago it was. 

     To legally travel into Canada from Saganaga Lake all you need is a Remote Area Border Crossing Permit.  These permits are obtained through Canadian Immigrations and you can find an application link on our home page.  Each person in your group will need to complete the required application and mail it in at least 4-6 weeks before the desired travel date. Canadian immigrations will process the application and send the permit back to the applicant unless the applicant has been convicted of a felony.  If a person has been convicted of a felony(drunk driving is a felony), then they will not be granted a RABC Permit.  The cost is $30.00 Canadian for each permit and a family(husband, wife, children 18 and under) can all be on one permit if they plan to travel together.  Citizens from countries other than the United States are not eligible to apply for these permits and must enter Canada at a staffed border.

     It is sometimes possile to apply for the permit in person at the Pigeon River Border Crossing approximately 30 miles beyond Grand Marais on Highway 61.  It states on the application that it is OK to do this in person but if you have ever done so you know you don’t get warm fuzzy feelings from the employees on the Canadian side of the border. 

     We have done this before and believe me, you feel like a criminal just for asking.  The employees first look at you like you are crazy, then they inform you that you should have done it through the mail, and after eye rolling and a few huffs and puffs they take your paperwork and tell you to sit down. 

     You will think they forgot about you as the minute hand travels around the clock 60 or more times.  You will have drank a can of pop or two, read all of the brochures on the racks, checked out the artifacts on the wall, played with all of the kids toys watched the 5 employees twiddling their thumbs and returned from the bathroom for the 2nd time before anyone in the building acknowledges you again.   Some people have waited over 3 hours to get their permit that should only take 10 minutes to fill out and get the stamp of approval. 

     Finally they will call your name, give you a stern look, hand you your permit and say, "Next time mail it in, you were lucky I had time to do this, we don’t have to do this, next time MAIL IT IN!"   Then you will be on your Merry Way back into the United States.  If you are lucky then they will just ask you where you are from(America is too vague, just so you know), they’ll ask what you were doing and again you’ll be on your way.  This side trip to get the application should only take 2 hours total with driving time, but I have learned "should" is a fantasy.

     Sorry for the side note but I just felt I needed to warn you.  There are two ways to get your permit at the border.  One way is to storm in there acting all important and demanding a permit now!  That way it will take you 5-8 hours at least.  The other way is to crawl into the building with your tail between your legs apologizing for being so stupid and not having mailed it in before, continue saying things like, "I am so sorry to cause you such an inconvenience, I know you don’t have to do this, I appreciate you doing this so much, I wish I didn’t have to bother you, I know how busy you are, blah, blah, blah, tear on the cheek, I am so thankful you were here, you don’t know how grateful I am."  This should get you in and out in under 90 minutes.

     What about all of the hype about passports and homeland security and the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative?  Here;s what Congressman Oberstar had to say in a recent newsletter.  Like I said earlier, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In just a few days, it will become more confusing to cross the border between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico.   Because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not ready to implement the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), DHS is moving ahead with a temporary system to screen travelers and commerce at our border crossings.  Here is what travelers need to know about the new requirements that take effect on January 31:

  • Adults traveling to Canada or Mexico will need a government-issued photo ID as well as proof of citizenship.
  • To satisfy this enhanced travel requirement, you can present a passport or you can use your driver’s license plus your birth certificate.
  • Children under the age of 18 are only required to have a proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate.
  • There are also exemptions for members of the U.S. armed forces traveling on orders and youth and school groups.
  • For more information, visit before you leave the U.S.   
  •     A passport is a good investment if you travel between the U.S. and Canada on a regular basis.  For the last year, U.S. airline passengers have needed a passport to fly to Canada or Mexico, and passports will soon be one of the key documents accepted for travel by land.  Regardless of the new system that DHS implements, a passport will serve as absolute proof of your U.S. citizenship.