US Customs Procedures

Most of the time when we clear into a US port after being outside US waters, the process is quick and easy. In all the years we’ve been doing this it has also been pleasant, with just one exception. Clearing into Roche Harbor in the San Juan islands from Canada was no different.

There is a long dock, with easy access, and a US Customs office right on the premises. We were fortunate in being early (arriving at 0830) as we found that this is the busiest port of entry in the entire USA. They clear 6400 boats a year here, 3000 in the month of August. They suggest being on hand before 1100 or after 1530. And if there is a line, be patient.

The customs officer asked Steve a number of personal questions, and then asked Linda the same, to verify the answers. The process was thorough. We were surprised and pleased to see that there was some effort being put into making sure things were as they should be.

With a lull in boats to clear after we were finished, we had a chance to chat with the Customs officer. Bottom line, just tell the truth, and don’t try and hide contraband.


A couple of days later we were walking the docks, looking at boats, and a special Customs team was on hand to check boats more carefully.


We were surprised to see this officer wearing a battery-powered drill/screwdriver with pry bar. “Do you use this often?” we asked.

“Every day,” was the reply.

Like we said, it is best to be straight with these guys.

There seems to be some confusion about what can and cannot be brought into the country in the way of foodstuffs. Here is the data on a handout from the Customs dock:

Prohibited Fruit: All citrus, avocados, breadfruit, annona, whole cumin, durian, garlic, chermoya, apples (other than BC/WA), guava, hot chili peppers, cherries (BC OK, not California), mangoes, kiwi (US OK), grapes (other than BC/WA), longan, kola nut, papaya, lychee, potatoes, mangosteen, rambutan, sandpear, persimmons, wheat (Canadian OK), spondia, pomegranate.

Prohibited Nuts: raw – almonds, chestnuts, peanuts, rice (red, black, paddy).

Prohibited Beef: all beef, except US beef in original unopened package.

Prohibited Plants: annuals, perennials, and all propagated materials require a phytosanitary certificate; anything with soil.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 2, 2007)

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