Photo © Ian Coristine/
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Border Crossings

One of the unique elements in the Thousand Islands region is our ability to travel between our two countries with relative ease. It has been said that the United States and Canada is home one of the longest undefended borders in the world, which reflects our strong longstanding friendship and mutual trust. Throughout my collegiate years and many summers in the 1000 Islands, crossing the St. Lawrence seemed like a rather routine experience. A driver’s license and polite demeanor seemed like the only requirements for a trip to Canada.

Concerns’ regarding global security has brought our border under increased focus. June 1, 2009 will bring forth a sweeping change in the way we travel and new requirements to enter our countries. This may be a sobering surprise to many Canadian and American residents and vacationers who routinely cross the St. Lawrence River.

Thousand Islands Bridge © Ian Coristine

Photo by Ian Coristine ©

The WTHI: What is it?

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WTHI) will be implemented in June and will require United States citizens 16 years of age or older who re-enter the United States by land and sea (Seaway..) to have a passport or other secure documentation (such as an enhanced drivers license or NEXUS pass) .

A birth certificate will be accepted for children under 16. Additionally, Canadian citizens traveling to the United States will also need to present documentation (such as an enhanced driver’s license, passport, or a NEXUS pass). 

Consider this, only an estimated 28 percent of the United States population currently carries a passport. Despite the potential issue, particularly tourism in Canada, other options for border crossing can be utilized, including the NEXUS program. The NEXUS pass was designed for frequent travelers between our two nations. In the 1000 Islands, this can mean a much quicker border crossing at Wellesley and Lansdowne. Once filed ($50 dollar fee), the NEXUS applicant is screened for citizenship and immigrant status, as well as a criminal background check. If approved, the applicant is interviewed with the United States Customs and Border Protection agent or the Canadian Border Services Agency at the closest Enrollment Center. This will include a fingerprint as well as an iris scan. Currently in the 1000 Islands region, the closest centers are in Ottawa (Macdonald International Airport), Toronto (Pearson International Airport), Montreal (Trudeau International Airport), Buffalo (Peace and Rainbow bridges), and Champlain NY (border crossing near Plattsburgh). According to officials at the Customs and Border Protection in Alexandria Bay and Canada, there will be a future enrollment center for the 1000 Islands region at the Lansdowne border crossing.

The application information can be found at:

For those who have traveled in the northeast United States and utilized the E-Z Pass toll service, the NEXUS program will operate under a similar model. The 1000 Islands border stations on Wellesley Island and Lansdowne will have exclusive NEXUS lanes dedicated for quicker entry. In order to use the NEXUS lanes, EACH passenger must possess a NEXUS card. Entering Canada, If there are items for declaration, the Travelers Declaration Card (TDC) is deposited into a mailbox located directly before the customs booth and gate.

The TDC is linked to the NEXUS user's credit card, and taxes and duties are automatically billed. NEXUS members declaring some restricted items (tobacco products), or items totaling over a certain value will have to use the standard lanes. In the United States, the NEXUS lane is followed by a visual inspection by one of the border agents/inspectors.

Further information is included:

For boaters, the transition in June should be (relatively) smoother. Canadians and Americans coming/re-entering to the United States mainland and islands will still need to phone into United States Customs. One will need to give either an I-68 form (I-68 is only required for Canadian boaters) or NEXUS information. The Customs phone for the 1000 Islands region is 1-800-827-2851. For those who use NEXUS or one of the video phone-in stations (video stations are located at the Clayton, Alexandria Bay, Morristown, and Ogdensburg public docks), the I-68 is not required. Americans and Canadians coming/re-entering into Canadian waters must phone into Canadian customs at 1-888-226-7277. The local Lansdowne number can be used as well (613-659-4576).

By James Rappaport, Indian Point

Approach to the Thousand Islands Bridge © Ian Coristine

Photo by Ian Coristine ©

In addition to Border information we suggest you refer to the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority  for bridge closure and maintenance schedules for up-to-date information.
Posted in: News Article
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