Canadian Teams...(re: crossing Canada Border)

Our team has qualified via EI for the Detroit Championship!!! We’re super duper excited about attending and as this is our first year we want to explore AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!!!

One of the fun things we wanted to do was jump over (or under?) the lake to Windsor and get the experience of travelling internationally to the far distant land of Canada.

I was looking for advice/tips on travelling with two 15-passenger van full of students and pit/tools/robot things.

Here are some things I am planning for, but definitely would like more advice:

  • Passports and/or Copy of Birth Certificate for students
  • Permission Slip
  • Itinerary with school letterhead
  • FIRST CMP Invitation letter

Is there any more documentation I should carry? Any other tips/suggestions that would help ease this? Any particular things that US CBP and CBSA particularly ask or look for?

Any suggestions of what to do in Windsor? The plan was to grab brunch, take pictures of something Canadian and buy me a jar of Maple Syrup.

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Were you planning on passing through Windsor on your way in or out of Detroit? It would be considerably easier to cross into Canada if you leave your pit/tools/robot things at your hotel and then head across the border. Not that it’s impossible to bring your robot stuff across the border (lots of teams do it), rather it just becomes a lot easier and invites much less scrutiny from the border officers on both sides.


We’re from Chicago, so we would not pass through Windsor, just go visit and come back through Detroit.

The plan was to do it Sunday after Championship as we do not have to take students out of school.

Our hotel did not seem too excited (or even able) to accommodate leaving our things, so I’m planning for worst case of having to take it with us. I’ll keep exploring this option though, since I agree, that it would help immensely with crossing.

Sounds fun. Our team often goes to an offseason tournament in Windsor.

It sounds correct for the documentation.

Anyone 18 or over will need a Passport, Passport Card, Nexus Card or Enhanced Drivers license.
Anyone under 18 years old can alternatively use a US or Canadian birth certificate.

  • Children: U.S. citizen children ages 15 and under arriving by land or sea from a contiguous territory ( Canada or Mexico) may present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate (issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where he or she was born), a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Naturalization Certificate. If the child is a newborn and the actual birth certificate has not arrived from the Vital Records Department, we will accept a Hospital issued birth certificate.

  • Groups of Children : A U.S. citizen children between the ages of 16-18 arriving by land or sea from contiguous territory and traveling with an adult supervised school group, religious group, social or cultural organization, or sports team, may also present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Naturalization Certificate.

And thankfully, the Canadian requirements are the same.

It is highly recommeded that for your kids with divorced parents (especially the messy ones) that you get a permission slip from both of them. You don’t want to get involved with spiteful ex-spouses.

As a reminder, it is not legal to transport firearms into Canada.


I think you’re missing a word in the marked spot. It’s kind of ambiguous, would you mind clarifying?

edit: thanks :slight_smile:

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Please note that you will have to be dealing with BOTH Canadian and US Customs. If you cannot leave your robot and tools with the hotel, it may be possible for a Detroit area team to hold it for you. Heck, they may want to go along for the ride and pick up some real maple syrup, the stuff that doesn’t get exported :wink:

While you’re there, and I know it’s not purely Canadian anymore, but go to a Tim Horton’s. Get some timbits for the team, (or a double double if you’re in the mood for a coffee after a lot of travel). We also have a chain of poutine restaurants that are pretty good if you’ve not been (Smoke’s Poutinerie is at 2000 Talbot Road West).

There’s some other things that are different on this side of the border (smarties are chocolate instead of sugar, kinder surprise eggs are legal, etc) - but petrol is a lot more expensive so fill up before you cross.


Coming to Canada to visit Windsor is not something I expected to ever read…

I asked my friend who’s down there for school right now if “There’s anything to do in Windsor.” His reply was: “Drink.” and “Wish you were in Waterloo.”

In all seriousness,

The FIRST community down in Windsor has been growing a bunch over the past few years. I’d maybe try and sync up with some of the local Canadian teams to try and plan an afternoon. They’ll know all the local spots and what to do. It could also be a great opportunity to share some knowledge and make new friends.

I hope some of those teams chime in here for ya.


One of the mentors at CPR said quite a few of her team members work at Timmies. Apparently, the TimBits are distributed to the stores in a frozen state so you can take large quantities home. This may be the most compelling reason for leaving your robot and tools on the US side :wink:

Most people beat me to the punch - this is all good advice. My team frequently travels to the US from Canada to compete and it is generally a pretty smooth experience in both directions.

One thing I’ll note is that we’ve been hassled in the past while attempting to bring students (as part of a group on a bus) who didn’t have a passport. As was mentioned, technically you don’t need one to enter the US if you are under 18 and part of a school group, but that doesn’t mean the border officers are going to like it - it basically just invited additional scrutiny. Maybe that was luck of the draw with the CBP officer that we dealt with, but now we just require all of our students to have actual passports in order to travel to the US.

As for your robot/parts/tools, it helps to be aware of what they’re looking for when you cross and why they might engage in certain lines of questioning. In my experience, they want to make sure you’re not crossing to work, or crossing for commercial purposes in general. It should be pretty obvious if you have a vanload of students that you’re crossing for tourism, and that weekend the officers will be very aware of the huge robotics competition going on in Detroit as many Canadian teams will be crossing there (some daily). So I wouldn’t expect to have many issues, but having documentation of why you are in the area certainly will help if you do. The only time I’ve been pulled into secondary inspection is when I was travelling alone with my car packed full of tools and parts on my way to Rochester to meet my team at Ruckus. Documentation about where I was going came in very handy that day!

As for what to do in Windsor, hopefully a local can chime in with some ideas - there are a number of FIRST teams in the area who I’m sure would love to give you some tips. Remember that it’s not an especially large city, but there’s enough to keep you guys busy for a few hours. I recall them having a fairly nice waterfront trail/park system along the Detroit river where you could likely snap some nice pictures.

We just had our first international trip to Victoria, BC. Based on recommendations from other teams and online:
The items as you note.

We also had a photo copies of parent’s ID (passport/driver’s license) in addition to their permission slip. All sensitive data (everybody’s passport/ID, various paperwork) was kept on encrypted thumb drives (with multiple mentors) and electronically shredded after we returned.

If you have non US citizen students, there are procedures you’ll need to follow. …Easy to research.

For peace of mind and to prevent chasing after forgetful students, we had a “passport check” prior to leaving the school on departure and hotel prior to returning. We didn’t want to get stuck at a border with somebody who left their passport at home/hotel.

If you’re renting the 15 passenger vans, know that most(?) rental companies will not allow under age passengers to be in the van of that size unless it is family or you have at least a class B license. YMMV.

Best of luck at Detroit!!

An itemized list (for customs) of everything in the vans (tools, parts, supplies…) If you can correlated the item with which numbered box it’s in, that would probably be greatly appreciated by Customs Officers and take much less of your time if searched.

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In terms of permission slip, make sure to use the recommended one from the government: Here is the one from the Canada government, I’m sure the US has their own though too:

And it’s best if you can get it notarized, see if any of your students’ parents can act as a notary-public who can do it for free at your parent meeting before the trip.

Also make sure that you have those from any legal guardian, even if they live out of town.

Personally, mine have only ever been glanced at, but it never hurts to be over prepared when it comes to bringing minors over the border.

Kids should have their passports, which you should collect and hold on to unless they are needed, but also keep on you at all times a photocopy of each passport.

A letter from the school principal stating that this is a school sponsored trip etc is a good idea too.

As an adult who hasn’t crossed the Bridge since she was 21, I almost laughed out loud as I was drinking my TH coffee :smile:

There are beautiful parks in Canada and great places to eat in Windsor, others have given you some great ideas. The only thing I might add is there is a Canadian Consulate in Detroit that might be worth contacting as well.

Please note in Metro Detroit you can see a Tim Horton’s everywhere just like any other fast food, real pure Maple Syrup can be found in most grocery stores, and Sanders Hot fudge is sold in gas stations. Try the Poutinerie, that is a Canadian dish.

As a member of a local team (and someone that works in Detroit for a Chicago bank) I would be happy to help in any way I can.

Thank you for all the help everyone!!

We will make TIm Horton’s a part of the plan and do some more digging into the riverwalk.

As for crossing the border, issues:

  • Not all kids have passports
  • It’s not possible to get all students’ biological parents to sign off
    Has this hindered anyone’s ability in the past? If no one has experience, I will assess with our school admin on whether we should continue or not.

Paperwork/Documentation Plan:

  • Passports for all Adults
  • Passports for Students who have, OR copy of Birth Certificate those who do not
  • Signed Permission Slips
  • Letter from Principal w/ Students (their info), trip detail ON official school letterhead
  • Consent Letter (as defined by US CBP/CBSA) signed by parent/guardian
  • FIRST CMP Invitation Letter
  • List of Tools/Parts
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I would suggest you not bring a “copy”. You will likely need an original with a raised seal. They shouldn’t be too hard to get. The city where the child was born should be able to send the parents one for a small fee. You can go online and order them from the city usually. Or if it’s close by they can probably walk into city hall and just pick one up. If you have an “American born overseas” it may be a little more difficult to get one. But a copy just made with a copy machine may not work.

I was suggested that too, but I am kind of worried about holding onto their original. I also do not think I can ask my parents to pay $30 for an extra copy just for this trip.

I’ll speak to the parents individually and figure out how I can maybe get a very secure way to hold on to their certificates.

I just heard on the radio this morning that a large section of Riverside Drive in Windsor will be closed for the next 7 months (that is the pretty drive along the Detroit River). Just something to think about when planning your trip.

Thanks again everyone for your help! We had a great time at Champs!

The trip into Windsor went smoothly without a hiccup! Got some great buffet breakfast, walked along a pretty good portion of the Riverwalk, stopped by Tim Horton’s and got some souvenirs at Duty Free on our way out.

If anyone else has any concerns or interest next year shoot me a PM or email at hothfrc5125 -

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