There will be minimal to no stress if you are thoroughly prepared. Our landing was a relatively fast and pleasant experience.
We drove with our cat in our SUV from San Francisco across the U.S. to officially land at the CBSA facility at the Peace Bridge at Niagara Falls. CBSA confirmed our work permits, processed the temporary import of our vehicle and officially acknowledged/stamped/kept copies of both our mandatory declarations (Form) of personal belongings ("goods to follow" as well as those we brought with us). Our expectation was that they would also inspect our cat's required rabies certificate, our auto and accompanying belongings. All of which they opted not to do.
Immigration officials at the border can also issue Temporary Work Permits. We chose to obtain our work permits at the border during a prior week long visit to Toronto. Be advised that a CBSA agent inside the facility will not assist you if you have not received an entry slip given by the officer at the drive through booth as you cross the border. Why do I mention this? Because, during the prior week long visit to T.O., Eric and I tried accessing the facility from the Canadian side. It was a no go. We were instructed by an officer just outside the door to the building to return to our car, drive toward the U.S. border and take a specific U-turn just before we left Canada. This would allow us to re-enter the queue of cars just before the Canadian Customs booths where we would receive the required entry slip. OK. Sure. Whatever. Not the biggest hassle - but don't just think you can Waltz right in. Or maybe you can - Nah. Everyone we saw inside did have an access slip.
Our moving company had actually arrived several days prior to our landing and the truck was being held in a GTA warehouse awaiting Canadian Customs clearance for delivery. With our landing papers in-hand, we acquired the clearance needed for delivery at the local Toronto Customs office on Front St. Once again, they opted not to inspect the truck or it's contents - our belongings.
Have all your documents ready. In our experience the more knowledgeable and comprehensively prepared you appear, the less scrutiny you will receive from the CBSA officers. If all is in order, scrutiny will be neither a concern nor a big deal anyway, but the less you get the faster you will be on your way. We were obviously very organized. Our documents were ready and in-hand almost before they were requested. We clearly knew what was expected of us and which documents would be necessary. They did not even inspect our cat's mandatory rabies certificate when we proactively presented it. And they were obviously impressed with our Declaration of Goods Lists, both of which were thoroughly detailed.
All the CBSA agents we dealt with were incredibly pleasant. This was the case both at the border and also the customs office we visited on Front St. in Toronto. We had been told that they might go completely by the book inspecting everything in our car and moving truck. Or they might not. For example, having watched us from the time we parked the car, the several agents outside the border facility showed us and our vehicle neither interest nor concern. They did, however show others a great deal of attention. In my opinion, our demeanor and obvious preparedness went a long way toward an incredibly quick and painless landing experience. Food for thought.
As of June 1, 2009, a passport or similar document will be required to enter the U.S. when traveling by air, sea or land. Although currently one is not technically necessary to enter by land or sea, travelers are still required to prove citizenship. Here are the "official" details. What does it all mean? Anyone visiting you in Canada needs a valid passport. Now. Inform any family, friends, or expected house guests. More information, here. Click here for Passport Canada. And here for U.S. passports.