Lake of the Woods Area a Pilot Project for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Check In Program

Visitors and residents alike are optimistic for the future as U.S. Customs and Border Protection communicated a new pilot project taking place on Lake of the Woods, geared primarily towards the NW Angle.  Currently, when a U.S. citizen goes fishing into Canada, if they have touched land while in Canada (and ice = land per definition), the U.S. citizen has to check back into the U.S. upon return vs heading back to the resort they are staying at.

What this meant is traveling back to the nearest OARS (Outlying Area Reporting Station) phone which was developed way back in the 1970’s, many feel outdated and located back on mainland at Young’s Bay, adding an extra trip of up to 16 miles round trip to a day’s journey.  It appears these days are coming to an end.

At a recent meeting at U.S. Customs, we learned our area is chosen for a pilot project which will be watched by border areas throughout the U.S.   Here is the plan…

June, 2017  Lake of the Woods resorts will have the opportunity to have an I-Pad loaded with a U.S. CBP check in program.  The resort needs to provide a heated, somewhat private area with Wi-Fi connectivity.  Visitors who cross into Canada and touch land will then be able to check back into the U.S. by checking back into one of these designated I-Pads vs traveling to the nearest OARS phone.

In a nutshell, providing personal info, passport credentials and answering four questions about declaration of goods will generate a video call with a customs agent.  After a short video interview, they can deny or approve your request for entering the U.S.

The second phase of the program is to take place several months after the I-Pad program, in which the same program will be available for download to smartphones devices.  Again, an info gathering session, answer some questions and then request video conference with a customs agent.

The third phase involves kiosks which will be in more permanent locations.

Lake of the Woods Tourism, resorts, residents and tourists are optimistic about the program and appreciate the opportunity to work through this pilot project.

For questions on the pilot program around Lake of the Woods, contact Joe Henry at

Below, see the press release distributed by U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson’s office.  There is also had the support of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator Al Franken and U.S. Congressman Rick Nolan.



Minnesota – 7th District               


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 15th, 2017 CONTACT: Justin Rostad 218-671-2036


Peterson, Klobuchar, Franken, Nolan Commend Border Security Pilot Program


WASHINGTON DC – Congressman Collin C. Peterson’s (D-Minn.) office organized a meeting with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Senator Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) office, Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) office, and Richard M. Nolan’s (D-Minn.) office and learned that the agency selected the Lake of the Woods region for a pilot program to test safer and smarter technology reporting methods to replace outdated Outlying Area Reporting Station phones.


The decision by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to initiate a pilot program in the Lake of the Woods region is encouraging news towards addressing a pressing issue for a community that depends heavily on tourism. Fishermen and outdoorsmen from around the world travel to Lake of the Woods with their families to enjoy incredible fishing experiences enhanced by a strong resort presence. Oftentimes fishing guides and their guests travel into Ontario, which prompts border security checks by Canada and the United States upon return. The current system of using the three available Outlying Area Reporting Station (OARS) phones is outdated and onerous to access.


“I commend U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the agency’s decision to use Lake of the Woods as a testing ground for new border reporting technologies. This is exciting news for tourists, resorts, and border agents alike and I look forward to a successful pilot program that includes input from our stakeholders so the United States can enhance border security while maintaining a strong local economy,” said Congressman Peterson.


“I’ve long been working to ease the reporting burden for Minnesotans and other tourists who come from around the world to visit Lake of the Woods every year. So I’m very pleased by the decision to move forward with this pilot program, which will improve safety and convenience for travelers and anglers while strengthening our Northern Minnesota economy,” said Senator Franken.


“Tourism and fishing are at the heart of Lake of the Woods’ economy,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Piloting this technology in the Northwest Angle will help make travel safer for both visitors and Minnesotans and ensure that businesses in the outdoor recreation and tourism industries are not hurt because of outdated border technology.”


“We’re pleased that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has chosen Lake of the Woods to test their new border reporting technologies. This decision will help promote efficient, effective border security, and lays the foundation for its use at other entry points along the Minnesota-Canada border. Effective implementation and utilization will promote an even more robust tourism industry that supports our local economy,” Nolan said.


More details will follow in the coming weeks as the pilot program is set to roll out in June 2017.

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