All United States citizens, including foreign nationals, traveling by air, land, or sea to Canada must present a passport book, passport card, or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative compliant document in order to enter the country or to re-enter the US. This means that one or more of these documents are required by one mode of travel or a combination of travel modes. This became effective June 1, 2009, and applies to those travelers over the age of 16. Children under age 16 may continue to use their U.S. birth or naturalization certificate indicating U.S. citizenship in order to enter Canada through a land or sea border.
Document Specifics for Travel from the US to Canada
All U.S. citizens traveling by air, one of the following documents must be presented:
- a valid U.S. passport
- military identification card
- merchant mariner card
- NEXUS card
- transportation letter
If you are traveling by land and/or sea, the WHTI compliant documents are:
- Trusted Traveler Cards such as NEXUS, FAST, SENTRI
- enhanced state-issued driver’s license
- enhanced tribal card
- U.S. military identification card–must include military travel orders
- U.S. merchant mariner document–must provide proof of official maritime business
- Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
- American Indian Card (Form I-872)
If parents, grandparents, or legal guardians are traveling to Canada with one or more children, it is strongly advised to carry proof of custody. If you are not the parent, grandparent, or legal guardian, carry a letter from one or both parents, grandparent, or legal guardian stating that you have permission to carry the child or children across the border. Failure to do so may result in significant delay entering the country. This is due to international concern over the abduction of children. You must also have proof that the child is a United States citizen. You are encouraged to possess a letter stating any possible medical concern and travel medical insurance information for each child in case of emergency.
You may be barred from entering Canada if you have a criminal record, including drunken driving. Note that it will take several weeks and a processing fee to get a waiver of exclusion issued.
Naturalized citizens, bring your naturalization certificate; permanent aliens, your Alien Registration or “Green” card.
If you hold a dual U.S./Canadian citizenship, enter the United States always as an American citizen maintaining allegiance to the United States.
U.S. consulates are located in Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa, and Québec City. Winnipeg is set up for emergency services only. Although it is not required for travel, you can set up travel registration on the U.S. Department of State web site to record your trip information, including itinerary, medical and travel insurance, in case of emergency.
The WHTI evolved from the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act of 2004 to both strengthen US borders as well as to facilitate entry into the US.