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It wasn’t that long ago when U.S. citizens didn’t need a passport to enter Canada, so many people are understandably confused about the Canadian passport requirements for U.S. travelers. Furthermore, the rules are different if you are crossing the border by land, sea, or air, so you need to be up to speed if you have an upcoming trip to Canada.
This article will provide everything you need to know about the travel documents required to enter and leave Canada as a U.S. citizen.
Do you need a passport to enter Canada from the U.S.?
The simple answer is yes. If you’re a U.S. citizen then you’ll want to use a valid passport with at least one blank page for an entry stamp to go to Canada. However the requirements are different if you’re crossing the border in your car vs. flying on a plane, so we’ll provide an overview of what is needed for each scenario.
A full list of documents that can be used to enter via air, or at land and sea borders, is provided on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website.
Requirements when arriving by plane
If you’re going to be flying into Canada from the U.S., the requirements are similar to flying to any other international location. U.S. citizens, including children, are required to present a valid U.S. Passport, with a least one blank page.
While Canada is not as strict as some other countries, it’s always best to make sure your passport has at least 6 months of validity from the date you will be returning home from Canada.
Requirements when arriving by land or sea
U.S. citizens entering Canada by land or sea have slightly different rules and are required to present a valid Western Hemisphere travel initiative-compliant document. This provides some additional identification options including:
- U.S. passports
- U.S. passport cards
- Enhanced driver’s licenses
- Trusted Traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
- Military identification cards
U.S. and Canadian citizen children under the age of 16 (or under 19, if traveling with a school, religious group, or other youth groups) need only present a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship. The birth certificate can be an original, photocopy, or certified copy.
What is an enhanced driver’s license?
An enhanced driver’s license is a federally approved document that allows you to re-enter the U.S. when traveling by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.
State-issued enhanced driver’s licenses (EDLs) provide proof of identity and U.S. citizenship, are issued in a secure process, and include technology that makes travel easier. They provide travelers with a low-cost, convenient alternative for entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean through a land or sea port of entry, in addition to serving as a permit to drive.
Visa Requirements for Canada
There are around 148 countries that need a visa to enter Canada. The nationals of these countries will have to go through the process of applying for a visa depending on their reason for wanting to visit the country. They can get different types of visas such as those for visiting, studying, working, or even immigrating.
The Canada Government website provides a list of countries that require a visa to enter Canada. Citizens of the U.S. and European Union are not required to obtain a visa to enter Canada for stays less than 180 days.
What’s an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)?
An Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is an entry requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals traveling to Canada by air. An eTA is electronically linked to your passport and is valid for up to five years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first. If you get a new passport, you need to get a new eTA.
With a valid eTA, you can travel to Canada as often as you want for short stays (normally for up to six months at a time). You do not need an eTA for travel within Canada.
Do U.S. Citizens need an eTA to travel to Canada?
U.S. Citizens do not need a Canadian passport, a Canadian visa, or an eTA to enter Canada if they are traveling with a valid U.S. passport.
How to apply for an eTA
You can only apply for an eTA on this official Government of Canada website. To complete the form, you’ll need your passport, a credit or debit card, and an email address. You will also need to answer a few questions.
The application process is a simple online process that takes just a few minutes to complete. Most applicants get their eTA approval via email within minutes. However, some requests can take several days to process if you’re asked to submit supporting documents. It is best to get an eTA before you book your flight to Canada.
How do I get a Passport?
Below are a couple of articles that will provide all the information you need to apply for a passport.
Additional Passport Information
Here are some other articles that address passport requirements of popular destinations for U.S. Citizens