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Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada?

Canada and the US have a long tradition of being good neighbors to each other.  At one time, US citizens could cross the border with nothing more than a driver’s license. However, in recent years the laws have changed, leaving many confused.

Do you need a passport to go to Canada? In all likelihood, yes.  Since June 1, 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) has required that Americans traveling to Canada by land or by sea carry one of the following documents as proof of citizenship:

  • A US passport book
  • A US passport card
  • A NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST card
  • An enhanced driver’s license (only available in certain states)

The only exceptions are for children and people on “closed-loop” cruises. Children under the age of 16 can use their birth certificates, naturalization certificates or certificates of citizenship instead of a passport if they are traveling by land or by sea.

Children under the age of 19 can use birth certificates, too, provided they are traveling with an organized group such as a school group, church group, sports team, volunteer group or cultural organization.  The group must be supervised by an adult and carry a letter on organization letterhead that contains the name of the group, the names of the supervising adult and the children, and a signed statement certifying that parental permission has been obtained for all children on the trip.

Americans traveling to Canada on a closed-loop cruise (one that begins and ends in the same US port) can travel with their driver’s licenses or state -issued ID cards and their birth certificates or naturalization certificates.

Now, if you traveling to Canada by plane, the rules are different. You need a passport book (the passport card won’t cut it), and there are no exceptions, even for children.  Even if you are traveling by land or by sea, it’s a good idea to use a passport book in case you have to fly home unexpectedly.

RushMyPassport can make applying for  a passport much easier and faster. We’ll help you with your application and hand-deliver it to the US Department of State, resulting in processing times as low as 24 hours.

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91 Responses to “Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada?”

  1. Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada? - Blog

    […] New passport laws for Canada are now in effect as of June 1, 2009. Please see this updated post for the latest […]

  2. Taking the Back Way Into Canada? You’ll Need More Than Just a US Passport - Blog

    […] At 5,525 miles long, the US/Canadian border  is the longest border in the world.  Not all of that border is paved-some is mountain wilderness, some of it empty prairie, and some of the border runs along the Great Lakes.  If you are crossing from Canada into the United States at a border crossing in a populated area, you need a US passport, passport card or another document that’s compliant with the World Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). For more details, see Do I Need a Passport to Go to Canada? […]

  3. Karen Kane-Foempe

    My U.S. passport expires 12 July 2011. We are travelling to Canada on April 15, 2011. Will we be ok?

  4. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Karen,

    Yes, you should be fine. Have a great trip!



  6. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Charles,

    As long as they are under 16 and you are traveling by car, you can bring their birth certificates with you instead.

    Have a great day!

  7. michelle

    i am traveling by train from DC to ont canada will i need a passport and what eles?

  8. michelle

    DC = washington DC

  9. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Michelle,

    As long as you’re traveling by train, you can use a passport, passport card or an Enhanced driver’s license with an RFID chip (assuming they are offered in your state). If you’re a member of a trusted traveler program like NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI, you can also use those cards for land travel to Canada.

  10. Tuan Pham

    Hi Mr/Mrs
    I want to travel to Canada on Jul02,11. Can I use greencard to travel to Canada.Thanks

  11. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Tuan,

    Yes, you should be fine with your permanent resident card. Have a great trip!

  12. Kimberly


    I want to surprise my parents with an Alaskan cruise in June 2012. The ship leaves from Seattle and returns to Seattle. Will they need passports?


  13. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Kimberly!

    You are an awesome daughter! If the cruise stops in Canada, Your parents should be okay without passports, so long as they have driver’s licenses and certified copies of their birth certificates, with raised seals. That said, you should double-check with the cruise line to make sure you know what their boarding requirements are.

  14. Kate

    we are traveling from Vermont to Michigan via canada & wish to bring a friend w/us. She does not have a passport and her state, N.H.does not offer an enhanced driver,s liscense. She has a copy of her birth certificate and a current New Hampshire driver,s liscense. Can she travel with us?

  15. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Kate,

    Technically, she needs a passport or a passport card. She will probably be able to cross into Canada with her birth certificate and license but could possibly be detained temporarily when trying to re-enter the US.

  16. Vincent Tran

    We are going to travel from US to Canada by car at Buffalo, New York tomorrow 08/12/11. My 2 kids at age 6 and
    10 ( less than 16). Their passport just expired in june, 2011. Can I bring their birth certificates to cross the border with us. Thanks for your quick response.


  17. Alison Kroulek

    Yes, since they are under 16. You and your wife will need a passport, passport card, NEXUS card or enhanced driver’s license in order to return to the US.

  18. Alan

    Hi, We are driving to Canada from our home in the US and then driving back do we need a passport?

  19. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Alan,

    To avoid delays at the border, you’ll need either a passport, a passport card, an enhanced driver’s license (if available in your state) or a NEXUS frequent traveler card. I hope this helps!

  20. Two Years Later, New Passport Regulations Still Rankle Border Communities - Blog

    […] For more information on passport requirements for Canadian travel, see Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada? […]

  21. holly

    Going on vacation to montreal this friday and realized my passport is expreired…should I cancel or bring extra documentation and wing it. (Husband and kids have valid passports–we are driving through vermont)

  22. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Holly,

    If you’re a US citizen, you actually don’t need a passport to enter Canada as long as you bring a driver’s license and your birth certificate. They’ll let you in with just that. However, getting back into the US is where you may run into problems. Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, you’re supposed to have a passport, a passport card, and enhanced driver’s license or a NEXUS card to get back into the US. We can’t recommend that you enter Canada without the documentation the law requires. However, if you don’t have a valid passport, they can’t block you from entering the US since you are a citizen. What they may do is detain you while they verify your citizenship, so if you choose to go that route expect delays on the way back.

    It’d be better if you had a valid passport or a passport card. Are you passing close to St. Albans? There is a passport agency there that might be able to help, though you will need an appointment and they do have quite limited operating hours: We also have an option for 24 hour processing. Whatever you decide, good luck, and I hope you and your family enjoy your vacation!

  23. Got a US Passport Card? Wave it in the Air To Speed Up International Bridge Crossings - Blog

    […] Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada? […]

  24. Do You Need a Passport to Go On a Cruise?

    […] Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada? […]

  25. amanda stanley

    I want to plan a trip to Canada in May 2012, to visit Niagara Falls. I want to ride the Amtrak. My son will be 13 at the time. What will we need? If I understand you right. I will need a passport or Nexus card, which is better? And my son wont need anything but birth certificate? my son has a state issued ID however I do not think it is the enhanced one you described.

  26. admin

    Hi Amanda,

    You’re taking Amtrak, so you can actually get either a passport or a passport card. The passport card is cheaper- $55 vs. $135. However, it’s only valid for land or sea travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. You cannot use it for air travel. So, really, a passport book is better because there aren’t any restrictions on where you can go with it, but if you’re short on funds a passport card will work for the itinerary you’ve described.

    A NEXUS card is another option but it requires a background check and a personal interview with border control officials, so unless you’re planning to drive back and forth from Canada frequently it’s probably not worth the extra hassle.

    Hope this helps!

  27. amanda stanley

    Thanks so much. What will my 13 year old need?

  28. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Amanda,

    Sorry, I neglected to answer that part of your question, didn’t I? :) You just need to bring his birth certificate and he should be fine. Have a great trip!

  29. Douglas

    We are planning to drive to Canada from the US as we have done for years. We thought only our kids 18 and over needed passports. Dad is US Citize; Mom is Canadian Citizen with green card, we both have passports. Kids are 14 and 17 with birth certificates and photo ID. Will we be okay with that?

  30. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Douglas,

    The 14-year-old will definitely be OK. The 17 year old technically should have a passport to return to the US, though he or she won’t need one to get into Canada. Crossing back over the border, CBP can decide whether to let you through with just the birth certificate or hold you temporarily while they verify the 17-year-old’s citizenship, but they cannot refuse to let a US citizen cross the border.

    Hope this helps!

  31. Michelle

    Hi! I want to travel to Canada this weekend. But i only have philippine passport, do i need my greencard to get in too? Thank!

  32. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Michelle,

    Yes, you’ll need your green card as well. Have a great trip!

  33. Tanya k

    Does my 17 year old daughter need a passport? We are going from the U.S. to Canada by car.
    Thank you

  34. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Tanya,

    Technically, since she’s over 16 she needs a passport, a passport card, an enhanced driver’s license (if your state offers them) or membership in a trusted traveler program like NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI to get back into the US from Canada. Thanks, and have a great trip!

  35. Do You Need a Passport to Go to Niagara Falls?

    […] you’ll need a passport book, not a passport card and not one of the alternate IDs. See Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada? for more […]

  36. Mark

    My passport expired on march 1 but my trip is planed on march 24. im 18 years old and going by car I was wondering if its possible to travel across the border with u.s birth certificate and a drivers licence?

  37. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Mark,

    It’s definitely possible to drive across- Canada only requires your driver’s license and your birth certificate to get in. However, on the way back in you may be detained temporarily while they verify your citizenship. I would bring your expired passport, too, as this will also help establish citizenship. Allow extra time for the return trip, and get your passport replaced (or at least a passport card) as soon as possible.

  38. Tara

    I live in Upstate New York and I’m traveling to a concert in Montreal in two weeks. So I will only be in Canada for the day. I have my social security card,State ID and birth certificate. Will I have any trouble?

  39. Tanya

    My 14 year old son lives in Mich and, his Dad lives in VT. I was planing on driving and meeting his dad in NY. Does my son need a passport to cross over through Canada?

  40. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Tanya,

    No, if you’re driving he can travel with just his birth certificate until he turns 16. Have a great trip!

  41. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Tara,

    You are supposed to have a passport, passport card, NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI card to get back into the US from Canada. You can get into Canada with just your driver’s license and birth certificate, but I can’t tell you how much or how little trouble you’ll have getting back into the US because that’s up to the customs officials you encounter. However, you’re an American citizen so they will have to let you cross eventually. They may detain you temporarily to verify your documents, though.

  42. Joe and Karen

    My family is taking a cruise this summer. We are leaving from and returning to Boston with our only stop in Canada. I have 3 children, all under the age of 3. What documentation will we need for safe re-entry to the US? Thanks!

  43. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Joe and Karen,

    Contact your cruise line to double-check their requirements, but you should be fine with driver’s licenses and birth certificates for the two of you and birth certificates for the kids. Enjoy your trip!

  44. Suzanne

    What is the requirement for passage back and forth from NY to Ontario for a 10 yr old accompanied by mother but not father? Does mother have to have affidavide from estranged father? She is custodial parent.

  45. Rose

    Hi Alison! I am an immigrant working and living in Maryland ( I am from the Philippines and my application for US citizenship is being processed). I just recently received my Employment Authorization Card/ Advanced Parole card from USCIS. I am planning to travel by land to Toronto, Canada on April 21, 2012 and come back to USA by April 24, 2012. However, I mistakenly thought that my Philippine Passport expiration date is next year. I checked and to my surprise, it is about to expire on April 27, 2012. Most of the people I ask tell me to just postpone the trip and renew my passport first due to the fear that the trip is risky. To add, I already received my Permanent Resident card but there was a mistake on my first name’s spelling (USCIS informed me to have the card replaced) so I think that I could not use the card as a VALID document as well. Being an immigrant without a US passport yet, is it “safe” for me to get in and out of the US territory with a foreign passport which is about to expire a week from my planned travel date? Please help. Thanks!

  46. Sovilla

    My Husband and I and 3 children (ages 9, 8, 2) are planning a trip to Niagara Falls (traveling by car from MI to Canadian side) this summer…none of us have passports. Will we need passports?


  47. Alison Kroulek

    You and your husband need one of the following: a passport, a passport card or a NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI card.

    The kids, on the other hand, can get by with just birth certificates.

    Enjoy your trip!

  48. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Rose,

    Hmmm, good question. Contact the nearest Canadian Embassy to see if they can help:

    Good luck!


  49. chris

    Me and my friends are 15, 16, and 17. And we’re planning a summer vacation to Canada. What all do we need?

  50. sarah

    I was wondering I went to the post office the other day to get passports for me and my husband for a canada trip for my sons hockey team and when i went they got rude and told me all four of my kids whom are 8,4,2,5mths need passports to go into and leave canada they said it changed 2 yrs ago and now a birth certificate is unacceptable for them. Is this correct or do they just want more money from

  51. Duy Nguyen


    Can I travel to Canada by driving with an expired passport and green card.


  52. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Duy,

    Possibly. All you need is your green card to cross back into the US by car. Please contact the Canadian Embassy to make sure that your expired passport won’t cause you any problems getting into the country, though:

  53. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Sarah,

    It totally depends on whether you’re driving in or flying in, which may be the cause for confusion. If you’re driving in, the kids can all have birth certificates since they’re under 16. If you’re flying, everyone needs a passport, even your five-month-old. Hope this helps!

  54. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Chris,

    Everyone over the age of 16 at the time of the trip needs a passport or a passport card.

    Have fun!

  55. Vickie

    A very small group from my church is going to Canada in July and one of the boys that has recently decided to go is 14 and does not have a passport.
    Here’s what I know he’ll/we’ll need.
    His birth certificate,
    A letter on our church’s letterhead listing all supervising adults and a list of all who is going with us, and where we are going and when we plan on returning.
    And a sign letter from his parent saying that she knows who he is with and that she has given her permission for us to take him with us.
    Is there any other documentation will we need for him to cross the Canadian border, then back through USA border by car?
    Thank you (in advance)for taking the time to answer our questions

  56. Wii

    Hi Alison,
    I want to travel to Canada this summer. I’m a U.S permanent resident. I have a green card and a passport from my country. Base on what I have, what can I travel with? air? car?

  57. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Wii,

    As long as you have your green card and a passport from your home country, you can travel any way you’d like. :) Just check with the Canadian embassy to see if you need a visa.

    Have a great trip!

  58. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Vickie,

    That list looks good, but you might want to double-check with the Canadian Embassy:

  59. cherie

    My daughter is 15 and going from Washington state to Victoria Canada via family yacht. She has a CA ID, certified birth certificate, and my husband and I have made copies of our passports and consent letters (notorized) as she is not traveling with us and friends of the family. She will return to Washington before her 16th birthday. Do you think she will be ok entering and leaving Canada??

  60. Lynn

    My 12 year old son, my 65 year old mother and myself (43) will be traveling to Niagara falls Canada side this summer. I keep reading conflicting answers about whether we will need passports. Some say no, just drivers license and birth certificates. Other answers say yes we all need passports. Also passport requirements say that both parents must appear in person to apply for a minor passport. My ex has left the state and we have not had contact with him in several years so there is no way that he will or can appear in person to give permission for my son to obtain a passport. What is the correct answer for passport requirements? Thanx.

  61. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Lynn,

    I’m assuming you’re traveling by land into Canada? If so, as far as your son goes, since he’s under 15 he can just travel with his birth certificate. Actually, all of you can technically get into Canada with just ID and birth certificates, BUT you and your mom need either a passport, a passport card, or an enhanced driver’s license (the kind with an RFID chip, not offered in all states) to get back into the US without any hassles.

    As far as getting as passport for your son goes, your ex doesn’t have to appear in person with you but you would need a signed, notarized consent form from him unless you have sole legal custody of your son. If you have sole custody, just bring the court order in when you apply with your son and you should be fine.

    Hope this helps!

  62. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Cherie,

    As long as she’s under 16 she should be fine.

  63. Daniel

    Hey Alison,

    I was wondering if you can be the age 16 and enter Canada with a Birth Certificate,Thanks.

  64. Barbara N David

    i want to go to canada, but i do not know how to start the process

  65. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Barbara and David,

    I’m not sure what you mean? If you’re not sure how to apply for a passport, read this:

    And here’s information from the Canadian government aimed at visitors to Canada:

    Keep in mind that you don’t need a visa for a short term tourist visit if you’re a US citizen.

    Hope this helps!

  66. Alison Kroulek


    Once you hit 16, you can only use a birth certificate if you’re traveling by land or sea with an organized, chaperoned group like a church or school group. You need a passport, a passport card, an EDL or one of the following trusted traveler cards: NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI.

  67. John

    We are supposed to go to canada in 3 days and we cannot find my 7 year old’s birth certificate! We are going to try to expedite it. are there any options for us if we can’t get it in time??

  68. Alison Kroulek

    Hi John,

    Probably not, I’m afraid. But you could contact Canadian Border Services and ask:

  69. Amanuel

    Can I go to Canada with green card & drivers license?

  70. Amanuel

    How secure/safe is to drive from Albany NY to Montreal Qc & how is the traffic?

  71. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Amanuel,

    Yes, you can use your green card and driver’s license. Have a great trip!

  72. Carina

    Hello, we are planning on either driving or taking the train to Canada. It will be me and my four children. I know I need a passport and my children can travel without a passport, using their birth certificate. My question is, would I have to have their dads signature or written permission to get into Canada or can we just go as long as I have their birth certificate?

  73. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Carina,

    If you’re divorced, you need a copy of the custody agreement and signed permission from him. If you’re still married, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to carry written permission any way, just in case there are any questions. Have a great trip!

  74. Kim


    We are planning a trip from US to Ontario Canada by car. We have a 8 and 11 year old, do they need passports or is their birth certificate sufficient ?? Is there a cheaper piece of identification for my husband and I other then a passport ?? Thanks for your help.

  75. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Kim,

    As long as you’re traveling by car, your kids can use birth certificates. You and your husband could get passport cards or possibly enhanced driver’s licenses with RFID chips, assuming your state offers them.

  76. Teresa

    My daughter and I are planning a trip from Michigan to Rochester, NY by car. We would like to go through Cananda. She has a 4 and 7 year old, and I understand that birth certificates are sufficient for them. I have a passport, but my daughter does not. Is an enhanced driver’s license sufficient for her?

  77. Alison Kroulek

    Yes, an enhanced driver’s license is fine as long as you’re traveling by car. But for the kids, be aware that she may also need to bring notarized permission for the trip from the children’s father (assuming his name is on the birth certificates), or proof that she has sole custody. See here for more details:

    Have a great trip!

  78. Habiba

    My family and I are planning to go to Toronto this year, and my two daughters who are 7 and 13 have expired passports.Could they go to canada with their brith certificates?

  79. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Habiba,

    Yes, as long as you are traveling by land (or by sea). If you plan to fly in, the girls will need new passports.

    Have a great trip!

  80. Stephanie

    Hi. My son is traveling to Sydney, B.C. by ferry from Anacortes, Wa with his grandparents on April 1st. He turns 16 on March 21st. He will not have a drivers license yet and doesn’t have a passport. Will a birth certificate be enough?

  81. Jen

    Hi , my boyfriend and I will be driving to Canada in a rental car in my boyfriends name I will be driving will this be a problem, we both have passports will we both need drivers licences? thank you

  82. Jackie

    What kind of birth certificates are accepted, the official one or is the hospital one ok?

  83. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Jackie – you must have an original or certified copy of your birth certificate. Hospital certificates are not accepted.

  84. Jenny

    Hi, my son is 16. Does he need a passport? Above says under 16, so I was wondering if that included 16.

  85. Alison Kroulek

    Yes, he needs a passport or a passport card (if traveling by land or sea.)

  86. TAN DANG

    Hi, my son’ s US passport is going expired on Jun 24, but we are leaving Canada on the 14 of Jun .is it ok for him to comme back USA by air?

  87. Alison Kroulek

    Sure, as long as it’s still valid when he returns you should be fine.

  88. Alecia L.

    I have two children under 16 we will be travel to Canada by car with. I have their expired Passports, can I bring that instead of there birth certificates??

  89. Alison Kroulek

    Hi Alecia,

    You can try. They may or may not let you cross, and you may be delayed crossing back into Canada while they verify your documents are legit. But it would be MUCH better to get a new copy of their birth certificates. If you don’t have time to go collect them yourself you can order from They’re usually very quick.

    Good luck!

  90. Johnson vante

    Hi my name is Johnson I’m Haitian my passport is expired I have green card I wanna drive to come to Canada is OK?

  91. Alison Kroulek

    Contact the Canadian Embassy. Thank you!

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