Recreational boaters in the Great Lakes region have long enjoyed sailing across the Canadian border to visit our neighbors to the north.  However, security concerns and regulations have made what was once an easy trip a little bit more complicated.

On Monday, June 1st, another set of restrictions became effective as the US Government rolled out the final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). With the WHTI, US citizens traveling to Canada by land or by sea now need to carry a government-approved travel document, such as:

  • A US Passport Book
  • A US Passport Card
  • An Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) , which is only available if you live in certain states
  • NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST card

In addition, pleasure boat operators have some additional responsibilities when it comes to entering Canada.  If you’re the captain, you need to steer your boat to the nearest marine port of entry and have the following information handy:

  • Name
  • Birthday
  • Citizenship information and  passport numbers for everyone aboard the boat
  • Your boat’s name  and registration number
  • Home port, current location  and contact information.

Only one person (usually the boat’s owner) should exit the boat to report that you’ve arrived. For more information on taking a pleasure boat into Canada, check out the following brochure from the New York Sea Grant.

A US passport book is more expensive than a passport card or some of the other acceptable documents, but it has some  advantages. First, passports are good for 10 years, longer than Enhanced Driver’s Licenses. Second, a US passport book is necessary to travel to and from Canada by plane. The other documents, including a passport card, are only acceptable for land and sea travel.

When you apply for your US passport, it’s best to allow at least 2 months for it to arrive. Even with the government’s expedited service, you’re advised to allow at least 3 weeks.  But have no fear-if you need a US passport to take your boat into Canada, you can get one in plenty of time to do so this summer. A private passport expediting company can offer faster service. Different processing options are available, ranging from 24 hours to a little over a week. Plus, you’ll get personalized service from knowledgeable professionals, greatly reducing the hassle of applying for a passport.

Apply for your US passport today!