Do you need a passport to go to Canada? Yes, a passport is now required for all international travel. However, there are some exceptions for minors and certain cruises. While there may be some circumstances where a passport is not required, the smart and safe traveler will carry a valid passport for all travel outside the country.

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. 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:

Exceptions to the Passport Requirements for Canada

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. However, this is not recommended by the US Department of State. If there is an emergency and you need to fly home, you will not be allowed to board an airplane without a passport book.

Children under the age of 19 can use birth certificates too. Birth certificates are accepted 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. The letter must contain 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, as the passport card won’t cut it. Unfortunately, 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. Check with the U.S. Department of State anytime you plan to leave the country.

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