Do Americans Need a Passport to Go to Canada?

December 17, 2023

2 min. read


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Planning a trip to Canada? Visiting one of the ten provinces or three territories of the country that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and into the Arctic Ocean. Lucky you!

Let’s catch up on the documents you require to fly, drive, or sail to the beautiful neighboring country. And do the Americans need a passport to go to Canada at all?

In Focus

Do the Americans need a passport to go to Canada?

In 2009, Congress introduced a policy that requires Americans to have a passport or its alternative to enter the US and Canada. Whether it’s a next gen passport with a new design or an old ePassport. The new policy within the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) aims at contributing to easier border crossing and security.

An American citizen needs a passport to go to Canada by air, or another eligible identification document to cross the northern border any other way. It holds whether you plan on hiking, driving, flying, taking a cruise (like an Alaska cruise), or a train to Canada.

In case you’re in the middle of the passport application process to get your document and fly to Canada, remember that you need a set of passport photos. Nowadays, there are plenty of options at your fingertips. You can get a Walmart passport photo or go to a store or pharmacy close to where you live and get a compliant photograph.

To calculate the costs for your future passport, use an online passport fee calculator. This way, you’ll get well-prepared for your application process.

Do younger Americans need a passport to go to Canada?

Minors under age 16 need proof of U.S. citizenship only. Parents with shared custody must present copies of the legal custody documents.

Minors under the age of 19 are to have birth certificates to go to Canada in an organized group only, such as a church group, sports, or a club superintended by an adult with a letter written by the organization.

Do Americans need an acceptable passport alternative to go to Canada?

do americans need a passport to go to canada?

Canadian law states that American citizens or American-Canadian citizens who enter Canada need to carry proof of citizenship and identity.

You can use any means of transport to cross the U.S.-Canada border with a valid U.S. passport. It’s mandatory for American holders to have at least 3 months of passport validity and one blank page.

As an American, you can have an alternative document to go to Canada, choose the document that you can use to travel to Canada among the ones mentioned below. Please remember these alternatives are only suitable for travel by land and sea.

Passport card or NEXUS card to go to Canada

Passport cards are a widely spread alternative to a U.S. passport. It has the same personal information and is similar to a driver’s license in shape. A passport card used for going to Canada has almost all the options a passport book has. Unfortunately, you can only use it to go to Canada by land or sea travel. You can’t have a card for international travel flights, it won’t be accepted at the airport checkpoints.

A NEXUS card is another option, which implies the Nexus program administered by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). A Nexus card provides expedited clearance for low-risk travelers who apply for the NEXUS card through an in-person interview.

Enhanced Driver’s Licenses to go to Canada by car

The U.S. states of Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, and Washington issue Enhanced Driver’s Licenses that you can drive with to Canada. It’s a form of identification with extra security components that you can use instead of a passport to travel to Canada by car.

Enter Canada by boat, train, and foot crossings

You might need a passport, passport card, or Nexus card to go to Canada other than by air. That is by foot, by boat, by train, by sea, or by bus.

Other documents you need to go to Canada if you’re a US citizen

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Going to Canada as a US citizen by land or sea, you don’t need a passport. But you may require other forms of identification: a US birth certificate, permanent resident card, naturalization certificate, or certificate of Indian status. But it’s always a safe decision to have a passport with you just in case.

Additionally, U.S. citizens do not need visas for tourist visits of 180 days or less. A more prolonged stay in Canada may require a visa.

What else do you need apart from a valid passport to go to Canada?

If you’re not a U.S. citizen but a permanent resident, you must have your green card or alien registration card. Also, remember that there is an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) that you’re required to obtain before traveling to Canada, with a passport, email, and a non-refundable fee of 7 Canadian Dollars.

As a traveler, you don’t need an eTA when entering Canada by car, bus, train, boat, or ship. You need an eTA to fly to or transit through a Canadian airport. You also do not require a Canadian passport, a visa, or an eTA to go to Canada if you’re a holder of a valid US passport.