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Do US citizens need a passport to visit Canada?
November 9, 2004 1:36 PM   Subscribe

If I am a US Citizen, and want to go to Canada for a few days, do i need a passport? I had one, but it was stolen, I'm a poor student right now, so i dont have the cash (or time to wait) for a new one to come. Is a driver's license or birth certificate considered official enough documentation?
posted by jare2003 to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
 
A birth certificate is fine and they will let you in no prob. Just carry it with you.
posted by mathowie at 1:38 PM on November 9, 2004


Getting in, no prob: I've had Canadian guards wave me through without even looking at my driver's license, let alone a passport. Getting back out, I was hassled once by the US border guard because I didn't have my passport. This was a few months after 9/11 though, and they seem to have relaxed a bit.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:43 PM on November 9, 2004


Are you going by land or by air? If by air, you'll probably receive a good deal of hassle, but there's still a good chance you'll get through. If by land, the chance you'll be turned back is much lower. Odd, but that's the way it seems to work.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:48 PM on November 9, 2004


Last summer, three of us in car crossed into the States in less than a minute. Just showed our drivers license. Crossing back was the same. We also had a bunch of undeclared booze. Easy.
posted by mkn at 1:50 PM on November 9, 2004


Previously on AskMe....
posted by cardboard at 2:10 PM on November 9, 2004


My own experience, just three weeks ago, was similar to PinkStainlessTail's. Going in to Canada, I gave my passport and my girlfriend gave her driver's license, and there was no problem. Coming back, I gave my passport and my girlfriend gave her driver's license, and she was hassled for a passport (which, fortunately, she also had). Then again, that border guard also wanted to know where we lived (Sacramento, California), who we knew in Washington (no one; we were staying there on vacation), and what we did for a living, right down to what subject and grade level I teach (what the hell?), so it's likely he was just overly impressed with his own authority. I don't know how much of a problem we would have had if we'd been unable to provide the desired documentation.
posted by Acetylene at 2:25 PM on November 9, 2004


Ditto what PinkStainlessTail said about entering Canada...I've been waved through with nary a look at any ID. Getting back is a little more difficult, but a driver's license should be fine (a birth certificate is better, but a little weird).

One tip: try entering back into the US at a busier crossing point, the guards there will be less likely to harrass you because they have better things to do (like inspect 18-wheelers).
posted by thewittyname at 2:30 PM on November 9, 2004


I was on a motorcycle trip earlier this spring and had no problem getting into Canada, even at a minor border crossing, with my drivers license and birth certificate ... but I needed both. Getting back into the US took a few minutes longer and I had to ask a bunch of questions (And they knew an awful lot about me, like who I worked for even though I'd only been working there for a week) that were kind of weird. The only person that got hassled when we were coming back into the states was a German national who's a resident alien in the US due to marriage... his green card was taken and examined thoroughly and he actually had to go inside with armed border agents to answer questions.
posted by SpecialK at 4:20 PM on November 9, 2004


Driver's license, alone, could easily cause you problems or irritations. Being a Chinese dude with an Amish name can't help with that, either, since anything unusual attracts unwelcome attention.

D/L + birth cert is no problem. It needs to be an original, real, no-shit birth cert; not the photocopy your mom gave you to take with you to college. It's possible but unlikely that if the cert if sufficiently old and raggedy and not on secured paper, they might not like it.

I get hassled going into Canada, not coming back to the US. Nothing big; the Canadian agents seem very intent to know whether or not I have firearms at home, and keep reminding me that mace is a weapon... But only if I'm alone. If my bride is with me, *she* drives us across into Canada and they don't even ask for ID.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:50 PM on November 9, 2004


I'm a naturalized Canadian citizen, and I've _never_ been asked to prove citizenship when driving into Canada.

They just ask if I'm a citizen, and I say yes. No problem.

So maybe just pretend you're Canadian, eh.

Canadian border controls are more about the amount of booze and smokes you have, not about citizenship.

Which brings me to a related question: Is it true that naturalized Canadian citizens now have to be fingerprinted when entering the USA?
posted by MiG at 5:00 PM on November 9, 2004


Carry a driver's license *and* birth certificate, if you don't have a passport. I flew out of Toronto once with someone who only had a driver's license on him, and his only other ID was a Social Security card, which is not considered proof of citizenship - we got quite a lecture and almost weren't allowed to board (pre-9/11). I've crossed the border a few times with people that only carried a driver's license; the times that we were asked for proof of citizenship they got lectured on the need to carry more than a driver's license.

They want both photo ID and proof of citizenship, so a passport is all-in-one, but having one of each is acceptable. They probably won't ask you for it, or will only look at the photo ID, but you better have it on you for the one time in five that they *do* ask you to show it.
posted by Melinika at 5:33 PM on November 9, 2004


I went to Canada with only a drivers license and it was fine. I went accross about a month ago, was waved by going in. On coming back, (about 15 minutes later) I was hassled by the border guards and given a light interrogation. They probably thought I was smuggling codine and Cuban Cigars back. I wasn't. So... uh, no passport needed, just be patient when you come back in because they're a little paranoid still.
posted by graventy at 5:35 PM on November 9, 2004


Is it true that naturalized Canadian citizens now have to be fingerprinted when entering the USA?

As far as I can tell, no. A Canadian citizen is a Canadian citizen; you just need photo ID and proof of citizenship -- note that a birth certificate from Original_Country won't do.

You may be thinking of permanent residents / landed immigrants in Canada. For them, the US doesn't care that Canada lets them stay; they get classed as a citizen of, well, wherever they're a citizen of. For most countries, this will end up meaning a passport with biometrics (or a fingerprint), and maybe even a visa.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:09 PM on November 9, 2004


So maybe just pretend you're Canadian, eh.

OK, MiG, I assume you were joking, but just in case other people didn't realize this: Rule number one of international travel is do not fuck around with the border agents. They have the power to make your day go very, very badly. Just answer all questions truthfully and honestly, and you'll be fine. If they find out, though, that you've been less than honest in your responses, you stand a very good chance of ending up in a very nice holding cell for longer than you'd like.

Which brings me to a related question: Is it true that naturalized Canadian citizens now have to be fingerprinted when entering the USA?

You're probably thinking of the brouhaha over the travel advisory that Canada issued about two years ago, telling Canadian citizens who had been born in countries such as Syria, Iran, Iraq, etc. that they shouldn't travel to the States since they would be subject to undue scrutiny. The U.S. backed down shortly thereafter.

Fun fact: Pat Buchanan's response to Canada's issuance of said advisory was to call Canada "Soviet Canuckistan". Canada's response to Pat Buchanan's response was to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:00 PM on November 9, 2004


Drive, don't fly.
posted by bradhill at 10:02 AM on November 10, 2004


As of September 30, 2004, most visitors to the US are fingerprinted upon arrival (including Western Europeans). I'm having a hard time finding info about 'landed immigrants' in Canada, but various US government websites claim they are ineligible for the visa-waiver program that lets Canadian citizens into the US without a visa, so yes, there's a good possibility that they would be fingerprinted.
posted by occhiblu at 3:58 PM on November 10, 2004


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