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How to travel between USA/Canada as a dual citizen
September 17, 2012 2:38 PM   Subscribe

DualCitizenshipFilter: I was born an American citizen, the son of a Canadian mother. A few years ago I applied for and received my Canadian citizenship, and was provided with my Certificate of Canadian Citizenship. I have never applied for and do not have a Canadian passport. If I were to enter Canada now (by air or land) what do I say, what do I tell them? Can I just show them my canadian card and be done with it? What about coming back to the U.S.A.? Can it be done both ways without either passport?
posted by kjl291 to Travel & Transportation around Canada (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know about Canada, but it used to be that US Citizens could cross the border (from Canada to the US) with only a driver's license (i.e. a government-issued ID). That hasn't been the case since (I believe) 2009, and now you need to have either a passport or a border crossing card.

If you don't have a US Passport (and don't have any intention of traveling anywhere aside from Canada or Mexico), you should just get the card. It's much cheaper.
posted by phunniemee at 2:43 PM on September 17, 2012


I am in a similar situation, although my Canadian passport just expired. I've entered and exited (car and plane) on my US passport, never mentioning my Canadian citizenship. No problem, questions, etc. I do carry that card with me, though
posted by atomicstone at 2:47 PM on September 17, 2012


It's generally considered a very bad idea to enter a country for which you have citizenship on a different passport.

You can apply for a Canadian passport from the USA. The Canadian Passport office even has a specific page just for people who are doing that.

You would *probably* get into the country with your citizenship card and photo ID at a land border, but you would probably not be allowed on a plane, because airlines get fined for bringing undocumented people over borders so they're more sticky out of fear you'll be turned back. Actual border guards have more leeway.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:51 PM on September 17, 2012


I have never applied for and do not have a Canadian passport.

Get one. It will help you avoid hassle, if nothing else.

Then enter the US on the US passport, and enter Canada on the Canadian.

I am in a similar situation, although my Canadian passport just expired. I've entered and exited (car and plane) on my US passport, never mentioning my Canadian citizenship. No problem, questions, etc. I do carry that card with me, though

Seems like that could cause nontrivial hassle if you got randomly pulled for secondary inspection.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:58 PM on September 17, 2012


My kids are dual. It is recommended to enter a country where you have citizenship with that country's passport. Apply for your Canadian passport from the US.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:59 PM on September 17, 2012


Sure, I guess. Canadian passports expire every five years and cost a ton. Even when carrying both passports and tellInf them I has them, though, Canada sisn't care nor want to see my Canadian passport.
posted by atomicstone at 3:00 PM on September 17, 2012


It's generally considered a very bad idea to enter a country for which you have citizenship on a different passport.

Yeah, but Canada is a weird case. A lot of people are now Canadian citizens and have no idea, especially with the retroactive changes to citizenship laws that took place in 2009. Plus, Canada makes it a pain in the ass to get a passport from outside the country due to their weird procedure where you need an existing Canadian passport holder who's known you for at least two years to sign off on your application. And their passports are expensive and only last 5 years. As far as I can tell Canada does not particularly care if you enter on a different passport, especially if you're coming from the US.

This page on entering Canada using documentation other than a passport has some information.

If you are flying, you pretty much need a passport or equivalent to enter Canada. If you don't have a Canadian passport you would need to enter on your US ID.

If you are driving into Canada, they might accept the citizenship card. I guess you could always enter on your US passport if they reject it.

Re-entering the US as a US citizen without a US passport (or equivalent document, like an enhanced drivers license or Nexus card) would be pretty much impossible.
posted by phoenixy at 3:03 PM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you wanted to go to Canada today, say, before you had a chance to get your Canadian passport (which I think you should do) I wouldn't recommend travelling to Canada on just your citizenship card. Even if you get into Canada with it I think you'd be in for a world of hurt getting back into the States. They're pretty explicit about passports/enhanced drivers licences being absolutely necessary.

Just travel on your US passport until you get a Canadian one.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:05 PM on September 17, 2012


My son was born overseas, and has a Canadian citizenship card rather than a birth certificate. He needs a passport (Japanese or Canadian) to travel internationally and get into Canada.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:47 PM on September 17, 2012


n'thing the "travel on your american passport" chorus. This really only becomes an issue you need to look into if you're wanting to exercise your right to reside or work in Canada, in which case entering the country on your American passport would be inadvisable at best.
posted by pahalial at 6:15 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apparently, your citizenship card suffices to enter Canada. That pages does warn that airlines may give you hassle. (Just noticed phoenixy linked to the same page.)

The United States requires that US citizens 'enter and leave' the US with their US passports. Precisely what 'leave' means in the absence of exit controls other than 'tell the airline you're American', I don't know. But you do need to enter with your US passport. Strictly speaking, 'with their US passports' means 'with US papers'--for instance, if you were to have an 'enhanced drivers license' (should your state issue them), that'd work for returning from Canada by car.

Not every country has a similar requirement (British citizens are allowed to enter the UK on other passports, for instance), but I'm failing at googling Canada's rule. Phone the consulate, I suppose.

In theory, you enter Canada as a Canadian and the US as an American. You always enter the US as American. If Canada doesn't care, you can pick whether you want to make short trips as an American. If you move it Canada, obviously do it as a Canadian.
posted by hoyland at 6:32 PM on September 17, 2012


Not sure if you can generalize this to all situations, especially since my dad is in his 70s and about the least-threatening person imaginable, but here goes: My father and I are both dual -- he, a Canadian, gained his American citizenship after I was born (to a US citizen mother in the US); I applied for (and received) official recognition of my Canadian citizenship in 2006. He holds US and Canadian passports, but travels between the US and Canada for short trips, on his US passport. He recently married a Canadian woman (amazingly sweet story, but that's for another Ask!) and throughout their whole courtship (4-ish years), he has entered Canada under his US passport. On at least one of those occasions, he was selected for extra screening by the Canadians at the border (buying a plane ticket on short notice to attend my grandmother's funeral), and citizenship/which passport he was using wasn't a problem -- as far as I know the question of citizenship didn't even come up. I haven't yet jumped through the hoops to get my Canadian passport, but I've entered Canada by air once since then on my US passport -- zero problems. This doesn't guarantee there will never be problems (and I plan to get my Canadian passport soon -- especially since I've lately reconnected with Canadian friends/relatives and have someone to vouch for the pesky two-year thing), but it seems to work OK in my limited experience.

In case it helps, here's my own askme on the subject, from right after I recieved my citizenship card.
posted by Alterscape at 7:00 PM on September 17, 2012


You are fine going to Canada with just a citizenship card. My daughter is dual US-Canadian and she entered Canada dozens of times with US passport + citizenship card. No issues.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:25 PM on September 17, 2012


phoenixy: Re-entering the US as a US citizen without a US passport (or equivalent document, like an enhanced drivers license or Nexus card) would be pretty much impossible.

I have done this dozens of times in the past twenty years or so, on my Canadian passport. Just one single time was there any concern, and all I had to do was show them my US birth certificate to prove citizenship. It's been entirely copacetic by bus, plane or car; for a day trip, two week vacation, or a whole year at college; even just a couple weeks after 9/11.

Since I'm a dual citizen with only a Canadian passport, my situation is the opposite of that of the asker, but I think my point still stands. Although the officially correct thing to do is to get two passports, if logistics or cost make that difficult you'll probably be just fine crossing both ways with your US passport.
posted by vasi at 1:40 AM on September 18, 2012


You should check with Canadian immigration to find out what they require. Some countries are perfectly happy for you to have only one passport, as long as you carry your proof of citizenship with you. e.g. for Pakistan, you can carry a National ID Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP), and use that along with a foreign passport to enter the country, conduct business in the country, etc., with no hassles whatsoever.
posted by bardophile at 4:59 AM on September 18, 2012


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