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Can I get into America with this ID?
January 13, 2008 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Can I, a Canadian citizen, get through the American border, by car, with the following pieces of ID:

- Canadian birth certificate
- recently expired Candian passport
- expired Ontario driver's license
- Ontario health card.

I'm in the process of getting a new passport, hence the sketchy ID situation. I've poked around the American customs website to no avail, so I'd like to hear about others' experiences. I know that birth certificate + photo ID works: would a health card, which I know isn't enough to get you across by itself, work? Thanks!
posted by ITheCosmos to Law & Government (19 answers total)
 
For what it's worth, I'm a young, white, female college student, fairly clean-cut, so I don't usually get an undue amount of hassle at the border.
posted by ITheCosmos at 9:33 AM on January 13, 2008


All the information I have seen on immigration websites say that you need valid photo ID to get across the border. You can get across with a driving license, providing it is valid.

Your appearance, race and occupation are completely irrelevant. You don't have the right paperwork, so you'd only get through if you caught the right customs agent on the right day, just after he got a pay rise or something. Anyone playing by the book won't let you through.

Just get the driving license renewed (you need to if you are driving anyway!) and you should be fine. Explain that the renewal of your passport has been delayed. Then I think you'll be fine.
posted by Brockles at 9:38 AM on January 13, 2008


probably.

no guarantees, but my roommate and I cross the border frequently - I with my passport, she with her birth certificate and health card.

is the health card one of the new photo cards? if so, you'll probably have an easier time.
posted by gursky at 9:39 AM on January 13, 2008


On a recent road-trip, my Welsh-born friend didn't have her passport, but did have her citizenship card (Photo I.D.) and her birth certificate card. She was travelling with Canadian citizens with passports. We got through fine.

If you know that birth certificate plus ID works then that plus your OHIP card and/or your expired passport should probably be okay. Your passport might be expired, but it is still decent photo I.D.
posted by typewriter at 9:40 AM on January 13, 2008


Yep, health card is of the brand-new, shiny, super-secure photo type, not the old red and white kind.
posted by ITheCosmos at 9:50 AM on January 13, 2008


link

I'd say probably you're okay.
posted by loiseau at 10:11 AM on January 13, 2008


Nth "probably." I have no driver's license and only the picture-free OHIP card, and had no hassles going with a birth certificate and expired passport not too too long ago.
posted by kmennie at 11:34 AM on January 13, 2008


My mother came into the US last year with an expired driver's license and her birth certificate, although it was strongly recommended that she get a new license before her next trip. Your old passport should also be good as secondary identification. If you have some kind of receipt or correspondence from Passport Canada that you have applied for your new passport, you should bring that along as well.
posted by Yorrick at 11:37 AM on January 13, 2008


Technically, an expired passport should be considered valid ID (but not valid as proof of citizenship). The birth certificate should be valid proof of citizenship for now (that's changing in the near future).

Of course, the border guard does have complete discretion and could choose to refuse entry for a much more frivolous reason than this, even if you have a valid passport.
posted by winston at 11:45 AM on January 13, 2008


Your appearance, race and occupation are completely irrelevant.

As others have noted, the border guards have discretion here. Because of this, the OP's appearance, race, and occupation are extremely relevant - if you don't fit the profile of someone entering the country to do something "bad", you're far less likely to be hassled over the details.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:31 PM on January 13, 2008


They're largely irrelevant if you don't have the right paperwork, surely. Discretion only applies when you have the right paperwork, but they still think you're up to no good...

I just objected to the inference that 'I'm a clean, white person so my chances should be improved' aspect of it. Toe the line with the paperwork and follow and respect the rules. Don't try and wing it based on relying on the perpetuation of racial/social stereotypes.
posted by Brockles at 12:41 PM on January 13, 2008


I think you're probably okay- it's discretionary. Dress well and be nice.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:50 PM on January 13, 2008


Here's a link to the documentary requirements, courtesy of the US Customs & Border Protection Agency. It states that "To enter the United States, a Canadian citizen must be able to establish both identity and citizenship."

Your birth certificate establishes citizenship; the problem is establishing your identity. Expired IDs of any sort likely won't pass muster. Rather than trusting random internet strangers to tell you that you're probably OK because hey, they once got across the border with a note from their mom and a winning smile, you can ensure your passage by: (a) getting a new driver's license; or (b) calling ahead to see whether your health card will be OK as proof of ID.
posted by googly at 3:30 PM on January 13, 2008


I would not bother calling ahead. USCIS/ICE phone information lines are worse than useless. I think they're staffed with relics from the disinformation branch of CIA.

And getting a new driver's license will not ensure his/her passage. You can stand there with a valid passport and a letter from President Bush inviting you to the US and have Christ Himself there to vouch for your character, and they can still deny you entry for no real reason.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:24 PM on January 13, 2008


googly: Rather than trusting random internet strangers to tell you that you're probably OK because hey, they once got across the border with a note from their mom and a winning smile, you can ensure your passage by: (a) getting a new driver's license; or (b) calling ahead to see whether your health card will be OK as proof of ID.

With all due respect, most Canadians have crossed the border approximately 8 kajillion times, and so there can reasonably be some observations made about the process, with the usual YMMV attached (which I think most if not all posters in the thread have cleared added.)

ROU_Xenophobe: You can stand there with a valid passport and a letter from President Bush inviting you to the US and have Christ Himself there to vouch for your character, and they can still deny you entry for no real reason.

Totally true. Makes you feel like you're in junior high with that teacher who just seems to hate you for no apparent reason. Nervousmaking.
posted by loiseau at 3:26 AM on January 14, 2008


loiseau, I agree. However, having made the crossing a number of times myself (as a US citizen), the one conclusion that I can draw is that you can't generalize. As several posters have already acknowledged, it all depends upon which agent happens to screen you. I've been waved through by an agent who glanced at my passport and barely looked at my car; but I've also been given the third degree about where I lived, where my car was registered, what I'd been doing for the past week, and why my passport was close to expiring.

The point of my answer - perhaps a bit strongly worded - was that if you randomly sample people on the internet, you will find a lot who have crossed the border extremely easily. It might be reassuring (and I think that ITheCosmos will be just fine with what s/he has), but that doesn't make it any more likely that you will be able to cross.
posted by googly at 8:24 AM on January 14, 2008


loiseau, I agree. However, having made the crossing a number of times myself (as a US citizen), the one conclusion that I can draw is that you can't generalize. As several posters have already acknowledged, it all depends upon which agent happens to screen you.

I think the clue there is "as a US citizen". It is a damn sight harder getting into the US than it is to get into Canada... You may not have experienced the full force of difficult Customs officials. After all, they US customs can't actually refuse you entry, as a citizen. They have to let you in.
posted by Brockles at 9:37 AM on January 14, 2008


For reference, I say this as a UK citizen that has travelled across the Canadian/US border large numbers of times by air and by road. I've never doubted for a second that the Canadians won't give me any grief, but I'd never take getting through US customs for granted and I have a perfectly clean record and am travelling for (validated) business.
posted by Brockles at 9:39 AM on January 14, 2008


Travel Documents for Entering the United States (Canada Border Services agency)

As of January 31, 2008, if you travel to the U.S. by land or water, a U.S. law will require you to present:
* a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's licence;
AND
* a birth certificate or a citizenship card;
OR
* A valid passport;
OR
* A NEXUS or a Free and Secure Trade (FAST) card;
OR
* For those 18 and under, a birth certificate.
posted by futureproof at 1:49 AM on January 16, 2008


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