Traveling Can/US without a passport?
June 24, 2010 5:55 AM   Subscribe

How likely am I to be able to cross the Can -> US border by car without a passport, but with a birth certificate and every other piece of ID under the sun?

Last minute trip. Expired passport. Traveling with family + kids. I think you could sometimes get away with this in 2009. Not sure if it's still true.
posted by ~ to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
The law was being phased in over a couple of years, but it looks like it is in full force now and you do need a passport:

It is possible to get a super expedited passport, but it'll cost you. Here is a list of passport agencies:

Good luck!
posted by alaijmw at 6:00 AM on June 24, 2010

Take the expired passport with you. Here's a link to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative's website that tells you all the accepted documents just so you know the official rulings. I know US Citizens who have gone through with just a driver's license, but only as recently as late December 2009.
posted by phunniemee at 6:01 AM on June 24, 2010

You are going to have problems - and may got stuck on one side of the border.
posted by Flood at 6:02 AM on June 24, 2010

And what I meant to add there looks like you should see how long it takes to get an enhanced driver's license, because that might be your best bet.
posted by phunniemee at 6:02 AM on June 24, 2010

If you're American, you need to have a valid passport to get back into the country. You don't need a passport to get into Canada, as far as I can tell, but you won't be able to get back into the US without your passport/passport card.

From the US State Department:

When returning to the United States from Canada, it is very important to note that all U.S. citizens are required to present a valid U.S. passport to enter or re-enter the United States via air. For entry into the United States via land and sea borders, U.S. citizens must present either a U.S. passport, passport card, NEXUS card, Enhanced Drivers License or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document. The only exception to this requirement is for U.S. citizens under the age of 16 (or under 19, if traveling with a school, religious, or other youth group) who need only present a birth certificate (original, photocopy or certified copy), Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or naturalization certificate.

From Canadian Safety and Security:
When you enter Canada, a CBSA officer may ask to see your passport and a valid visa, if one is necessary. If you are a citizen of the United States, you do not need a passport to enter Canada. However, you should carry proof of your citizenship, such as a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or naturalization, as well as photo identification. If you are a permanent resident of Canada or the U.S, you should bring your Permanent Resident Card with you.

If you're Canadian and going home, then I think you just need identification for everyone in your party.
posted by honeybee413 at 6:03 AM on June 24, 2010

Those of us in NY state can get a so-called "Enhanced" driver's license which is accepted in place of a passport for crossing into Canada. Does Ontario offer something similar?
posted by tommasz at 6:03 AM on June 24, 2010

Hrm, my two links did not show up... let's try again: State Department on what docs you need

State Department on getting a passport in a hurry
posted by alaijmw at 6:04 AM on June 24, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks - sorry I wasn't clear. I'm a Canadian citizen, living in Ontario.

(Applying for an enhanced driver's licence is a great idea. If I decide not to risk it and to wait for a passport renewal, I'll apply for an enhanced driver's licence at the same time and see which arrives first.)
posted by ~ at 6:22 AM on June 24, 2010

Even back in the old days, Canadians not carrying proper ID could get stranded - let through to the states but not let back into Canada at the end. Take no chances!
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:21 AM on June 24, 2010

Best answer: Fellow citizen, also living in Ontario.

Yeah, the slow phasing in stage of the passport requirement is definitely over. We cross the border regularly. I'm sure you already know the problem isn't getting back into Canada, it's getting into the States that's the issue.

You have to have a passport or EDL.

You could take a chance, play dumb "I didn't know it was expired!" and have lots of backup i.d. and the border agent might wave you through. But you might get sent straight back to Canada. Whether you want to risk it depends on how important the trip is. Whether you squeak through might also depend on where you're crossing. Is it busy like Windsor, Sarnia, Buffalo or a quieter rural crossing?

If you can't afford to be turned back you need the proper docs.
posted by pixlboi at 8:02 AM on June 24, 2010

My friend brought in his passport renewal to the passport office in Hamilton and had a passport in his hands two days later.
posted by smitt at 8:23 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

(this was last week, by the way)
posted by smitt at 8:23 AM on June 24, 2010

Best answer: A friend of mine in Waterloo, Ontario is an aide to an MP there, and he has told me a number of times that one of the big functions of an MP's office is to expedite passport renewals. They're often fielding calls from people in exactly your situation, and have some ability to help out, from what I understand.
posted by jpziller at 9:54 AM on June 24, 2010

Response by poster: Many thanks for the advice. Went to the passport office and they said they could get me a passport in two days, and apologized for the $30 express surcharge. What a country!
posted by ~ at 1:37 PM on June 24, 2010

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