Two Canadians and a tiny American crossing the border.
July 29, 2010 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Do to a family medical emergency, my wife and I are probably going to be renting a car and driving from Philadelphia to Toronto tomorrow night. We are both Canadians living in the US on temporary NAFTA visas. Fun complication: Our daughter is four months old and is an American citizen with an American birth certificate. We haven't yet gotten her a passport or applied for her Canadian citizenship. Should we expect to have any difficulty crossing the border with her, in either direction? Is there anything we can get in the next 24 hours to make things go more smoothly?
posted by 256 to Law & Government (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As it happens, I know someone who lives near Philly who had to travel out of the country on extremely short notice (like, two weeks). They were able to go to a passport agency, get their photo taken, come back later that day and retrieve their brand-new passport. I'd call your nearest passport agency (link here) and explain the situation. If she DOES need one, odds are good you will have to visit during business hours today, BTW.
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:12 AM on July 29, 2010

I disagree slightly with the "come back later that day" thing. I needed a passport within one week of departure, and I still had to come back the next day (this was in Washington DC). That said, going to the passport agency is still your best bet. Perhaps Philadelphia has a quicker turnaround time.

You will need to bring her birth certificate, Social Security card (if a four month old has one yet??) and two passport photos. You and your wife must both be present at the passport agency. Under no circumstances will they let you get a passport with only one parent present.

Keep in mind that a passport card is acceptable for Canada, and typically costs less (both in actual cost and in expedite fees) than a passport book.
posted by etoile at 6:17 AM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: It appears that a certified copy of your child's birth certificate is acceptable documentation.

I'm sorry about the family medical emergency and hope that the travel part of your trip is as easy as possible.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:18 AM on July 29, 2010

According to this page, it appears that you only need a birth certificate (or copy) for your daughter.
posted by DrGail at 6:19 AM on July 29, 2010

I (IANAL, just a Canadian who lived in the US for a few years) would not consider doing this without talking to an immigration lawyer.
posted by kmennie at 6:21 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

etoile: you're totally right; I should've mentioned that individual mileage may vary. I think the really important thing is to call the Phila. agency ASAP and see what they say... when dealing with the gov't, it's better to have 'em on the line at 10 AM than 3 PM. :-)
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:21 AM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: I've crossed the U.S.-Canada border a half-dozen times with my kids since they tightened the regulations last year. Numerous friends have done the same. Birth certificates are all that's needed for the kids up to age 14-15, I forget the exact age.

If you have her certificate and your passports, you should have no trouble.
posted by Andrew Galarneau at 6:25 AM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: P.S. My friends include Canadian parents who have U.S. citizen children, so my anecdotal experience includes that specific situation. Canadian passport for parent + U.S. birth certificates for kids equaled "Have a nice day" from border guards, both ways.
posted by Andrew Galarneau at 6:29 AM on July 29, 2010

With regards to the Canadian side, I would suggest calling either your local consulate or DFAIT's emergency services. They deal with this all the time, I'm sure, and will know what you need.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:29 AM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: I just got off the phone with the Canadian Border Services Agency and verified what sciencegeek and Andrew Galarneau have said here.

Also "Due to" not "Do to." ugh.
posted by 256 at 6:31 AM on July 29, 2010

I was able to cross the border both ways at seventeen with just my birth certificate. As far as I'm aware, you don't need a passport until you are a legal adult. Your daughter will be fine.
posted by JimBennett at 7:45 AM on July 29, 2010

I'm pretty sure that Canadian citizens/residents are still not allowed to bring U.S. rental cars into Canada.

This old Flyertalk posting has some information. I tried to to do a quick google and searched the CBSA website but didn't have much luck. I suggest you give CBSA another call.

Good luck.
posted by angrybeaver at 7:49 AM on July 29, 2010

From the Budget website
Policy for Canadian Residents Driving U.S. Cars Into Canada
Canadian Customs regulations prohibit Canadian residents from entering Canada with U.S. cars. Therefore, renters with a Canadian driver’s license and a U.S. license plate will not be allowed to cross the border into Canada. Customers with a Canadian driver’s license planning to cross the border into Canada in a Budget car should be provided with a vehicle with a Canadian license plate, if one is available.
posted by angrybeaver at 7:52 AM on July 29, 2010

Lots of good advice about crossing borders, but double-check that this will go the same if Canada or the US thinks you might want to stay/not stay where you should/shouldn't. "Oh, you can visit with just XX documentation" does not apply to people with more complex residency situations. What happens if the Canadians suspect you of repatriating yourselves without obtaining citizenship for your daughter, or if leaving the US on your particular visa affects your ability to re-enter the US? Hassles may not be guaranteed or even likely, but border folk can make weird decisions and snap judgments, and, again, the rules for visitors do not mean a lot for people who are not mere tourists.
posted by kmennie at 8:11 AM on July 29, 2010

They are American residents. They can drive American plated cars into Canada. So long as you don't surrender your I-94 at the border, you're fine.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:29 AM on July 29, 2010

kmennie - people on TN status (not visa) go north/south with American kids all the time. Canadian border officials would typically inquire about status in the US of the Canadian parents not because of the kids, but because US plated cars cannot be imported into Canada without all kinds of paperwork. The biggest risk of crossing the border on TN is that TNs are adjudicated at the border every time you cross southbound, so if the Americans don't like the cut of your jib you can be sent home with no notice.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:34 AM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: Hey thanks everyone for the extra information. We've crossed the border a bunch of times already with US rental cars and never had a problem, so I'm not worried about that.

As for the repatriation/right to re-enter the USA: Our TN status allows us to leave and re-enter the US at will. And legally, I am pretty certain that we would all be allowed to stay in Canada forever if we wanted to and do the paperwork at our leisure. Our daughter is automatically a Canadian citizen by merit of having two natural-born Canadian parents. We just don't have a citizenship card for her yet. So, since the CBSA lady told me we would have no problem getting into the country with our documentation, I'm not concerned that they're going to worry we'll want to stay. We're allowed to stay.

Again, thanks everyone.
posted by 256 at 9:13 AM on July 29, 2010

Good luck on this, I believe you'll be fine. I hope your medical emergency goes well. But get the documents in Canada for your daughter in an expeditious manner, please - my family has had "oh, you have to go to the consulate 3000 miles from here to do that!" experiences to last a lifetime, due entirely to parents of dual-citizen kids putting things off.
posted by SMPA at 9:25 AM on July 29, 2010

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