Enhancing us-Canada relations without a passport
July 15, 2012 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Can I drive into Canada from buffalo with my Canadian citizenship card and drive back later into buffalo two days later with my US permanent resident card?

I'm able to swing an impromptu weekend visit to my parents in Canada, but want to make sure I can still drive in and out without having a passport. These are the IDs I have: Canadian citizenship card, US permanent resident card, US driver's license.

I'm planning on calling buffalo, ny customs tomorrow when their offices are open but was hoping one of you had some recent experiences that would confirm one way or another.
posted by ttyn to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can sometimes get lucky, but unless you have a special enhanced driver's license, then probably not.
posted by jeather at 6:40 PM on July 15, 2012

I wouldn't try it. Although in theory you can get into Canada with a Canadian citizenship card, you almost definitely won't be able to get back into the US with just a permanent resident card (or anything but a passport or enhanced ID - even if you're a US citizen). In my experience, there really isn't any latitude given by CBP, and I've had friends end up stuck in Canada with a "refused entry to US" on their record, which really makes it difficult the next time you want to enter. I'd strongly recommend getting a passport before trying it.
posted by dttocs at 6:51 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

unless you have a special enhanced driver's license, then probably not.

That doesn't make sense. Those licenses are for US citizens. I think a permanent resident can pretty much by definition always re-enter the US. So the potential issue is more with Canada.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:52 PM on July 15, 2012

Oh nevermind. I didn't know permanent residents could get US passports I guess.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:52 PM on July 15, 2012

I cross back and forth to Mexico all the time and most of the green card holders use that card to get back into the US without delay.

As a lawful permanent resident of the United States your green card is all you need to enter the US.
U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents: Document requirements for Lawful Permanent Residents will not change under WHTI. U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents can continue to use their permanent resident card (Form I-551) or other valid evidence of permanent residence status.

Enjoy your trip.
posted by birdherder at 6:56 PM on July 15, 2012

(note: US citizen, always used a passport since you needed one, from Buffalo...)

I assume by saying "Buffalo" you mean the Peace Bridge, and not one of the other two crossings that are kind of in the area but not actually in Buffalo, but close enough that only people from Western New York would make that distinction. I have no experience with the other two, but I've crossed the Peace Bridge many times.

Getting over will be fine. Canadian customs will be all "Have fun."

Coming back to the US, you'll get a mini-interrogation (unless the customs agent is near the end of their shift and doesn't really care anymore) to the point where you'll doubt that you'll ever be allowed in the States again - no matter what documentation you have, even if it includes DNA analysis, and a family tree tracing your maternal line back to Pocahontas or George Washington or (insert some famous American person).

The other crossings might be easier, given that they're smaller. Regardless, I don't think the two sides communicate as far as when you went over or what ID you used (and so wouldn't care if you used two different ones.)

Peace Bridge website says you're fine with a permanent resident card.

TL; DR: They'll let you in... eventually.
posted by sary at 7:18 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Although in theory you can get into Canada with a Canadian citizenship card

wow, the page that dttocs linked to is delightfully vague. It doesn't actually say what CBSA documentation will accept for Canadians to enter Canada, just that they strongly recommend you have a passport.

In my experience though, a citizen or permanent-resident of Canada will not be refused entry into Canada. It may involve a really long delay and thorough (sometimes very intrusive and offensively aggressive) questioning to verify your status.

On a trip to Venezuela, my laptop bag with my Canadian Passport was stolen on my way to the airport for my flight home. Luckily, my UK Passport (I'm a dual citizen) was in my suitcase. Going to the embassy and getting a replacement passport would delay my return, so I tried to come home to Canada using my UK passport instead.

The check-in chick gave me a bit of grief and was quite thorough about verifying that I had the right to enter Canada without an itinerary that showed me leaving Canada later and with only my BC driver's license as proof of residency, but eventually she let me on the plane after much haranguing.

When I landed at YVR and went through the border control point, I handed over my UK passport and my BC driver's license, and explained briefly my trip and why I didn't have my Canadian passport. The border guard squinted, stared at me silently, and started leafing through all the stamps on every page of my UK passport. I've lived in and traveled to a lot of places, so I'm sure it made for entertaining reading. After what felt like an eternity, he asked me in the most intimidating of tones:

"So you expect me to believe that you were born in England, live in Canada now, lived in The Netherlands 4 years ago, lived in India 2 years ago, lived in the UK last year, spent a month in South Africa, another month in Turkey, and just went to Venezuela for the wedding of a guy from Guatemala? And you're a Canadian?"

I calmly replied "Yes."

He smiled, handed my docs back to me, and waved me through.
posted by wutangclan at 9:03 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a lawful permanent resident of the United States your green card is all you need to enter the US.

I used to have a US green card. I never had a situation where a border officer did not also want the passport. So, I'd say no: to be safe you need a passport.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:18 PM on July 15, 2012

I don't know about lawful permanent resident, but I can verify that US immigration officers cannot keep a US citizen out of the country, no matter what the state of his or her documents. I heard this directly from two different immigration officers at different ports of entry. However, they can detain you. It might be worth remembering that though you can't squeeze blood from a turnip, you can make an awful mess of the turnip trying.
posted by ubiquity at 4:52 AM on July 16, 2012

I go from Vancouver to Seattle relatively frequently, first living in Vancouver on a student visa, then as a Canadian PR now finally as a Canadian citizen. I'd never, ever think of crossing without a passport, in either direction.

The thing to remember is customs agents have a tremendous amount of discretion. I think the upthread analysis that you'll ultimately get into Canada and back into the US is true, there's no guarantee at all that it won't be without a great deal of hassle. And I know folks that had trouble at the border once and now get the 9th degree every time they cross. It really will just come down to the border guard(s). They might just smile and wave, you might get detained for many hours or anything in between.

(FWIW, I got my Canadian citizenship recently and I was told multiple times that a Citizenship Card is not a travel document. Easily 4-5 times.)

Not to be that guy, but yeah, I'd really get a passport. I see you asked about this in 2009. It's not that difficult or expensive. And the upside is you can then get a Nexus Pass, which is basically a customs express line. Costs $50, it's good for 5 years and god damn, I'm happy with every dime I spent on that thing.
posted by Nelsormensch at 8:22 AM on July 16, 2012

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