stuck in the US?
April 19, 2007 8:05 PM   Subscribe

I need to take a flight to Canada tomorrow and have just realized that my passport is expired. I could drive, but don't have access to my birth certificate. Am I stuck? Think security will take a drivers license and an expired passport?

And *if* I get to Canada, will I be able to get back to the US with a drivers license and an expired PP?

There've been other question about this, but they seem to from before Jan 07 when the rules changed.
posted by ArcAm to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total)
Response by poster: maybe my social security card will work instead of a birth cert. hmm.
posted by ArcAm at 8:29 PM on April 19, 2007

I think you're out of luck flying. Driving probably won't be a problem, even without the B/C.

No guarantees but the last four times I crossed the border by car (all last month, US->Canada->US both times) the Canadian officials asked for my DL the first time and nothing the 2nd time. On the way back the U.S. agents asked for a drivers license both times. I had my passport ready, and even handed it over without being asked the first two times but honestly I think they weren't interested. The second two times they didn't ask for it.

FWIW, I'm a U.S. citizen and crossed into Canada both times at pretty low-traffic ports off secondary roads in Vermont. Coming back to the U.S. the first time was through a pretty busy port in Ontario and the second time was again a low-traffic secondary road in VT.

So, I'd say if you have to go it's probably worth a shot going over with just the DL at hand, and maybe keep the expired passport in the glove box, prepared to hand it over apologizing profusely in case they ask for more ID but don't volunteer it. Chances seem to be they won't ask for it (as long as the car's registered in your name, anyway.)

But again, no guarantees that you won't run into problems.
posted by Opposite George at 8:31 PM on April 19, 2007

Yes, you are stuck. You will not get into Canada if you try to go by plane.

According to the State Department:
Beginning January 23, 2007, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport, Air NEXUS card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document, or an Alien Registration Card, Form I-551, if applicable.
posted by goingonit at 8:33 PM on April 19, 2007

Oh yeah, I'm a middle-aged white guy who looked like somebody crossing on ski trips (which was in fact the case.) You might get more scrutiny if you don't fit into that demographic.
posted by Opposite George at 8:34 PM on April 19, 2007

Seconding Opposite George, if you drive, you will be fine, as far as I know. A friend of mine crossed the border at Lewiston on a Greyhound with just a driver's license and got through both ways with no trouble.
posted by goingonit at 8:36 PM on April 19, 2007

Best answer: I *think* your expired passport + DL should be okay for re-entry after driving still -- and I mean formally, for real permitted, not "you can probably get away with it" -- but I can't find the relevant page online. This page implies it, noting that an expired passport is proof of US citizenship.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:04 PM on April 19, 2007

A technicality: goingonit seems to list the US requirements for entrance to the US, not for entry into Canada - is there a reason you couldn't get a new emergency passport at a US consulate in Canada if you were able to get into Canada in the first place?

Also, here are the addresses and phone numbers for the honorary Consul of Canada in Portland (where you seem to be) and the Consulate in Seattle:

Contact Information for
Honorary Consulate in Portland, Oregon:
1900 Fox Tower, 805 SW Broadway
Portland, OR 97205
Tel: 503.417.2166

Canadian Consulate General, Seattle
1501 4th Ave., Suite 600
Seattle, WA 98101

General Inquiries:
Tel: (206) 443-1777,
Fax: (206) 443-9662,

Immigration and Visa Inquiries:
Tel: (206) 443-1372,
Fax: (206) 441-7838,
Territory: Washington State, Alaska, Idaho, Oregon

Finally, here's a link to an trip report about a woman who flew from JFK to Vancouver, BC with NO proof of citizenship whatsoever and was admitted to Canada after some short questioning at the desk. (For the juicy part, skip to the last few paragraphs.)
posted by mdonley at 9:06 PM on April 19, 2007

if you drive, you will be fine, as far as I know

This leaves out a very important "probably."

I cross fairly often, usually at Port Huron / Sarnia. The border agents usually do not even ask for ID. On the other hand, sometimes they do, but don't ask for the birth certificate. And other times, they do. And one time, I got grilled for a few minutes because I had my fiancee's photo albums and coffee maker in the back seat.

You can usually cross by road with just a driver's license. But not as a matter of policy, just as a matter of lazy and/or overburdened border agents. And usually != always.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:07 PM on April 19, 2007

A technicality: goingonit seems to list the US requirements for entrance to the US, not for entry into Canada

Canada would be very reluctant to let you enter if they knew that you were going to have trouble getting back into the US and would eventually become some sort of problem for Canada.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:08 PM on April 19, 2007

Also: where are you going in Canada?
posted by mdonley at 9:14 PM on April 19, 2007

Response by poster: Just going to Vancouver to speak at a conference! I'm now planning on driving and bringing my DL, Social, and expired passport. I'm sure I'll do just fine. I'll be sure to not bring photo albums or a coffee maker ;)

I like the idea of flying to Canada with my DL and Social (alaska air said I could go from US-->Canana with a DL and proof of citizenship, but would certainly need a PP to get back from Canada--US) and then apply for an emergency passport as mdonley suggests, but that seems a bit...risky. Could be a fun adventure, but after a previous week of traveling, I'm not up for it!
posted by ArcAm at 10:15 PM on April 19, 2007

goingonit seems to list the US requirements for entrance to the US, not for entry into Canada.

Yes, it's technically not required to have a valid passport before you leave, in the same sense that you technically don't have to put on your parachute before you jump out of the plane.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:32 PM on April 19, 2007

Rules for arriving into Canada
posted by smcniven at 3:42 AM on April 20, 2007

Best answer: While the rules exist - "YOU MUST PRESENT A PASSPORT TO ENTER FORTRESS AMERICA" - there is another truth at work as well, which is: As a U.S. citizen, you cannot be denied entry to the U.S.

So there's a bit of a conflict here. How this will play out is that you should have little trouble entering Canada (which doesn't require a passport), but you will be grilled by U.S. Customs people on your return until they are satisfied that you are a U.S. citizen.

Honestly, you have more to fear from your airline than from Customs. Customs *will* let you through (eventually). The airline may have a policy that all travelers present passports, and they have no overriding obligation to let you through as Customs does. You should contact your airline and ask about boarding requirements.
posted by jellicle at 5:37 AM on April 20, 2007

Best answer: My (american) wife and I have driven into the US regulary over the past year, using her expired passport and (american) DL as ID for her, with no problems.
posted by bluefrog at 5:55 AM on April 20, 2007

Best answer: I crossed the Washington/BC border back in February. Three of the four of us had passports and the Canadian guard just scolded the fourth. "Yes ma'am. Sorry Ma'am. Thank you Ma'am." You do not require a passport to drive across as of yet, but it does make it easier.

On the way back, my brother and his wife stuck their passports in the glove compartment and when they closed it, they disappeared somewhere behind the dashboard. The USA border guards were fine with just the licenses.
posted by yeti at 6:50 AM on April 20, 2007

I went to Canada on an expired passport in 2004 with no problem. In fact, it was so long expired that I was two years old in the picture. Of course, that was 2004 and these things change a lot!

According to the State Department, you need a passport to travel by air, but you should be fine going by land until 1/1/2008 as long as you have the usual ID that they've required for years. If you bring along anything you've got (driver's license, state ID, expired passport) I would imagine you wouldn't have problems.
posted by srah at 6:56 AM on April 20, 2007

Response by poster: @jellicle-

Great point about the airlines. I just phoned Alaska Airlines once more and inquired about their rules. The nice person told me that they do require a proper PP upon leaving the country (even tho the other country might not require it upon arrival) because airlines are fined $10,000 for each passenger they let leave the US that will "not be able to get back in" (that is, "will be a hassle to process back in").

Driving it is! Thanks all.
posted by ArcAm at 7:27 AM on April 20, 2007

I cross often at the Buffalo/Peace Bridge Border:

1) You won't be able to fly with am expired passport. Sorry.
2) If you are driving, at LEAST take your drivers license and a birth certificate. They most likely will not ask for the BC, but if they do you better have it. They will ask for these things when you are coming back in.
posted by punkrockrat at 9:22 AM on April 20, 2007

And, as a data point, because I crossed into Canada (driving) at the Ambassador Bridge just yesterday, if you're using a birth certificate, it had better be an original or certified copy. Ordinary photocopies no longer cut it (I used to cross all the time on the very same copy)... Spend a pleasant 20 minutes at the immigration shed.
posted by pjern at 9:54 AM on April 20, 2007

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