In general, travelers must have a valid travel document to enter Canada. The specific document depends on how you are traveling and what country you are coming from. Travelers can consult entry requirements by country on the IRCC website.
A passport is recommended, although it is not required for all travelers. If you are traveling between Canada and the United States as part of a cruise, ferry, or land crossing, then you must satisfy the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requirements and have a passport, birth certificate, citizenship card, naturalization certificate or enhanced driver’s license to cross the border.
If you are traveling by plane, then you must meet the airline’s requirements as well as those of IRCC. This usually includes a valid passport electronically linked to your eTA or visa.
If you are travelling by bus or train, you should check the IRCC website for specific requirements. You may need to submit a letter of invitation, proof of funds, a medical exam, or other documents. Depending on your circumstances, you might also be required to provide fingerprints or photos when applying for a visa or eTA.
Travel and ID documents required for entering Canada are as follows:
For air travelers, a passport book is the only document that meets international air travel requirements. Travelers can use a passport card or WHTI document for land and sea travel.
Children under 16 (or 19 if traveling with a school, religious, or cultural group) can present an original or photocopy of their birth certificate.
You will need to be in possession of acceptable travel documents to enter Canada. If you are a U.S. citizen, this typically means a passport. In some cases, such as when entering Canada through border-sharing states, you may be able to provide alternative documentation such as an enhanced driver’s license or NEXUS or FAST membership card (note that these are different from passports and don’t denote citizenship).
Those travelling by land or sea into Canada will need a valid passport or eTA (unless exempt). You can also find detailed information about entry requirements for all travellers by visiting the Canada Border Services Agency website.
All travellers to Canada are required to declare the goods they are bringing with them into the country. Depending on how you are entering the country, this can be done verbally or by filling out a Declaration Card. Regardless, the CBSA advises that you should complete this document prior to departure from your home country and have it ready to present to Canadian officials upon arrival. This will help expedite the process and prevent any delays.
Entering Canada as an American Citizen
The government of Canada recommends that you travel with a passport for international air travel. However, if you are an American citizen who has been approved for the Trusted Traveler Program (NEXUS) or are traveling with children with joint legal custody, you may be permitted to cross the border with other forms of identification and documentation.
For Canadian citizens travelling by car, a standard driver’s license or birth certificate is sufficient. You may also be eligible to use an enhanced driver’s license, which contains additional security features and can be used in place of a passport for crossing the U.S.-Canada border by land or ferry.
Americans need to present proof of citizenship and identity to enter Canada. This can be a passport book or card or an enhanced driver’s license. Citizens of the United States who are members of NEXUS or FAST programs can present those cards as travel documents and evidence of citizenship.
A visa is not required if you plan to visit Canada for less than 180 days. This is true for visitors arriving by air, bus, train, or cruise ship. The Canadian government’s travel website offers details on entry requirements for all modes of transportation.
If you are travelling with children, it’s a good idea to have a consent letter from your child’s parent or guardian. It should include name, address, and phone number for the supervising adult. Divorced or separated parents should bring custody and/or legal separation documents.
IRCC recommends that you prepare and submit all the documentation required for your trip well ahead of time, including receipts for accommodation and meals and any purchases or repairs to your vehicle. It’s also a good idea to keep your receipts in your vehicle for easy access when asked by a CBSA officer to produce them at the border.
Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) Requirements
eTA requirements vary by country of citizenship, please see the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website for more information. Dual citizens travelling to Canada are encouraged to apply for a Canadian passport before their trip to have the same travel documents when entering the country. This will prevent delays when attempting to board flights. If you require an ETA to enter Canada, your ETA will be linked to your passport. It will remain valid for up to five years, regardless of how many times you leave and re-enter the country.