Legal Documents Needed to Enter Canada From the U.S.A.

The Blue Water Bridge linking Michigan and Ontario is the second busiest crossing between the U.S. and Canada.
The Blue Water Bridge linking Michigan and Ontario is the second busiest crossing between the U.S. and Canada. (Image: ehrlif/iStock/Getty Images)

The United States and Canada share the longest border on the planet. Possessing the required documentation for entry into Canada speeds crossing at the more than 120 land ports of entry, airports and marine ports.

Passport Books and Cards

Visitors entering Canada must present border officials with proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid passport book meets the requirements and is the recommended document for entering by land, water or air. Passport cards also allow for entry. Passport cards contain a chip allowing border officials computer access to a traveler's documentation. Additional acceptable documents for entry via land include proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, a certificate of naturalization, a U.S. permanent resident card or certificate of Indian status with photo identification. Children age 16 and younger only need proof of citizenship. Individual airlines or other forms of transportation may require passports. Visas are not required for visits of less than 180 days.

A passport is the most widely accepted document for border crossings.
A passport is the most widely accepted document for border crossings. (Image: MariuszBlach/iStock/Getty Images)

The Trusted Traveler

Trusted travelers save time using the highly portable NEXUS card for entry into Canada by land, air or water. The bi-national card is available to low-risk U.S. and Canadian citizens who pass background checks. NEXUS card holders may use designated lanes for speedy land border crossings, for reporting marine arrivals and to access self-serve kiosks at designated international airports. Card holders may use the Trusted Traveler Canadian Air Transport Security line at airports for faster pre-boarding security screening.

Marine and Land Arrivals

Those entering Canada by private boat must report to border officials when crossing the international boundary into Canadian waters. Reporting is required whether or not a vessel anchors, moors to other boats or makes land. The boat master must place a call to the Canadian border patrol Telephone Reporting Center from a port of entry reporting site. Border officials expect the boat master to provide the names, dates of birth and citizenship of all passengers as well as passport and visa information, when applicable. Boat masters are responsible for ensuring their passengers possess the required identification and proof of citizenship.

Documentation for Kids and Pets

Parents with shared custody of minor children, grandparents or guardians should be prepared to present border officials with special travel authorization documents. Before leaving home, obtain a letter of consent that includes the custodial parent or legal guardian's name, address and phone number and authorization for the trip. It is advisable to have the document notarized. Those younger than 18 traveling solo should carry a letter of consent from parents or guardians authorizing travel. Canadian authorities require those traveling with dogs and cats 3 months or older to present certification from a veterinarian. Documents should include the pet's breed, age, sex and coloring, and show the animal has been vaccinated against rabies within the past three years.

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