For decades before Sept. 11, 2001, Detroiters and Windsorites would pass relatively freely through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel or on the Ambassador Bridge, showing just a driver's license. But after the terror attacks, international border crossings between Canada and the U.S. tightened, and today, the crossing requires a passport, a NEXUS card or an enhanced driver's license for residents of Michigan, Washington, New York or Vermont.
To enter Canada, adult United States citizens must be able to prove both their citizenship and their identity. A valid passport book does both, making it an acceptable form of ID for your journey into Canada via either the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Minors 16 and younger, or 19 and younger if traveling with an approved church, school or cultural group, or a sports team, need show only a birth certificate.
Both Canada and the United States are members of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. You can cross international borders by road within the area by showing a valid passport card; indeed, the card was specifically designed as a less expensive and more easily carried form of ID for communities close to the border, like Detroit, its suburbs and neighboring communities.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative allows residents of Washington, Vermont, Michigan and New York -- states with busy border crossings into Canada -- to use the enhanced driver's license or a NEXUS card, which has the added benefit of avoiding waiting in line by using the dedicated NEXUS lanes at the bridge or tunnel, to enter Canada. On the Ambassador Bridge, two NEXUS lanes are open between 3 and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, while two are also available in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel on weekdays between 4 and 7 p.m.
Border Crossing Checkpoints
You’ll show your passport, or other travel documents, to staffers at one of the designated border crossing points. A maximum of 19 lanes operate for passengers on the Ambassador Bridge, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, while the Detroit-Windsow Tunnel maintains a maximum of 10 lanes. Check up-to-date wait times in advance on the Customs and Border Protection website for the U.S., and, for the Canadian side, at the Canada Border Services Agency.
- Ambassador Bridge: Bridge Facts
- Detroit-Windsor Tunnel: Did You Know That…
- Department of State: International Travel Information, Canada
- Department of State: Passports, US Passport Card
- GetYouHome.gov: Special Groups
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Information About Passport Cards
- GetYouHome.gov: Enhanced Driver’s License
- Canada Border Services Agency: CBSA Office Ambassador Bridge
- Canada Border Services Agency: CBSA Office Windsor-Detroit tunnel
- Photo Credit Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News/Getty Images