Passport Requirements Driving to Canada

U.S. citizens must show passport at Canada land and sea border crossings.

Canada border
••• 4x6 / Getty Images

Canada Passport Requirements | Crossing the Border with Kids | Passport Requirements by Air | Passport Equivalents | NEXUS Card

-September 2016-

Bottom Line: As of June 1, 2009, everyone coming to Canada by land or sea has been required to have a passport or equivalent travel document.  

Though U.S. and Canadian citizens used to pass quite freely back and forth between countries, the events of 9/11 led to stricter border control and passport requirements.


If you arrive in Canada without a passport, there is no guarantee you will be allowed to enter; in fact, you will most likely be turned away. 

Best Advice: Apply for your passport or passport equivalent today if you haven't already.

The trend for essential travel documents, even between friendly, neighbouring countries like Canada and the U.S. and Mexico, is toward increased security and standardization. A passport - or passport equivalent - is becoming a must.

If you need a passport right away, get a passport within 24 hrs with Even better, if you travel between Canada and the U.S. regularly, apply for your NEXUS card, which allows for faster, more efficient travel between the two countries. 

Land & Sea Passport Requirements in Depth: The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which was introduced in 2004 by the U.S. government to strengthen U.S. border security and standardize travel documentation requires all U.S. citizens present a valid passport or equivalent travel document to enter or re-enter the United States.

Technically, Canada Border Services does not require U.S. citizens to present a passport to enter Canada, however, Americans do need a passport or equivalent travel document to get back into the U.S. Thus, Canada and U.S. border requirements may be different on paper, but, are in practice, the same.

Does it make sense to allow a U.S. citizen into Canada who does not have the proper documentation to return home? U.S. border laws essentially trump Canada's.

At one time, U.S. citizens entering Canada could show a driver's license and other piece of identification to cross over the border into Canada, but those days are no more. A valid passport or NEXUS card is mandatory for entry.

The only exception to this applies to children 15 or younger with parental consent are allowed to cross the borders at land and sea entry points with certified copies of their birth certificates rather than passports.

For More Information:

Canada Travel Documents & Passport Substitutes

Canada Border Services Agency OR The US Department of State

Further Reading about the Canadian Border:
Tips for Driving across the Border into Canada
Duty Free Shopping at the Canadian Border
Bringing Children across the Canadian Border
How Much Liquor Can I Buy at the Border?