Crossing the US Canadian Border by Land – Do I Need a US Passport?

The rules and regulations for crossing the US/Canadian border by land have changed over the years. It can be difficult to determine what kind of documentation (i.e. US passport), if any, is required for a routine, short-term US/Canadian border crossing. Knowing the facts before crossing the US/Canadian border by land will help save you time and trouble on your trip and lead to fewer delays at border patrol.

 

The US Department of Homeland Security, in cooperation with Canadian, Mexican and other Western Hemisphere country officials, has made a number of changes to border crossing regulations and requirements in recent years. The changes have been implemented in stages, with grace periods allowing some lenience for certain types of travel and travelers. The department has used media campaigns as well as word-of-mouth education to inform travelers of the most recent changes in regulations regarding crossing the US/Canadian border by land, which went into effect on January 31, 2008. These changes were made in anticipation of the full implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative on June 1, 2009.

 

Current regulations for crossing the US/Canadian border by land state that all adult visitors (ages 19 and up) must present the following documentation at the border:

 

* A current, valid US passport OR

* One form of government-issued identification which bears a photo PLUS

* Proof of citizenship (i.e. birth certificate or naturalization certificate.)

 

Travel visas are not currently required for short term land travel across Canadian/US borders.

Children (ages 18 and under) who cross the border with a verified adult will need to have either a current US passport or documentation verifying citizenship (i.e. a birth certificate or naturalization certificate.)

 

When the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative becomes fully operational on June 1, 2009, all citizens over the age of 15 will be required to supply one of the following forms of identification when crossing the US/Canadian border by land:

 

* A valid US passport.

* Government-issued proof of identity with photo AND proof of citizenship.

 

All governments involved in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative are strongly recommending that citizens apply for and carry a US passport when crossing the US/Canadian border by land. A US passport is the only universally accepted form of travel documentation. Carrying a US passport will greatly reduce your chances of being delayed at the border, whether crossing into Canada or back home to the United States. Travelers who do not possess a US passport may be looked upon with suspicion, even if other documentation is in order. Border officials on both sides reserve the right to detain travelers or refuse entry altogether if they feel that something is amiss. This is why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is urging all citizens to obtain a US passport. In the end, it ensures smooth border crossings both for travelers and for border agents.

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