Can I still travel to Canada?

Back in the 1990s, I routinely did so from Detroit to Windsor. Canadian customs were all kinds of lax at the frontier. As in asking me and the passengers in my car “Citizenship?” Response “USA”. “Purpose for entering Canada?” Response “Tourism”. The response from the Customs agent was “move along”. And if challenged I couldn’t have even proved my citizeship. All I possessed was a Michigan Driver’s license. All that proved is I could legally drive in Michigan. And Canadian customs never even bothered to ask for an ID. Basically, I just waltzed across the border.

Is this still possible, or must I get a US passport?

I hear the the coming problem will not be for a US citizen to get into Canada without a passport, but rather getting back into the US without one!

IIRC at present all that is required to return is a notarized birth certificate. But in the near future, passports will be required.

I am hopeful that another doper will soon be able to provide facts rather than hearsay.

this was my understanding also.

although, i did fly in and out of the US in january without a passport.

A sneaky problem for US folks with DUIs or other offences of moral turpitude (did I spell that right?)- if they check at the border and you have one on your record, you aren’t getting across.

AA just held their international convention in Toronto last month and plenty of people couldn’t go because their records weren’t clean!

I crossed the border and returned two weeks ago with no problem. Entering Canada we were only asked questions. Returning to the US, we had to show a picture ID - they took drivers licenses with no problem.

Border agents will USUALLY accept driver’s licenses and such, especially with birth certificates. Sometimes they don’t even ask for that.


You’re better off getting your passport.

My understanding was something like this: sometime in 2006, Canadians would need a passport to enter into the US. Sometime in 2007, Americans would need a passport to return to the US.

I have a hunch that someone will change their mind before this is implemented, and probably at the behest of the Canadian and Mexican governments – why spend $65 to $80 (or whatever they cost now) for a passport just to be able to go back and forth across the border? That’s a lot of money to some people, and people that live on the border don’t really have the attitude that they’re going to a whole new foreign county, i.e., it’s not “tourism” per se, and I suspect that those without passports just won’t bother. <em>This is a huge, huge loss to the Canadian and Mexican economies!</em>. I imagine that American merchants are making a campaign against this, too. In Michigan at the “border malls” all I see are Canadian license plates. At the K-Marts on the Mexican border all I see are Mexican license plates (admittedly not such a big deal; they already need a passport in addition to a visa).

FWIW, I’ve been married to a foreign national since before 911, so I’ve used a passport at every crossing since then. Many times the Americans and the Canadians both don’t even bother to look at the documentation! So it’s still kind of a “how you present yourself” type of being-caught, I think. Prior to using a passport, my experience was always identical to rfgdxm’s at Sault Ste. Marie and Sarnia and Windsor going and coming. Lines were fast moving, too. Now it’s a half-hour ordeal coming back to the 'States, but entering Canada is still relatively quick.

All you need is a birth certificate but there is a proposal designed to take effect on Dec. 31, 2006 requiring a passport.

A friend of mine was not allowed into Canada (he found out at the airport) because of a 20 year old marijuana possesion conviction. Funny thing was, he was going to Toronto at the request of the Canadian government to speak at a conference. His plane fare etc were paid for by the Canadian government. When he was told he could not enter the country, he just said, “f@ck you, I’ll go home”.

Also, if you enter Canada with a pet, the border guys may ask for a health certificate and proof of rabies immunization. Many people cross without being asked, but if you are asked and do not have the paperwork they will turn you away. Veterinary practices located just this side of the border make some easy money supplying pet owners with the necessary forms.

When we went to Vancouver last May, we were told we would need either a passport, or the notarized birth certificate plus driver license. I had a passport, and my wife had the birth certificate, but she was never asked to show it, either going ashore in Vancouver, or by the Border Patrol agents who boarded the train on the way back.

To cross into Canada from the US, you need to provide both a photo ID and proof of citizenship (State Department page). A passport will do nicely for both; otherwise, you need something like a driver’s license (for photo ID) and birth certificate (for proof of citizenship).

My wife and I have been across the border probably a couple dozen times since 9/11. We routinely use driver’s license + birth certificate and haven’t had any problems at all – half the time, the customs official doesn’t even ask for ID.

Northbound at Peace Arch on Thursday; nothing but asking our citizenship and reason for coming to Canada.

Southbound at Sumas on Sunday, a request for and cursory glimpse at my passport and Herself’s driver’s license and birth certificate.

The US Border agent quipped “picture ID, proof of citizenship, and a current blood test”, probably because Herself had all the documents eagerly in her hands. Oh, and now I remember… he looked just like Tim Blake Nelson .

I am surprised that we didn’t get searched, relaly, because I freely admitted that we’d been to Vancouver to see Willie Nelson play. :smiley:

For those who are getting confused by the new regulations, there are rolling implementation dates. By the end of 2006 you’ll need a passport for air and sea travel. By the end of 2007 you’ll need one for land border crossing, too. I usually go by car, so I have plenty of time to procrastinate.

IIRC they cannot actually look you up in a database to find out if you are a felon in the US (no instant background check for foriegn goverments) or had gotten a DUI (which isn’t a felony here, but in Canada it is). But that they would ask you a trick question like “Ever been convicted of Murder? No? How about a DUI :wink: ?” When you answered yes they place you in the Canadian database and tell you to leave. If you ever try to enter Canada again then they arrest you. This happen to a buddy of mine going on a fishing trip. He later filed for an acception, gave them alot of background info along with personal referances and they let him back in.

Really? vetbridge, did your friend admit at the border, or had he forgotten all about the conviction and they told him?

I am very curious, because frankly I don’t see too many people spilling their past criminal past to a border guard!

We’ve gotten away with just driver’s licenses, but on our last trip in March the U.S. guy wanted other proof, like voter’s registration card. They let us back in (maybe sympathy, I’d just had eye surgery) but we were told not to cross again without more evidence.

So while you don’t need a passport (yet) I strongly suggest you take a birth certificate or voter registration card in addition to your driver’s license.

My friend flew in, so it wasn’t just the border guard. As I understand it, the immigration/customs(?) guy asked if he had ever been arrested and he responded honestly.

Should I have one of those? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one! Seriously. I’ve been voting for 20 years.

I visited Canada two months ago with only a drivers license as ID.

Canada let me in easily.

When I and my friends tried to go back into the U.S, they hassled us like you wouldn’t believe. They forced us to wait for about an hour in the customs office while they ransacked the car looking for contraband. They also asked us a ton of questions. They even threatened to deport us! (We’re all born and raised in the U.S, so we had a good laugh about it afterwards)

Get a passport. Seriously.