What Documents Do I Need for Crossing the Canadian Border?

The United States/Canada border was once the longest open border in the world. People from both countries could come and go providing only a quick explanation of the visit to the guard at the border crossing. After September 11th, however, things began to change.

National security became much more important for both countries, making it much more difficult to cross the border in either direction.

If you are an American citizen heading into Canada for a quick vacation, a shopping trip or even a long visit, it is important that you have the right documents if you want to arrive at your chosen destination on time.

Crossing the Border

The documents you need to cross the Canadian border depend largely on your method of travel. If you are traveling by airplane, boat or train, you are required to have a valid passport.

You can also expect a number of questions to be asked by the border guard. These questions are designed to determine the purpose of your visit. If you plan on staying for a minimum of several months, you may be asked additional questions to determine whether or not you will be working while in the country.

If you plan on working, you will be asked to supply a valid work permit or visa. If you are staying a long time, but do not plan on working, you may be asked for documents that will show that you do not have to work while in the country. Although the guard may trust you by your word, he or she may also require a recent bank statement or the phone number and address of the person you will be staying with.

If you are traveling by car, crossing the Canadian border is a bit more straightforward. You will be asked the same questions and, if you plan a long-term stay, may be asked for work documents or proof that you do not need to work. A valid passport is not required, however, when driving across the border into Canada. That said, you will probably have to provide a valid picture ID, such as a driver’s license.

It is always a good idea to have your passport with you in case the guard needs a second piece of ID or questions your story about your visit. Also, you will need your passport to cross back into the United States. While Canadian law does not require those driving across the border to provide a passport, American law requires all border crossers to have full documentation, even if they are citizens.

No matter how you cross the Canadian border, it is always a good idea to carry as much documentation as you have. A stubborn border guard can all too easily ruin a vacation and carrying extra proof of your identity and citizenship can only tip the scales in your favor.

Mark Hamilton is a freelance writer who covers issues surrounding law, especially immigration. He wants to help those who have been denied entry to Canada. He has worked with a law clerk before, however, none of his writing should be considered as legal advice.