U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is a U.S. law that requires all travellers, including U.S. and Canadian citizens, to present a valid passport or other approved secure document when entering the United States from within the western hemisphere.
The Government of Canada continues to recommend that Canadian citizens carry a valid Canadian passport for all visits abroad, including visits to the United States. A passport is the only universally accepted identification document, and it proves that you have a right to return to Canada. To find out how to obtain a Canadian passport, visit Passport Canada's Web site (www.passportcanada.gc.ca).
Land and Water Travel to the United States
Canadian citizens are required to present one of the following valid WHTI-compliant documents when entering the United States by land or water:
- a passport;
- a NEXUS card;
- a Free and Secure Trade (FAST) card;
- an enhanced driver's licence (EDL) or an enhanced identification card (EIC) from a province where a U.S.-approved EDL/EIC program has been implemented; or
- a Secure Certificate of Indian Status (In the interim, the current Certificate of Indian Status is an acceptable document to present when entering the United States by land or water.)
Canadian citizens aged 15 years or under are only required to present proof of Canadian citizenship, such as an original or a photocopy of a birth certificate, or an original citizenship card. Canadian citizens 18 years of age or under who are travelling with a school or other organized group, under adult supervision with parental/guardian consent, may also present proof of Canadian citizenship alone.
The United States has indicated that it will take a common sense approach to implementing the WHTI at its land and water ports of entry, which includes a period of flexibility after June 1, 2009. The Government of Canada cautions travellers that the length and extent of this flexibility is entirely at the discretion of U.S. officials.
Air Travel to the United States
Canadian citizens flying to the United States must present a valid passport to confirm their citizenship and identity. A NEXUS card, when using a self-serve kiosk at designated Canadian airports, is also acceptable.
This requirement applies to all travellers, regardless of age, including children.
Note: Under U.S. law, all travellers (including Canadians) departing the United States by air to any destination (including Canada) must present a valid passport (or a NEXUS card for return to Canada only). For example, if a Canadian citizen enters the United States by land by presenting acceptable documents other than a passport, and then plans to board a flight in the United States destined for Mexico (i.e. an international destination other than Canada), a valid passport is required for the air travel. Similarly, if a Canadian citizen drives to the United States and returns to Canada by air, a valid passport or a NEXUS card must be presented to board the plane. It is important to note that a passport is not mandatory for air travel within the United States.
It's important to note that there are no changes to the entry or re-entry requirements into Canada. While a NEXUS card may be used to board a plane departing the United States (based on a particular airlines' air carrier policy), the CBSA requires that all NEXUS program members seeking entry into Canada by air carry appropriate documentation, in addition to their NEXUS.
Note to permanent residents
U.S. entry requirements have not changed for Canadian citizens who are U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs). U.S. LPRs may continue to present their permanent resident card (Form I-551) or other valid evidence of permanent residence status in the United States.
U.S. entry requirements have not changed for non-Canadian citizens, including permanent residents residing in Canada. For more information on U.S. entry requirements, visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Web site (www.dhs.gov).
Accepted Documents for Entry into the United States
The NEXUS program is designed to expedite the border clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travellers into Canada and the United States by air, land and water. NEXUS members can use self-serve kiosks at participating Canadian airports and at all U.S. airports when returning to Canada, use dedicated lanes at land border crossings and report their arrival in advance by telephone at marine ports of entry. For more details, visit the NEXUS Web site (www.nexus.gc.ca).
The Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program is offered to pre-approved commercial importers, carriers and registered drivers. Through FAST, shipments for approved companies, transported by approved carriers using registered drivers, are cleared into either Canada or the United States with greater speed and certainty, and at a reduced cost of compliance.
Enhanced driver's licence (EDL)/enhanced identification card (EIC)
An EDL is a secure driver's licence that denotes a person's identity and citizenship and is issued by certain provinces and U.S. states. The objective is to provide Canadian and American citizens with a convenient option that will allow for spontaneous travel across the shared border. The EIC offers the same advantages as an EDL for those holders who do not drive.
EDLs are available in the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec. In addition, EICs are available in the provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba. For more information and to apply for an EDL or EIC, visit the following Web sites:
- British Columbia — www.icbc.com (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia)
- Manitoba — www.mpi.mb.ca (Manitoba Public Insurance)
- Ontario — www.ontario.ca (Government of Ontario)
- Quebec — www.saaq.qc.ca (Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec)
Secure Certificate of Indian Status
Through the continued efforts of the Government of Canada, the United States (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security will now accept the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status – Border Crossing Format as an acceptable document to present when entering the United States by land or water.
The Government of Canada has been advised that the United States will continue to accept the current Certificate of Indian Status as a document that is compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) for a reasonable transition period into 2010, while the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status is distributed. However, the Government of Canada is cautioning travellers that the length and extent of this transition period is entirely at the discretion of U.S. officials.
Canadian citizens travelling by air to, through or from the United States must present one of the following valid documents: a passport or a NEXUS card. This requirement applies to all travellers regardless of age, including children.
For more information on the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status, visit the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Web site.
For more information, visit the Canada Border Services Agency's Web site (www.cbsa.gc.ca) or call the Border Information Service toll-free line at 1-800-461-9999.