Travel and identification documents for entering Canada
Make sure you carry proper identification for yourself and any children or minors travelling with you. You must be able to confirm your legal right or authorization to enter Canada at the border.
On this page
- Residents returning to Canada
- Travel with children and minors
- International visitors to Canada
- Electronic Travel Authorization
- Fake websites
- Related links
Residents returning to Canada
Carry a valid Canadian passport for all visits abroad, including visits to the United States (U.S.). It is the only universally accepted identification document, and it proves that you have a right to return to Canada.
- Acceptable documents to denote identity and citizenship
- Other acceptable documents for establishing Canadian citizenship
- Other acceptable documents to support identity
- Acceptable documents for establishing Registered Indian Status and identity
Acceptable documents to denote identity and citizenship
Upon arrival at a Canadian port of entry, travellers must satisfy a CBSA border services officer (BSO) that they meet the requirements for entry into Canada. For Canadian citizens, permanent residents and persons registered under the Indian Act, this can be done through questioning and through verifying documentation such as a:
- Canadian passport
- Canadian birth certificate
- permanent residence card
- citizenship card
- Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS) card or valid Certificate of Indian Status (CIS) card
If you do not have a passport, and are returning to Canada, the following documents can denote identity and citizenship:
- NEXUS card, held by a Canadian citizen, when entering Canada by air (when coming from the U.S.), land, or marine modes
- FAST card (Free and Secure Trade), issued to a Canadian citizen (when arriving by land or marine modes only)
- Canadian emergency travel document
- Canadian temporary passport
- Certificate of Canadian citizenship (issued from 1954 to present)
- Enhanced driver's license issued by a Canadian province or territory
- Enhanced identification/photo card issued by a Canadian province or territory
Permanent residents of Canada who are members of the NEXUS or FAST programs must travel with a passport and proof of permanent residence, and may be asked to present these documents to the officer upon arrival at the border.
Other acceptable documents for establishing Canadian citizenship
The following documents may be used to establish Canadian citizenship. Upon presentation by travellers, the documents should be supported by other government issued photo identification:
- Certificate of Canadian citizenship (large form issued between January 1, 1947, to February 14, 1977)
- Certificate of retention (issued between January 1, 1947, and February 14, 1977)
- Certificate of naturalization (issued before January 1, 1947)
- Registration of birth abroad certificate (issued between January 1, 1947, and February 14, 1977, by Canadian citizenship authorities)
- Provincial or territorial birth certificate (individuals born in Canada)
Other acceptable documents to support identity
The following documents may be used to establish your identity:
- CANPASS card (air, corporate air, private air, remote area border crossing), held by a Canadian citizen
- Commercial driver registration program card, held by a Canadian citizen
- Provincial and territorial driver's license
- Employment or student card with photo and signature
- Provincial health insurance card
- Provincial identity card
- Canadian Forces identification
- Police identification
- Firearms acquisition certificate
- Credit card
- Vehicle insurance certificate
- Vehicle registration
Acceptable documents for establishing Registered Indian Status and identity
Every person registered under the Indian Act can enter and remain in Canada by right as per subsection A19(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS), more commonly referred to as the Status card, is an identity document issued by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada confirming that the cardholder is registered as a Status Indian under the Indian Act.
Note: The Certificate of Indian Status (CIS) was replaced by the SCIS in 2009. Existing versions of the CIS will remain valid until their renewal date.
If you plan to travel to or transit through the U.S., we encourage you to visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for information concerning the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, and the requirements to enter or return to the U.S.
For information on Canada-U.S. border-crossing issues, visit Crossing the Canada-U.S. border with a status card.
Travel with children and minors
When travelling with a minor, you should:
- carry copies of any legal custody documents, such as custody rights, if applicable
- arrive at the border in the same vehicle as the minor
- carry a consent letter if:
- you share custody of the minor and the other parent or legal guardian is not travelling with you
- you are not the parent or legal guardian of the minor
A consent letter must include the custodial parents' or legal guardians':
- full name
- telephone number
Border services officers are always watching for missing children and may ask questions about any minors travelling with you.
To avoid delays, have your consent letter notarized to support its authenticity. For more information on consent letters and to download an interactive form, visit Recommended consent letter for children travelling abroad.
International visitors to Canada
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All international travellers must carry acceptable identification and a valid visa (if necessary) when entering Canada. A passport is recommended because it is the only reliable and universally-accepted travel and identification document for the purpose of international travel.
International transport companies, such as airlines, must make sure that travellers have proper, valid travel documents. If you do not have the proper documents, you may be delayed or refused entry into Canada. What you need will depend on where you are from, how you are travelling, and what documents you are travelling with. Consult entry requirements by country.
When you enter Canada, a border services officer will ask to see your passport and a valid visa, if you are arriving from a country for which one is required. Visit the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website to learn more about what travel documents are required.
Citizens of the U.S. who are members of the NEXUS program may present their membership card as proof of identification and as a document that denotes citizenship, when arriving by air (when coming from the U.S.), land, or marine modes.
Citizens of the U.S. who are members of the FAST program may use their cards as proof of identity when arriving by land and marine modes only.
Permanent residents of the U.S. who are members of the NEXUS or FAST programs must travel with a passport and proof of permanent residence, and may be asked to present these documents to the officer upon arrival at the border.
All visitors arriving from or transiting through the U.S. are encouraged to visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for information concerning the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, and the requirements to enter or return to the U.S.
Electronic Travel Authorization
Visa-exempt foreign nationals need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to fly to or transit through Canada.
Exceptions, or visa and eTA-exempt foreign nationals, include:
- U.S. citizens
- U.S Lawful Permanent Residents
- travellers with a valid Canadian visa
- Other exceptions
Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, and Canadian permanent residents do not need to apply for an eTA.
Foreign nationals from select visa-required countries may also travel to or through Canada by air using an eTA, if eligible.
Be prepared: Apply for an eTA before you book your flight to Canada. Most applicants get approved within minutes. However, some applications can take several days to process so don’t wait until the last minute.
- Electronic Travel Authorization
- Dual citizens
- Canadian permanent residents
- Lawful permanent residents of the U.S.
Travellers who apply for an eTA are advised to be cautious in all dealings with companies that claim to offer help in getting an eTA. These companies are not operating on behalf of the Government of Canada. Many have established websites that charge a fee to provide information and submit eTA applications.
This Government of Canada website is the official place to apply for an Electronic Travel Application.
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