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Can Americans drive in Canada?

Travel and identification documents for entering Canada

October 1, 2022 : COVID-19 emergency border measures ended

Refer to COVID-19: Travel, testing and borders for details. —> 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

COVID-19 : Entering Canada requirements checklist for information about quarantine and your admissibility 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.

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
    • address
    • 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.

    More information

    • Children and travel
    • Our Missing Children program

    International visitors to Canada

    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.

    Certain low-risk foreign nationals from select visa-required countries may also travel to or through Canada by air using an eTA through the eTA expansion program.

    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.

    More information

    • Electronic Travel Authorization
      • Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization
      • Get help with Electronic Travel Authorizations

      Fake websites

      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.

      Related links

      • Travelling with animals
      • Lost, stolen, seized, inaccessible or damaged passports
      • Find out if you need a visa to travel to Canada
      • Programs for trusted travellers

      Report a problem on this page

      This email is to report problems or inaccuracies on a page. Spam and comments containing offensive language will be reported or deleted. For help with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) programs or services, contact border information services.

      Can Americans drive in Canada?

      U.S. flag

      Official website of the Department of Homeland Security



      Driving in the United States

      F and M students, and their dependents, may be eligible to drive a motor vehicle while residing in the United States. However, those who wish to operate a vehicle must successfully apply for and receive a driver’s license. Driving a car without a driver’s license is illegal. To acquire a driver’s license, you must apply for one at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which can have a different name in some states.

      Driver’s License Application Process

      While the application process for receiving a driver’s license may be different in each state, the basic steps are very similar. These steps include:

      • Talking with your designated school official (DSO) about driving rules and regulations in your state or territory.
      • Confirming with your DSO that your student record is Active in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
      • Waiting 10 days after arriving in the United States to apply for a driver’s license so that your Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” information can update in all the government systems.
      • Obtaining a Social Security number (SSN), if required by your state or territory.
      • Visiting and submitting the proper documentation to the DMV.

      The DMV may need to verify your nonimmigrant student status to determine if you are eligible for a driver’s license. To verify your status, the DMV may use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program. To find out more about this program, please visit the Checking Your SAVE Case Status page.

      Required Documentation

      When you apply for a driver’s license at your local DMV, make sure to bring original copies of the following documents:

      • All signed versions of your Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.”
      • A valid passport and your most recent student visa (Please note that you do not need a visa if you are from a visa-exempt country, such as Canada or Bermuda).
      • Proof of residence. This varies from state to state and you should check your local DMV’s website to ensure you understand what is needed to fulfill this requirement.
      • If your state requires it, an SSN card or a Form SSA-L676, “Refusal to Process SSN Application.”
      • If you are on optional practical training, bring your Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document.” The DMV will use the A number on this card to verify your status.

      If you are an F-2, M-2 or J-2 dependent, go to the DMV with your primary F-1, M-1 or J-1 and make sure you both have all your required documents.

      After a successful application process, a DMV official will explain the next steps for attaining your driver’s license. It is normal for some nonimmigrants to only get temporary licenses. In addition, you may receive the license immediately or you may have to wait several weeks, depending on the state.

      Additional Requirements

      A driver’s license applicant may also need to pass both a driving and written test. Depending on your state, if you have a license from your home country or another state, the DMV may not require you to take the tests. However, not all states accept driver’s licenses from other countries.

      If you have trouble applying for a driver’s license, speak with your DSO and contact the SEVP Response Center with case-specific questions.

      Student Resources Navigation

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        American drivers in Canada and Canadian drivers in the USA

        Cars Driving on the Road

        Yes. The United States of America and Canada share a mutual agreement in which driver’s licenses are valid under the grounds of being a tourist for a period of six months.

        As far as Canada and the USA is concerned, any full license issued in any jurisdiction is instantly accepted in every state and province.

        What Happens If You Get a Traffic Violation Outside of Your Home Country?

        Since the two countries are integrated in several ways, traffic violations in one country will reflect on your home country’s driver’s license for demerit points. You are responsible for knowing local driving laws and adjusting for conditions.

        Car Insurance Coverage When Driving in the US and Canada

        Liability limits are significantly lower in the USA than they are in Canada, thus Americans are not required to have as much coverage for liability claims. Fortunately, Canadians will often be able to access insurance benefits through their own insurance company, even for car accidents that occurred in the USA.

        In addition to obtaining accident benefits or disability insurance payments from your Canadian insurer, you may also be able to claim against the insurance company for the other vehicle/driver in the USA. Oftentimes, the insurance policy on the USA vehicle that caused the accident will have low coverage limits in comparison to Canadian insurance policies.

        Most of the Ontario policies we see have coverage of $1,000,000.00 or more. Policy limits that high are exceptionally rare in the USA for personal vehicles. In fact, many of the USA insurance policies we see are well under $100,000.00, and commonly as low as $10,000.00 or $20,000.00.

        Fortunately, if you are an Ontario resident, you likely have protection in the event of an underinsured or even uninsured motorist causing an accident. That is, the other driver’s insurance limits may not be sufficient to pay for your claim. The Ontario insurance policy will cover your losses in excess of the policy limits available from the at-fault driver’s insurance.

        If an Ontario resident is injured in a car accident in the USA, they have the right to elect between Ontario benefits or those of the jurisdiction (State) where the car or motorcycle accident occurred. The election is final, so it is important to make an informed decision.

        In many cases, the choice can have major consequences on your ability to access benefits for healthcare and income loss. The team at JEWELL RADIMISIS JORGE LLP strongly encourages all road users to engage in safe practices when out on the road.

        If you or a loved one have been injured in a collision, you may be entitled to receive the help you deserve. Give JEWELL RADIMISIS JORGE LLP a call or contact us online and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.

        • April 11, 2023 The Relationship Between Non-Earner Benefits and Loss of Income ClaimsRead More
        • April 03, 2023 Left Turn on a Yellow Light – Who is at Fault?Read More
        • March 10, 2023 Suing At-Fault Family Members in Motor Vehicle CollisionsRead More
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