When you're a parent and you don't live close to family members or friends, traveling with miniature humans is an inevitability. So if you're planning a family trip in the near future, it's time to start checking off the to-do list. Local traveling is one thing, but international trips require a lot more prep and research, including the basics. So, do kids need a passport to go to Canada? If you're planning to head north for some quality family time or a quick getaway, there are a few things you need to know so all goes according to plan.
According to the U.S. State Department, American children under 16 traveling to Canada by land or sea only need proof of U.S. citizenship. So if you're making the trip to our neighbor to the north by car, you can present your kids' original birth certificates when you reach border security.
On the other hand, you, along with any other adults or older teens, will need a valid proof of citizenship along with a government-issued proof of identity in order to enter Canada, according to the U.S. Passport Service Guide website, and a valid passport will satisfy both requirements. To re-enter the U.S. by land or sea, such as by car or cruise ship, you'll need a passport or another approved form of identification, such as a passport card, an enhanced driver's license, or a "trusted traveler" card such as NEXUS, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
As with most rules in life, there are exceptions. So if your family is hoping to spend the winter holidays or spring break eating poutine in Quebec, whale-watching in Newfoundland, trying out the slopes at Lake Louise, or visiting the Green Gables Heritage Place on Prince Edward Island, read on to learn more about the laws regarding traveling to Canada with kids.
Air Travel Has Different Requirements
For travel by air, everyone in your family — young kids included — will need a passport to re-enter the U.S. from Canada, according to the U.S. State Department. Military personnel traveling on official orders should also present their U.S. Military identification card.
Your Family Can Use NEXUS Cards
As TripSavvy explained, the NEXUS card can be used instead of a passport for both you and your children when visiting Canada, even by air. NEXUS is a recently adopted program that allows pre-approved U.S. and Canadian citizens to enter and exit efficiently through certain border points and at certain airports. To learn more about NEXUS and other Trusted Traveler programs, check this link at the State Department website.
When Your Child Travels Alone
If you're sending your kids to Canada on their own (say, to visit family), the same rules apply: a birth certificate for land or sea travel, and a passport or NEXUS card if they're traveling by air. It's also a good idea to send your child with a consent letter explaining that you give permission for them to go solo, according to USA Today.
When You're Divorced
The recommendations also vary slightly when you're no longer living with a coparent. As per the State Department, parents who don't have full legal custody should plan to bring a letter of consent signed by the other custodial parent or guardian. The same applies if you're traveling with a child you don't have legal custody of.
Going In A Group
Chaperoning a high school class trip or teen soccer tournament? According to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. children ages 16-18 who are returning from Canada as part of an adult-run school, religious, or sports group can use a birth certificate as ID when crossing the border.
Even though a birth certificate is usually enough of an ID for young children traveling to Canada, it's still not a bad idea to get your kids a passport anyway, according to the website VacationKids Not only does it take the guesswork out of whether you have the proper documents for traveling, but it also reduces the chance of delays or hassles when you visit other countries or when going on cruises.