Should You Carry Your Passport With You in Canada?If you’ve never been to visit Canada, the good news is that it’s a super easy country for traveling, especially for U.S. citizens–other than for crossing the border back and forth, there should be very little need to carry your passport with you as you travel around to visit our friendly neighbors to the north.

should you carry your passport around with you when you are traveling in Canada?

You’ll rarely if ever, be asked to present a valid form of photo identification, other than by, perhaps, your hotel reception clerk. A driver’s license and credit card should be all you ever need.

You can keep your passport locked safely up wherever you may be staying. You may feel comfortable carrying around a photocopy of your passport, however, in addition to your photo ID and credit card(s).

Your passport should be valid at the time of its use, and you’ll need only one page for your passport entry stamp. Though Canada is a friendly country, there does still exist the possibility of having valuables (including your passport) stolen.

Should you ever lose or have your passport stolen, report it to the local police immediately, as well as to the U.S. Embassy.

As far as U.S. official services are concerned, note that the U.S. Consulate in Winnipeg provides emergency services for U.S. citizens. For other normal, routine services such as help with passports, and visas, and for notary public services, you’ll go to other U.S. Consulates General, usually to the one in Calgary.

Do I Need a Visa to Enter Canada?

More good news for U.S. citizen travelers going to Canada as a tourist: you’ll only need a visa if you’re planning on staying more than 180 days (~ six months). 

Other types of travel throughout Canada (other than tourism) will typically require some sort of visa. You can find out the most current information regarding Canadian visa requirements at the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.

Something else worth noting for those considering a visit to Canada: if you have a criminal record, you may be denied access into Canada. Don’t fret, though, as this is a problem that can be overcome. To assess whether or not you would be denied entry for having a criminal record, and for relevant instructions regarding how to resolve this criminal designation, also refer to the IRCC website.

Immigration authorities from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will make the determination regarding your ability to enter Canada. 

Have you ever heard of the NEXUS trusted traveler program? The United States and Canada both encourage frequent travelers between the two countries to join the NEXUS program for easier access both ways.  

Should You Carry a Copy of Your Passport When You Travel Throughout Canada?

You’re probably best off keeping your passport safely locked away in your hotel room while you’re in Canada, though it may make you more comfortable to carry a photocopy with you, in addition to a valid form of photo identification and your credit card(s). Canadian police are not known for stopping people on the streets routinely, so you’ll rarely if ever be asked to present ID.

How to Carry Your Passport Safely

If you’re a traveler who insists on carrying an original hardcopy of your passport with you as you tour around, and if you are, it’s a good idea to carry it safely with a security pocket for your pants, or a money/security belt to wear around your waist.

Also, keep a photocopy of your passport locked up at your hotel, and even to carry a photocopy with you securely in another pocket, along with a valid photo identification. At last, scan your passport, and any travel insurance documentation and email them to yourself so you can easily access them electronically if you need to.

The U.S. State Department highly recommends that you treat your passport like a valuable by keeping it secured under lock and key at your hotel while touring around.

Can the U.S. Embassy Intervene on Behalf of U.S. Citizens in Canada?

Some U.S. diplomatic intervention for U.S. citizens is possible, though it depends on the issue at hand. Being a U.S. citizen likely won’t get you out of legal problems you may cause for yourself while in Canada.  

Use of Your Passport Traveling Between the U.S. and Canada

For entry into Canada, all travelers are legally required to present proof of their home citizenship and a valid form of photo identification. U.S. citizens may present either a valid U.S. passport card, a valid U.S. passport, or a NEXUS (trusted travel program) card. U.S. children travelers younger than 16 years only need to present proof of U.S. citizenship, like with a birth certificate.

For entry back in to the United States, U.S. citizens traveling by air from Canada are required to present a U.S. passport book or some other approved form of identification.

You can find a full list of allowable forms of identification at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website.

For those traveling with minors for whom you do not have full legal custody (including divorced parents), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) may request a letter of authorization from the minor’s parents or legal guardian(s).

You can find all pertinent information on the CBSA’s website.

Those entering Canada via private boat (including recreational craft), need to present themselves to the CBSA once they’ve arrived. The CBSA’s website offers all relevant reporting requirements.

Tips for Entry, Exit, and Traveling Through Canada

1 – Canada is known for having crime rates lower than those in the U.S., though all types of crimes, including violent ones, can occur, especially in metropolitan areas. Thieves can target parked cars, particularly in tourist areas, so don’t leave valuables in your vehicle, including in the trunk. Some cities like Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto may impose fines on travelers who leave their car doors unlocked or who leave valuables in view. Pickpockets in Canada are also prevalent, so be extra mindful of your property and valuables.

2 – As in the U.S., 911 is the emergency services’ telephone number throughout Canada.

3 – Demonstrations in Canada may often occur in regard to political or economic events, world events, and/or on politically significant holidays. Canadian national holidays are Canada Day (July 1) and Victoria Day (the Monday between the 18th and the 24th of May). Other provincial holidays may also be politically significant for Canadians in those areas.

Demonstrations in any country can be unexpected and have outcomes that are difficult to predict, so whenever possible, do your best to avoid areas near any kind of demonstrations and protests. Violence at these gatherings isn’t common, but U.S. citizens are still advised to avoid them and to remain aware and vigilant whenever traveling abroad, including in Canada.

4 – Local media can offer up-to-date traffic and event advisories.

5 – Victims of Crime:  U.S. citizen victims of of any crimes should report them immediately to the local authorities, as well as to the nearest U.S. Embassy. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes that occur in Canada.

6 – It is recommended that all U.S. citizens enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for important alerts, security messages, alerts, and to make it easier to be located during an emergency.

7 – Visitors to Canada are subject to any and all local laws, and violation of such, whether knowingly or not, can result in your arrest, deportation, and fines and/or imprisonment. Some crimes, such as those against minors and elders are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of where the crimes occur or what the local Canadian laws are.

8 – Canadian laws prohibit the possession and distribution of controlled substances and narcotics, including many that may be deemed legal in some U.S. states. Canada has legalized personal use of recreational cannabis, but their laws prohibit the transportation of cannabis across their borders.

You run the risk of sizeable fines, imprisonment, and permanent expulsion from Canada if you are caught violating their controlled substance laws.

9 – If you are arrested or detained in Canada, ask the police or other officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. U.S. diplomatic services can probably help you to some degree, but U.S. citizenship alone will not help you avoid legal troubles you may have gotten yourself into.

10 – Those establishing businesses or professions that require specific permits and/or licensing can find pertinent information from local authorities, and should do so before opening up shop.

11 – Counterfeit and/or pirated goods are easily obtainable in many countries, but they may be deemed illegal by Canadian and U.S. laws. You can also be fined in addition to having to surrender them if you try to bring them back into the U.S. 

12 – Canada enforces much stricter controls over firearms than does the U.S. Violation of these controls can result in not only prosecution, but also imprisonment. Travelers bringing any and all firearms and/or ammunition into Canada must declare this property in writing with a Non-Resident Firearm Declaration (NFD) form.

If your plans include borrowing and using someone else’s firearm while in Canada, you are required to apply for and obtain a Temporary Firearms Borrowing License ahead of time. These forms must be signed and presented in triplicate in the presence of a CBSA officer at the border upon entry. Note that you won’t be able to make photocopies of these forms at the border. 

13 – Canadian officials are required by law to confiscate undeclared firearms, ammunition, and any other weapons from travelers crossing the Canadian border. These confiscated items will not be returned and you may be arrested and/or imprisoned.

Inspect all your belongings thoroughly before traveling to Canada to avoid inadvertently transporting any weapons, firearms, or ammunition into Canada. All relevant information and downloadable forms are available at the Canadian Firearms Program website.  

So, Should You Carry Your Passport With You in Canada?

Other than presenting a valid passport upon entering Canada and then to return to one’s home country, visitors are not required to carry their passports with them while in Canada. You should carry some valid form of photo ID and your credit cards securely with you, but it is rare to never that you might be stopped by police and asked to present your ID. Canada is a very tourist-friendly country, especially for U.S. citizens.


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