What do you need to Cross into Canada?

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A sign points to the U.S.-Canada border

Updated February 2024

Confused? You’re not alone. Sometimes knowing how to cross into Canada can be a bit confusing.

It doesn’t have to be. That’s why I’ve prepared some straight forward information here so you can cross into Canada with no issues. Because, if you’re prepared in advance, it will go smoothly.

Below you will find information on everything from having valid documents to understanding how the process works to help[ guide you when you cross into Canada in your RV.

American RVers - Travel and identification documents you need to enter Canada

Table of Contents

COVID - Border Regulations

Before we get carried away with travel and identification documents it’s best to understand what the current rules are regarding COVID for visitors from the United States. So, I am going to address the needs of American RVers who are intending to RV travel to Canada. The following information is from the Canadian Border Services. If you’re unsure about anything related to COVID please contact CBSA directly.

For all travellers entering Canada by land:

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is not required
  • COVID-19 pre-entry and arrival tests are not required
  • Quarantine after you enter Canada is not required
  • Using ArriveCAN is not required
  • As always, travel documents are required (see below for more details on documents)

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you shouldn’t travel to Canada.

If you feel sick or experience any symptoms of COVID-19 during your travel to Canada or upon arrival, you should:

  • inform the border services officer upon arrival. You may be referred to a Quarantine Officer for a health assessment and further direction.
  • avoid taking public transportation
  • check provincial or territorial requirements for what you need to do if you’re symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19

Border Requirements to Cross into Canada

#RVtraveltoCanada

Now that we’ve got all that COVID information out of the way let’s talk about the information you’re really looking for on RV travel to Canada.

Documents Required to Enter Canada for American travelers

First of all, please understand if you don’t have proper documents you may be refused or delayed entry into Canada. That’s why it’s best to be prepared before you arrive at the border – it saves a lot of headaches and delays. 

If you do not have the proper documents, you may be delayed or refused entry into Canada

A passport is highly recommended because it is the only reliable and universally-accepted travel and identification document for the purpose of international travel. As an American RVer coming to Canada – you are an international traveler!

What you need will depend on where you are from, how you are travelling, and what documents you are travelling with. 

American Citizens:

For our purposes I am assuming you are traveling from the U.S. However, if you are NOT an American citizen you will need to do further research. (see below)

When you enter Canada, a border services officer will ask to see your proper identification such as a valid U.S. Passport. 

The following is what is listed on the CBSA website.

Identification requirements for U. S. citizens and permanent residents

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you must carry proof of citizenship such as a passport, birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship or naturalization, a U.S. Permanent Resident Card, or a Certificate of Indian Status along with photo identification. If you are a U.S. permanent resident, ensure you carry proof of your status such as a U.S. Permanent Resident Card.

If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S.:

As of April 26, 2022, lawful permanent residents of the United States must show these documents for all methods of travel to Canada:

NEXUS, and FAST Programs to Cross into Canada

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.

SUMMARY - What is required to cross into Canada?

For American citizens who are planning to RV travel to Canada the documents you personally require is valid identification – preferably a valid passport.

 If you are a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. you will need a valid passport from the country of your nationality and either a valid green card or equivalent valid proof of status in the U.S.

If either of the above does not pertain to you then you need to do further research – Entry Requirements into Canada.

How long can you stay in Canada?

For most visitors the length of time you can stay in Canada is 6 months.

If your passport wasn’t stamped you can stay:

  • for up to 6 months from the day you initially entered the country, or
  • until your passport expires, whichever comes first.

That’s pretty straight forward so on average – your stay cannot exceed 6 months without requesting an extension.

Cross into Canada with Minor Children

First of all – children under the age of 18 are considered minors in Canada – there’s no getting around that rule.  

If the minor child is traveling without proper documents or their legal guardians they will be looked at closely – it’s to protect the child. Border services are on the look out for missing or runaways so its best to ensure that if you have minors traveling with you have all of their proper documents with you.

#Cross into Canada with children

Proper documentation and permission letters for Minor Children entering Canada

The following has been copied from the CBSA website: 

If a minor child is travelling with one parent only:

The parent should present

  • the child’s passport
  • a copy of the child’s birth certificate, and
  • a letter of authorization, in English or French if possible, which is signed by the parent who is not travelling with them and includes
    • the address and telephone number of the parent who is not travelling, and
    • a photocopy of that parent’s signed passport or national identity card

If the parents are separated or divorced and share custody of the child

  • The parent travelling with the child should carry copies of the legal custody documents.
  • It is also best to have a letter of authorization from the other parent who has custody to take the child on a trip out of the country.

If the parents are separated or divorced and one of them has sole custody of the child

  • The letter of authorization may be signed by that parent only, and they should bring a copy of the custody decree.

If one of the child’s parents is deceased

  • The travelling parent should bring a copy of the death certificate.

If a minor child is travelling with a legal guardian or adoptive parents

The child should have a copy of the guardianship papers or the adoption papers (whichever one applies).

If a minor child is travelling with a person other than their parents or legal guardian

The adult who is not the parent or legal guardian of the child should have written permission from the parents or guardians to supervise the child. The permission letter should include addresses and telephone numbers where the parents or legal guardian can be reached.

The letter does not need to be certified. A photocopy of the parents’ or legal guardian’s signed passports or national identity cards should be attached to the letter.

Note: The border services officer may not ask to see these documents when the child enters Canada. However, it is strongly recommended you bring them, in case that you are. The minor child will not be admitted to Canada if the officer is not convinced that the parents or legal guardian have authorized their stay.

What can stop you from entering Canada?

Not everyone is admissible into Canada. Sad but true. Since we’re talking about American RVers who will be requesting entry into Canada at the border that’s where a Canadian immigration officer will decide whether you are admissible.

There are a variety of different reasons we may not let you into Canada, such as security, criminal or medical reasons. (see below)

What are the Reasons you can't Cross into Canada

You could be found inadmissible for a number of reasons: If you have any questions about your admissibility please visit CBSA website.

Some reasons include :

  • security reasons – see CBSA for more in-depth information. in
  • committing a crime, including driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • organized crime, including membership in an organization that takes part in organized criminal activity, people smuggling or money laundering
  • medical reasons – this includes medical conditions that:
    • endanger public health
    • endanger public safety or
    • causes excessive demand on health or social services (some applicants are exempt)
  • financial reasons – if you’re unable or unwilling to support yourself and your family members
  • having an inadmissible family member.

The above information is not precise – it’s a compilation of material provided by CBSA so please if in doubt go to the official CBSA website to satisfy your own questions. 

There are solutions if you run into problems at the border – just be honest and work with the border officers to rectify the issues.

 I would love to have you comment below if you have any suggestions or information you wish to share.  Thank you.

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