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Crossing the US-Canadian Border

If your trip involves travel across the US-Canadian border, you can help ensure a safe and speedy passage by reviewing the following requirements and guidelines. Amtrak services that cross the US-Canadian border are subject to inspection by Canadian and American law enforcement officials.

Requirements and Guidelines
When Making Reservations

When making a reservation for services crossing the US-Canadian border, you must provide certain information, including your date of birth, gender, country of citizenship, and detailed information regarding the form of ID that you will carry with you on your trip. Further conditions apply.

Providing inaccurate or incomplete information will subject you to extensive inspection and questioning at the border. Please make sure that you supply us with complete and accurate information.

The information you provide when you make your reservation will be entered into your reservation record and supplied to Customs and Immigration officers to facilitate your clearance. Neither Amtrak nor VIA Rail Canada will use this information for any other purpose.

When Traveling

The form of identification you carry with you on your trip should be the same piece of ID that you selected and provided details about when you made your reservation.

You must carry the original, valid identification document. Copies, expired or otherwise invalid documents will not be accepted. Each passenger must have his or her own ID.

Passengers traveling from Vancouver, BC should arrive at least one hour prior to departure for border crossing processing. For those passengers who are not citizens of either the United States or Canada, it is strongly advised to arrive earlier than one hour to complete additional United States Customs and Border Protection processing.

Delays Are Possible

Be aware that you may experience delays at border crossings. Such delays are usually due to US and/or Canadian customs and immigration procedures, and are beyond Amtrak's control.

No Passengers under 18 across the US-Canadian Border Unaccompanied

The Canada Border Services Agency and US Customs and Border Protection Department are very
concerned about the safety of children crossing the border. The following applies to any situation
where a passenger under 18 years old is not crossing the border accompanied by both parents:

  • If one or both parents are not accompanying the child, bring a letter from any parent or legal guardian not present giving permission to cross the border. (If part of an organized group, see below for the requirement.) Include addresses and phone numbers.
  • If one parent is deceased, a copy of the death certificate will minimize questions and delay.*
  • Parents who share custody of their children should carry copies of the legal custody documents.*
  • Contact the appropriate government agency for additional information.

* Amtrak will not deny travel to an adult without this, but the adult may be subject to extensive questioning and delay by border control officers.

Passengers 17 years old and younger traveling alone may not cross the US-Canadian border regardless of ID or notarized letter, unless accompanied by another passenger who is at least 18 years old.

Exception: Children 16 - 17 years old who are citizens or legal residents of the country to which they are traveling, and who bear identification proving this, may return home from the other country by themselves. The conditions above under "Travelers under 18 years old not traveling with both parents" apply. In addition, the permission letter specified above for such a child must include the name, address and phone number of the persons taking care of him or her in the home country (normally the parents), and, if not the parents, a statement from the parent or guardian that this person is authorized to take care of him or her. In other words:

  • A child 16 - 17 who is a citizen or legal resident of Canada may return home to Canada.
  • A child 16 - 17 who is a citizen or legal resident of the United States may return home to the United States.

Under no circumstances may a child 15 or younger (an unaccompanied minor) cross the border alone.

Documents Required to Cross the US-Canadian Border

The only acceptable documents to cross the US-Canadian border by land or sea are:

US Citizens 16 and over
  • United States Passport, or
  • United States Passport Card, or
  • Trusted Traveler Card (NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI), or
  • Enhanced Driver's License, Enhanced Learner's Permit, or Enhanced State ID card
    (Temporary enhanced drlver’s licenses/learner’s permits/state or provincial ID cards are not
    accepted. The traveler must have the permanent license/permit/card.), or
  • Merchant Mariner Document, or
  • Military ID with Military orders, or
  • Form I-872, American Indian Card
  • Amish and Mennonite Old Order only:
    - copy of birth certificate, and
    - signed copy of IRS form 4029, application for exemption from Social Security and Medicare taxes and waiver of benefits.

Canadian Citizens 16 and over
  • Canadian Passport, or
  • Trusted Traveler Card (NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI), or
  • Enhanced Driver's License, Enhanced Learner's Permit, or Enhanced State ID card, or
  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card
US and Canadian Citizens under 16

(Under 19 if traveling with an organized group such as a school trip)

  • One of the above documents, or
  • Certified Copy of a Birth Certificate (bearing the raised seal of the issuing office and a statement that it is a certified copy of the original document on file at that office) or
  • U.S. Citizen Children Only: Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or United States Naturalization Certificate
  • Canadian Citizen Children Only: Canadian Citizenship Certificate Card
Citizens of Other Countries

Citizens of other countries who are permanent residents of the United States:

  • Entering Canada: Passport (with visa, if required)
  • Entering the United States: Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card (older versions of this are called Resident Alien Cards, which if not expired may also be used). A foreign passport may also be presented, but Form I-551 is required.

Citizens of other countries who are permanent residents of Canada:

  • Entering Canada: Canadian Permanent Resident Card
  • Entering the United States: Passport (with visa, if required)

Citizens of all other countries who are not permanent residents of the United States or Canada:

  • Passport (with visa, if required)
  • Re-entry permit
  • Refugee permit
Crossing the Border by Air

If a United States or Canadian citizen will at any point cross the border by air, a full passport (not the passport card) or a NEXUS card are the only two allowable documents for the air portion of travel.

Documents No Longer Accepted

Effective June 1, 2009, the following will no longer be accepted from travelers 16 and over:

  • Regular driver's license and birth certificate or US consular report of birth abroad
  • Birth certificate alone (ages 16, 17, 18 — unless in an travel group such as a school tour)
  • Naturalization certificate
  • Canadian citizenship certificate
  • Canadian permanent resident card
  • Anything else not mentioned above
Foreign Visitors Entering the United States - the US-VISIT Program

US-VISIT is an enhanced border inspection program implemented by the US Department of Homeland Security. US-VISIT requirements do not replace visa requirements for entering the United States. Visit Department of Homeland Security to find out if US-VISIT applies to you, the entry process, fees and more. 

No Guaranty of Entry

Permission to enter the US or Canada is granted solely at the discretion of Customs and Immigration officers. Accordingly, possession of required documentation and providing Amtrak with required information in no way guarantees entry into the United States or Canada.

Neither Amtrak nor VIA Rail Canada nor any other carrier is in any way liable in the event that you are denied entry or delayed on your trip. Trains or buses will not be delayed at the border on your behalf if you are detained.

Need More Information?

For further information, contact the appropriate US or Canadian government offices prior to travel:

Documentation Resources
Canadian Resources
  • By Telephone: 1-800-O-CANADA (1-800-622-6232)
  • In Person (in the USA): Canadian Embassy (Washington, DC) or the nearest Canadian consulate (Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Seattle)
  • In Person (in Canada): The nearest Citizenship and Immigration Canada or Revenue Canada office.
United States Resources
  • By Telephone: 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636)
  • In Person (in the USA): The nearest office of the US Passport Agency, the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration, or the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.
  • In Person (in Canada): United States Embassy (Ottawa), or the nearest United States Consulate (Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Vancouver).