You are currently viewing Travel between Canada and the USA for kids without a passport (land/air)

Right now, the federal government’s waiting list to get a Canadian passport (or renew one) can be very long. Anyone planning a quick trip across the border for the rest of the summer may need to cancel, postpone, or leave the kids at home if the kids don’t have a valid passport.

But what if we told you that your kids could travel from Canada to the US and back again without a passport of their own? 

Yes, it is possible for some trips. 

(The NEXUS card can replace the passport and every savvy traveler should definitely have it to avoid almost all wait times during their travels — Flytrippers will have more details and a video in the 2nd part of that guide — but I’ll ignore that for the purpose of this post because if you don’t have time to get a passport, you don’t have time to get that either!)

Here’s what you need to know. 

 

Entering the US with a kid

Any Canadian child under the age of 16 can arrive in the US without a passport and still get into the country, according to the US land and sea border rules (to be very clear, 16-year-olds are not eligible: it is for those under 16). 

Those kids can travel to the US without a passport, but they will need to have one of these documents:

  • a Canadian birth certificate
  • a Canadian Citizenship Card 
  • a Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • a Naturalization Certificate

(The US also has more exemptions for organized group trips — like school trips — but I won’t get into that here!)

However, this passport-free travel rule only applies if you enter the US by land or sea

So this means under 16s don’t need a passport if entering by:

The bad news is that if you plan on flying from Canada, you will need to get your child a passport. 

The good news is that there is a workaround to still be able to fly anywhere in the US: under 18s can fly domestically within the US without a passport according to official TSA rules

So if you want to head somewhere further from home, you can get across the land border using a birth certificate if your kid is under 16. Once you’re in the US, grab a domestic flight within the US, and your kid won’t need a passport to fly. 

This is the same trick many have been using to:

As a reminder, in terms of pandemic rules for travel to the United States, it’s very simple:

  • No requirements for domestic flights (like every country in the world)
  • No test requirement for anyone (by land or by air)
  • No vaccination requirement for those under 18 (by land or by air)
  • Vaccination requirement for those 18 and over (not often enforced by land)

That said, the US vaccine requirement will be lifted soon: sign up for Flytrippers’ free newsletter for the post about that, which is coming next week.

 

Entering Canada with a kid to come back

Of course, if your child is a Canadian citizen, you can also use their birth certificate to get back into Canada. You won’t be able to fly back to Canada because the US won’t let them board an international flight without a passport. 

But under 16s with Canadian citizenship who enter the US by land can then get back into Canada using their birth certificate as identification by land or by sea. 

For older children and adults, a provincial driver’s license can also be used to cross the border back to Canada, if, you were to lose your passport during your trip to the US for example. If you do plan on crossing the US border with a minor, you may need to prove that you have legal custody to take the child out of the country (or back into Canada). Border agents are always on the lookout for missing children, so if you are traveling with someone else’s child, you will need written permission from their legal guardian

Finally, in terms of pandemic rules, you can read our guide on Canada’s entry rules.

Because while they’re simple for most Canadians, for others they are still among the most restrictive in the world.

 

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Summary

Canadian kids can travel to the United States without a passport if they are under 16 and if they enter by land or sea. And while they can’t enter by plane, they can fly domestically once they’re into the US. Entering Canada by land is not an issue either.

What would you like to know about traveling without a passport? Tell us in the comments below.

 

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Featured image: Roadtripping in the USA (photo credit: Peter Amende)

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Emily Derrick

Now based in France, Emily is a writer from the UK with a passion for travel. Her love for adventuring was sparked during her time living and traveling in Canada as well as multiple trips across Europe. Emily always takes the scenic route to get to the heart of a country and when she isn't writing, she can be found outside with her two dogs Hugo and Suzette.

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