Passport Requirements for Canada or Mexico Travel

Since June of 2009, anyone going from the U.S. to the “friendly border” of Canada or Mexico needs a passport or equivalent document. Both Canadian and Mexican authorities may not ask to see your passport when crossing, but the U.S. officials will when returning home thanks to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Educate yourself before the trip, so you don’t end up stuck somewhere when going to Canada.

Passport vs. NEXUS

At one time, you could make the trip to Canada or Mexico with nothing more than a birth certificate and photo ID. That is no longer the case, however. Thinking ahead and getting a passport is always your best option, but for frequent travelers, there are other choices.

A Nexus Card allows for a quick crossing into the country for those who travel back and forth regularly. The application process if extensive; NEXUS approval requires both an interview and fingerprinting. They will do a full criminal background and law enforcement check prior to issuing the card.

Exceptions to the Passport Rule

There are a few exceptions to the passport rule.

  • Children under the age of 16 need only carry a birth certificate or citizenship card.
  • Groups of individuals between the ages of 16 to 18 only need a birth certificate if they are traveling as part of a group for school or other organization. They must be accompanied by an adult who has a valid passport.

What You Need for a Passport

When applying for your first passport, you must visit a local office. Necessary documents include:

  • Valid birth certificate issued by the city, country or state of birth. It must have the embossed seal of the registrar.
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certificate of Birth if born outside the country
  • Naturalization Certificate
  • Certificate of Citizenship

All documents must be original and will be returned to you with the new passport.

In addition, you must have proof of identification. Bring the original document plus a photocopy of it, front and back.

  • Valid Driver’s License
  • Current Government ID
  • Current Military ID
  • Naturalization Certificate
  • Passport Photo – Get the photo taken by a service that offers passport photos to ensure it meets all the requirements.

How long does it take?

The average passport takes between 4 to 7 weeks to process – even expedited service will require about three weeks. If you are in a bind, a third party passport processing company can get the document to you overnight for a fee.