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U.S. immigration requirements for crossing the border by car

Before recent changes, the U.S. legal requirements for individuals travelling from British Columbia or other Canadian provinces or territories into the United States were no more than a birth certificate and a driver’s license. Now, these U.S. immigration laws have changed, and different documentation is required. Any person crossing the border into the United States in a vehicle must present a passport. This also applies to people who are re-entering the country.

However, a person with another Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document may be allowed to enter without presenting a passport. Compliant documents include a state-issued enhanced driver’s license, Nexus Trusted Travelers Card, travel orders along with a U.S. military I.D document or a U.S. Merchant Mariner Document for an individual on official maritime business. Also, Enhanced Tribal Orders, a Native American Tribal Photo ID document or a Form I-872 American Indian Card might be accepted.

It must also be noted that, although it is possible for a U.S. citizen to travel across the border into Canada with a driver’s license and birth certificate or a naturalization certificate as proof of U.S. citizenship, he or she will not be allowed to return to the United States with only those documents. Crossing back across the border will require a valid passport or accepted WHTI-compliant document. The same goes for other foreign travellers who pass from Canada into the United States.

With U.S. immigration laws changing, British Columbia residents — or travellers finding themselves in Canada — wanting to cross the border into the United States by car might be wise to consult with an experienced lawyer. Choosing legal counsel who is registered to practice immigration law on both sides of the border might be especially helpful. Being prepared with all the appropriate documents can avoid unpleasantness and delays at the border.

Source: USA Today, “Documents Needed to Go Between Canada & USA by Car“, Liz Jones, Accessed on Oct. 13, 2017