United States Residents Entering Canada
Passports to enter Canada or return to the United States are not required for native-born citizens of either country. However, proof of citizenship must be carried; a birth certificate accompanied by a photo ID will usually suffice. Proof of residence also may be required. Naturalized citizens should carry their naturalization certificate, and U.S. resident aliens must have an Alien Registration Receipt Card (Green Card).
Traveling with a Minor
Due to concerns over child abduction, single parents, grandparents or guardians traveling abroad with a minor should be prepared to document their legal custody and provide proof of citizenship for each child. Most common carriers, such as airlines, trains and buses, will demand proof and accept only the minor's passport or the parents' passport that includes the child. When the child is with only one parent, that parent should have a notarized letter of consent from the other parent or legal custody documents. In other cases, the minor (if traveling alone) or the individual with the minor, should have a notarized letter of consent from both parents (including a telephone number) or a custody document.
Persons with felony convictions, driving while intoxicated records or other offenses may be denied admittance into Canada. Contact the Canadian embassy or nearest Canadian consulate before travel.
The Canadian GST
A Goods and Services Tax (GST) is levied on most items sold and most services rendered in Canada. In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is charged on most goods and services. Non-residents may apply for a GST/HST rebate on many items. Non-resident visitors who wish to claim a refund of the goods and services tax (GST) or the harmonized sales tax (HST) which they paid on eligible goods, must provide proof that they exported their goods from Canada. This is referred to as Proof of Export, and your receipts must be validated as you leave Canada. You can ask the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency for a rebate of goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) on some products and services that you have bought or leased. Original receipts must be submitted; each receipt must be for $50 or more before tax.
Free brochures further explaining the GST and containing a rebate form are available in Canada at land border and airport Duty Free shops, Tourist Information Centres, Customs Offices and at many hotels. Allow 4 to 6 weeks for processing your claim. For more information contact Visitor Rebate Program, Summerside Tax Centre, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, 275 Pope Rd., Suite 104, Summerside, P.E., Canada C1N 6C6; phone (902) 432-5608 outside Canada or (800) 668-4748 in Canada.
Firearms are regulated by classification. All firearms must be declared and registered upon entry into Canada. The fee for a Firearms Declaration is $50. Visitors who borrow a firearm must obtain in advance a Non-Resident's Sixty-Day Possessor Licence ($30); phone (800) 731-4000. It is advised that U.S. residents register weapons with U.S. Customs before departure. Upon return, U.S. residents may be asked to show proof that they had the weapon before departure. Under certain circumstances individuals and businesses may import firearms.
Prohibited (may not enter Canada): weapons with no legitimate sporting or recreational use, including weapons that discharge bullets in rapid succession during one pull of the trigger, such as a fully automatic rifle or machine gun (regardless of conversion); and those rifles or shotguns designed or adapted so the barrel is less than 18.5 inches (470 mm) long or the overall length is less than 26 inches (660 mm); handguns with a barrel length of 4.14 inches (105 mm) or less, or using 25 or 32 caliber cartridges; and any other firearm prohibited by an Order in Council.
Other prohibited items include any large capacity cartridge
magazine (limited to five rounds for semiautomatic rifles or shotguns
and 10 rounds for handguns); tasers; any device designed to stop the sound
of a firearm; any knife with a blade which opens by spring pressure, such
as a switchblade; and any other weapons declared prohibited by an Order
in Council, such as mace, tear gas (if designed for use against humans),
throwing stars, Nunchaku sticks, spiked wristbands, brass knuckles, belt-buckle
knives, blowguns, stun guns, finger rings with blades, armor-piercing
handgun cartridges, explosive projectiles for small arms cartridges, shotgun
cartridges containing "flechettes", a "bull pup" stock
for rifles and carbines and trigger enhancement devices.
Restricted (admitted only for approved shooting competitions at which time an Authorization to Transport is required from the provincial chief firearms officer–phone (800) 731-4000 for addresses and phone numbers): semiautomatic weapons that have a barrel less than 18.5 inches (470 mm) and that discharge center-fire ammunition; and those that can be fired when reduced to less than 26 inches (660 mm) in length. Other restricted weapons include any firearm designed, altered or intended to be aimed and fired by the action of one hand, such as pistols and revolvers; and any firearm that is declared to be a restricted firearm by an Order in Council.
Hunters may bring in, duty-free, 200 rounds of ammunition;
participants in a competition, 1,500 rounds. A valid license or declaration
must be shown to purchase ammunition. If you hunt in Canada's parks or
game reserves, you may have to get a hunting license from each province
or territory in which you plan to hunt. For more information about parks
and hunting regulations, contact the appropriate provincial or territorial
tourism information office:
In addition to these federal stipulations, most provinces and territories have their own laws regulating the transportation of firearms through their areas, usually in connection with their hunting regulations. Contact the provincial or territorial information office listed above. For further information on the entry of firearms, contact Canada Customs and Revenue agency at (506) 636-5064, or (800) 461-9999.
Personal baggage is admissible into Canada on a temporary basis without payment of duty and taxes; however, a refundable security deposit may be required by Customs at the time of entry. Deposits are not normally required when visits are for health or pleasure, as long as all items are exported at the end of your trip.
Personal baggage that may be taken into Canada on a duty- and tax-free basis includes clothing and personal effects, sporting goods, automobiles, vessels, aircraft, snowmobiles, cameras, personal computers, food products and other items appropriate for the purpose and duration of your visit. Tobacco products are limited per person to 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, 6.4 ounces (200 grams) of tobacco and 200 tobacco sticks. To import tobacco products into Canada you must be 18 years old in Alberta, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Saskatchewan, Québec and Yukon Territory; 19 years old in other provinces.
Alcoholic beverages are limited to 40 ounces (1.14 L) of liquor, 1.6 quarts (1.5 L) of wine or 9 quarts (8.5 L) of beer or ale (equivalent to 24 twelve-ounce bottles or cans). To import alcoholic beverages you must be 18 years old in Alberta, Manitoba and Québec; 19 years old in other provinces and territories. Generally, a minimum stay of 24 hours is required to transport any liquor or tobacco into Canada. All articles above allowable quantities are subject to federal duty and taxes, as well as provincial/territorial liquor fees. Provincial fees can be paid at Customs at the time of entry in all provinces and the Yukon Territory. In the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, it is illegal to bring in more alcohol than specified above.
Articles purchased at Canadian duty-free shops are subject to U.S. Customs exemptions and restrictions; those purchased at U.S. duty-free shops before entering Canada are subject to duty if brought back into the United States.
Persons who may require prescription drugs while visiting Canada are permitted to bring medication for their own use. Prescription drugs should be clearly identified and should be carried in the original packaging with the label listing the drug and its intended use. It also is good to bring a copy of the prescription and contact number of the doctor.
Gifts, excluding tobacco, alcoholic beverages and advertising matter, taken into or mailed to Canada are allowed free entry if the value of each gift does not exceed $60 (Canadian currency). Gifts valued at more than $60 are subject to regular duty and taxes on the excess amount.
Pets and Plants
Dogs and cats 3 months of age and older must be accompanied by a certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian that clearly describes the animal and declares that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies within the past 36 months; collar tags are not sufficient proof of immunization. This certificate also is needed to bring the animal back into the United States; be sure the vaccination does not expire while traveling in Canada. "Seeing Eye" dogs are exempt from these rules, as well as up to two healthy puppies and kittens under 3 months old; it is recommended that the owner obtain a certificate of health from a veterinarian indicating that the animal is too young to vaccinate. Plants or plant material must be declared. For additional information on pets and plants, contact one of the following Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Import Service Centres: eastern Canada (877) 493-0468; central Canada (800) 835-4486; or western Canada (888) 732-6222.
Radio Communication Equipment
You may bring your cellular or PCS phone or citizens band (CB) or Family Radio Service radio into Canada without any prior registration. You may use your aircraft, marine or amateur radio in Canada without prior authorization. All other types of radio transmitting stations may only be used in Canada if accompanied by a letter of authorization from Industry Canada's Radiocommunication and Broadcasting Regulatory Branch. For additional information contact Industry Canada at (613) 990-4737.
A CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) permit is required for any endangered species brought into Canada, including those kept as pets, and for any items made from them, such as coats, handbags or shoes. For further information contact the Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service; phone (819) 997-1840.
Canada has restrictions to keep objects that are of historical, cultural or scientific signiﬁcation inside Canada. If you wish to take objects more than 50 years old, such as fossils, archeological artifacts, fine and decorative art, technological objects or books and archival material, out of the country, you may require an export permit to do so. Contact the Moveable Cultural Property Program of Canadian Heritage, 15 Eddy St., Hull, Québec, Canada K1A 0M5; phone (819) 997-7761.
Importation of clothing, textiles, steel and certain agricultural products in excess of minimum quantities may be subject to import permit requirements under the Export and Import Permits Act. For further information, write the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Export and Import Controls Bureau, P.O. Box 481, Station A, Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 9K6. Goods originating in Iraq are not admissible.
Vehicles, including trailers not exceeding 2.6 meters (8 ft., 6 in.) in width, entering Canada for touring generally are subject to quick and routine entry procedures. You may not leave or store a car, trailer or other goods in Canada while you leave the country without either paying import duty and taxes or presenting the necessary permit to leave the items in Canada. This and any other required permits are issued by Canadian Customs officials at the point of entry. You may not store a vacation trailer in Canada during the off-season.
Vehicle registration cards are necessary for Canadian travel. If you are driving a car other than your own, you must get written permission from the owner for use of the vehicle in Canada. A copy of the contract is required for rented cars. A valid U.S. driver's license is valid in Canada for varying periods of time as ruled by the individual provinces and territories.
Some provinces and territories have made it a statutory requirement that motorists drive with vehicle headlights on for extended periods after dawn and before dusk. In Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, lights must be turned on when light conditions restrict visibility to 500 feet (150 m); in Manitoba, the restriction is 200 feet (60 m). Headlights must remain on at all times in the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Elsewhere in Canada driving with headlights on during all hours of the day is advised.
The possession of radar detection devices is illegal in Manitoba and New Brunswick. The use of radar detectors is illegal in Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Québec and Yukon Territory (must be disabled or inoperable in YT). Seat belts are required for driver and all passengers throughout Canada.
Returning to the United States
Exemptions granted to returning U.S. residents include a $400 exemption, if you have been in Canada no less than 48 hours and have not used the exemption within the preceding 30 days. Any amount over the $400 exemption is subject to duty. A family (related persons living in the same household) may combine its exemptions; thus, a family of six is entitled to $2,400 worth of goods duty-free on one declaration, even if the articles claimed by one member exceed that individual's $400 amount. Exemptions are based on fair retail value and apply to articles acquired only for personal or household use or as gifts but not intended for sale. The exemption may include 100 cigars, 200 cigarettes and 1 liter of liquor per person over age 21 (Customs enforces state liquor laws).
If you have been in Canada fewer than 48 hours you may bring back, tax- and duty-free, goods up to $200 in value. This exemption may include no more than 50 cigarettes, 10 cigars, 4 fluid ounces (150 milliliters) of alcoholic beverage or 150 milliliters of perfume containing alcohol. A family may not combine purchases. If your purchases exceed the $200 exemption, you lose the exemption and all of your purchases become subject to duty. All goods must be declared.
Keep the sales slips for all of your purchases as they are proof of fair retail value. All articles claimed under this exemption must accompany you on your return.
Gifts up to $100 fair retail value may be sent to friends and relatives in the United States, provided that no recipient receives more than one gift per day, and need not be included in the $400 exemption. Gifts containing tobacco products, alcoholic beverages or perfume containing alcohol valued at more than $5 retail are excluded from this provision. The gift package must be clearly marked "Unsolicited Gift," and the contents and retail value indicated on the outside.
Prohibited: Articles considered detrimental to the general welfare of the United States are prohibited entry. These include narcotics and dangerous drugs, drug paraphernalia, obscene articles and publications, seditious or treasonable matter, lottery tickets, hazardous articles (e.g., fireworks, dangerous toys, toxic or poisonous substances) and switchblade knives. Merchandise originating in Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia) and Sudan is prohibited.
Restricted items include automobiles; biological materials (disease organisms and vectors for research); ceramic tableware; cultural treasures; firearms and ammunition; articles bearing marks or names copying or simulating trademarked articles or trade names (e.g., watches, cameras, perfumes); pirated copies of copyrighted articles (e.g., books, CDs, audio- and videotapes, computer programs); such agricultural goods as plants and animal products; and pets, wildlife and fish.
There is no limit to the amount of monies that you can bring in to or take out of the United States. However, if you transport more than $10,000 you must file a report (Customs Form 4790) with U.S. Customs. Failure to comply can result in civil, criminal and/or forfeiture penalties. Monies include currency, traveler's checks, U.S. or foreign coins in circulation, money orders and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form. A Currency Reporting Flyer is available from U.S. Customs, P.O. Box 7407, Washington, D.C. 20044.
While some agricultural products of Canadian origin (fruits, some plants with phytosanitary certificates, meats, etc.) may be brought into the United States, many are restricted to prevent the introduction of plant and animal pests and diseases. All must be declared at the U.S. border. Write to APHIS, Dept. of Agriculture, 6505 Belcrest Rd., Hyattsville, MD 20782, for a free copy of "Traveler's Tips." The helpful leaflets "Visiting the U.S.: Requirements for Non-Residents," "Know Before You Go," "Importing a Car" and "Pets, Wildlife and U.S. Customs" may be obtained from U.S. Customs, P.O. Box 7407, Washington, D.C. 20044.