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The Most Common Questions about Crossing the Canada Border

Answers to the most common questions about Canada Border Crossing.

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Passport Equivalents | Top Tips for Crossing the Border | What Can I Bring to Canada

Inform yourself before arriving in Canada to avoid hassles at the border. Here are answers to some of the most common questions visitors have about crossing the Canada border.

1. Do I Need a Passport?

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The short answer is that, "yes," everyone from every country needs a passport when arriving in Canada by boat, plane or land.

Some exceptions apply to children crossing the border with an adult and to those visitors who have a passport equivalent instead of a passport, like a NEXUS Card.

2. Do I Need a Visa?

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Most visitors to Canada don't have to get visas before arriving.

For example, people from countries including the United States, Japan, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, Ireland - to name but a few - do not need a visa; however, citizens from certain countries do require either a transit visa, a temporary resident visa or - new in December 2011 - a Parent and Grandparent Super Visa to visit or transit Canada.

3. How Long Can I Stay?

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The amount of time that you may stay in Canada depends on the purpose and length of your visit and your country of citizenship.

Visitors from certain countries will require a visa (see Question 2 above) and their passports will be stamped upon arrival indicating how long they may stay in Canada. Otherwise, you may stay in Canada for up to 6 months.

If you intend to come to Canada to work, you may need to apply for a work visa. If you you plan to attend school in Canada, you may need a study permit, and / or a temporary resident visa, though not everyone must have these documents.

4. Can I Bring My Gun?

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Yes, certain types of guns are allowed into Canada; however, visitors must declare at the Canadian border that they are bringing firearms into Canada and have the proper licensing (a hunting license is not the same as a firearm license).

One firearm licensing option is the 5-year Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL). PAL holders need only declare verbally at the border that they possess firearms.

The second firearm licensing option is to complete the Non-Resident Firearm Declaration form - available online - before arriving at the border and pay a processing fee. This temporary license and registration is valid for up to 60 days.

Firearms and weapons fall into three categories: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. Additional forms may be required depending on the firearm / weapon category.

Visitors to Canada intending to hunt require a hunting license from each province or territory you plan to hunt in.

For more details, visit the Canada Border Services Agency

5. Can I Bring My Pet?

Dogs and cats that are at least three months old need signed and dated certificates from a veterinarian verifying that they have been vaccinated against rabies within the last three years. The certificate must clearly identify the animal. If your dogs or cats are less than three months old, you do not need a certificate of rabies vaccination to enter Canada. Animals must be in good health when they arrive.

6. What if I Have a DUI?

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If you have been convicted of a DUI (driving under the influence of alchohol or other drug), you may not be able to enter Canada.

Technically you are criminally inadmissible to Canada; however, this doesn't necessarily mean you will be turned away at the border:

  • You may apply to be considered "rehabilitated", depending on how much time has passed since your conviction, the seriousness of your conviction, and your behaviour since. Rehabilitation applications can take up to a year and have a non-refundable fee of at least $200 (as of 2012).
  • You may be offered a Temporary Resident Visa, depending on your reasons for visiting and you are deemed to be no risk as a visitor.
  • You may cross simply because your particular border agent has not detected your conviction or for whatever reason - like more than 5 years has passed since the conviction - chooses to ignore it.

7. What Are the Wait Times at the Border?

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With more than 33 million vehicles crossing the Canada/U.S. border every year, the crossings can get congested. Some generalities apply to all Canada border crossings, like weekends are busier than weekdays and there is a 7am to 9am and a 4pm to 7pm rush time.

The best advice though is to research the border crossing you should cross at and then check wait times online or on the radio.

In addition, this handy Border Traffic Calendar offers information on events like road races, holidays and other events that affect border traffic.

If you have a NEXUS Card, you may choose a border crossing that offers a NEXUS lane and thereby avoid lineups.

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