Tips for Crossing the Canadian Border by Car

Driving across the U.S./Canada border

August 2020 Update: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, border crossing regulations have changed. Because moving is considered essential business, you can still cross the U.S./Canadian border. Depending on the travel restrictions in the city you’re moving to, you may be required to quarantine once you arrive. Check with your local health department for more information, and get COVID-19 updates from U.S. Customs and Border Protection or check current Canadian border measures and requirements.

Planning a long drive can involve a lot of research and coordination — and even more so if you're driving through different countries. Since crossing borders requires certain paperwork and processes, it’s not always possible to plan a last-minute adventure. If you’re planning to drive across the U.S./Canadian border on an upcoming trip, get prepared by learning what to expect at the border and understanding what paperwork you’ll need in order to cross.

View of CN Tower and downtown Toronto from the water.


What you should know before crossing the Canadian border

Though the U.S. and Canada are friendly neighboring countries, each has a guarded border with its own set of laws. Before your trip, consider these 10 tips to help make the entry process easier:

1. Check your entry eligibility

One of the most important things you'll need to do is make sure you're eligible to enter the country. While many people won’t have any issues, there are some things you should be aware of that can make you inadmissible (such as criminal convictions, serious health issues, and other similar circumstances). Check your eligibility status for Canada here and read about U.S. policies here.

2. Have correct identification

What do you need to get into Canada or the U.S.? Each person in your traveling party needs to have the right travel documents. Here’s what you’ll need to travel depending on which way you're going:

  • Entering the U.S. from Canada

Passports and a visa or green card will be required for your visit to the U.S.

For Americans returning home, you’ll just need your passport or any other form that validates your citizenship, like a birth certificate or driver’s license, or a Native American Tribal Photo Identification or an Enhanced Tribal Card for Native Americans.

  • Traveling to Canada

A valid passport, Canadian visa (if applicable) or confirmation of permanent residence is required for travel into Canada.

If you’re a Canadian resident returning home, you’ll just need a valid Canadian passport to re-enter the country. If you don’t have it with you, you can use your temporary passport or any other documentation that verifies your identity and citizenship.

3. Know the guidelines for traveling with minors

All visitors age 16 and older will need a passport to enter Canada or the United States. Children younger than that will need a copy of their birth certificate or another proof of citizenship in order to gain entry into either country.

If you aren’t the parent or guardian of the children you’re traveling with (or if you’re divorced or separated from your partner), you’ll need a letter of permission from the parent or guardian in order to take the child into either country. Divorced or separated parents should carry copies of legal custody agreements.

4. Keep vehicle registration and proof of insurance available

It is also a requirement on each side of the border to have your vehicle’s registration and proof of insurance. If you’re traveling in a rental car, make sure to have the paperwork you need to drive the car across international borders.

5. Don’t bring restricted items

Before attempting to cross the border, you’ll need to be aware of everything you’re bringing with you. There are restrictions on some items, so make sure you are familiar with those guidelines before your trip:

6. Check entry requirements for pets

Traveling with pets? If so, be sure to check and see what requirements are in place for the country you’re visiting.

7. Get familiar with entry points

There are 10 points of entry for crossing between the United States and Canada. Detailed information about each border crossing (listed from west to east) is listed in the links below:

8. Stay up-to-date on wait times at the border

Wait times at the border fluctuate depending on a number of factors including traffic, time of day and the season. Check here for up-to-date border wait times and other information.

9. Be prepared to answer questions

Border patrol agents on either side of the border may ask you a number of questions in order to determine your citizenship status, the purpose of your visit and what you’re bringing into the country. To make your experience at the border easier, follow these tips:

  • Turn off all radios, cellphones and other electronic devices
  • Have all paperwork in hand to expedite the process
  • Roll down all windows so agents can view everyone in the vehicle
  • Comply with all instructions from border agents
  • Answer all questions truthfully

Border agents also may ask to search you or any person in your vehicle, the inside of your vehicle and all passenger belongings, so you’ll want to be prepared for that scenario as well.

10. Know your visiting limitations

Visitors into either country are allowed to stay for up to six months, depending on the purpose of the visit. If you’re traveling for work or need to extend your visit for any reason, you may apply for an extension, or for a work visa or temporary resident status.

Planning a move?

If you’re traveling to Canada as part of a move, make it easier with U-Pack! We’ll handle the transportation of your household goods, so you don’t have to worry about crossing the border with all your belongings or making the drive in a rental truck. Learn more about the process in this ultimate guide to moving to Canada or moving to the U.S.

Just passing through on your way to Alaska? Check out this Alaska moving guide for other tips.


Have more questions about crossing the border or need more information? Leave us a comment below! If you need help with moving to Canada, get a free moving quote or give us a call at 844-362-5303844-594-3077 to see how easy and affordable it is to move with U-Pack.