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Do Americans need to bring their passports to the Toronto SJDM conference?

Filed in Conferences ,Ideas
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Because many DSN readers are US passport holders who will be traveling from the US to Canada for the SJDM conference, and because the rules have changed in the past, and because a good friend asked us this question, we thought we’d cover this.

Yes, US Passport holders going from the US to Canada and back should bring their passports if they are flying.

Technically, US citizens don’t need a US passport to get into Canada (“a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or naturalization, as well as photo identification” will do).

According to: http://www.cbsa.gc.ca/security-securite/admiss-eng.html

When you enter Canada, a CBSA officer may ask to see your passport and a valid visa, if one is necessary. If you are a citizen of the United States, you do not need a passport to enter Canada. However, you should carry proof of your citizenship, such as a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or naturalization, as well as photo identification. If you are a permanent resident of Canada or the U.S, you should bring your Permanent Resident Card with you.

HOWEVER, getting back into the US without a passport, if traveling by air, won’t be easy.

According to http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1082.html

Entry into the United States: When traveling by air from Canada, U.S. citizens are required by U.S. law to present a U.S. passport book, except as noted in the few exceptions provided on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

We tried to find out the “few exceptions”. It was exceptionally confusing. Bring your passport.

Some objections you may have:

  • But I got in and back with my US driver’s license before Yeah, but that was before 9/11
  • But I have an “enhanced” US driver’s license that allows passage to and from Canada Yeah, but not by air. We tried it once.
  • But I belong to Global Entry Yeah, but that requires you scan your passport and show it at the customs exit point
  • But I have a Global Entry card Yeah, but that works for land and sea ports, not airports. See http://www.globalentry.gov/faq.html

So. You might be bummed about having to bring your passport. Maybe yours is expired and you will have to scramble to get it renewed before the conference. To cheer you up, we’ll provide you with this useful tip.

If you’ve cleared passport control (e.g., at JFK) and you are waiting at baggage claim and need to use the bathroom, which is back on the other side of passport control (e.g., at JFK), you don’t have to worry about it. You can just go backwards through passport control and return to the baggage claim again without having to wait in line. You don’t even need to ask. No one will stop you.

“How is this possible?”, you ask. “What keeps people from just strolling right into the country without a passport?”

Because, grasshopper, without a stamped US Customs Declaration form, you’re simply not getting out of the baggage claim and into the USA. There are agents collecting forms at the exit.

No, there is no explanation for that.


  1. ardilla says:

    It is my understanding that phones – of any kind – are not allowed in baggage claim because a cell phone can be used to trigger devices.

    Friends who’ve picked me up from the airport have had to circle a few times because they couldn’t get a hold of me, but it is a worthwhile obligatory precaution.

    December 22, 2016 @ 2:13 am

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