Country Specific Information
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December 11, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Canada is a highly developed, stable democracy. Tourist facilities are widely available except in northern and wilderness areas, where they are less developed and can be vast distances apart. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Canada for additional information.ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All Americans traveling by air outside the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States . This requirement will be extended to sea travel (except closed loop cruises), including ferry service, by the summer of 2009. Until then, U.S. citizens traveling by sea must have government-issued photo identification and a document showing their U.S. citizenship (for example, a birth certificate or certificate of nationalization), or other WHTI compliant document such as a passport card for entry or re-entry to the U.S. Sea travelers should also check with their cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements.
Applications for the new U.S. Passport Card are now being accepted. Based on current projections, we expect the passport card to be in full production beginning in July 2008. The card may not be used to travel by air and is available only to U.S. citizens. Further information on the U.S. Passport Card is available at http://travel.state.gov/passport/ppt_card/ppt_card_3926.html and upcoming changes to U.S. passport policy can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html. We strongly encourage all American citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport well in advance of anticipated travel. American citizens can visit travel.state.gov or call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.
Both the U.S. and Canadian governments urge frequent travelers to join the NEXUS trusted traveler program. NEXUS members receive a special travel card that allows expedited border crossings for both private and commercial travelers through both U.S. and Canadian border controls very quickly. For information about the NEXUS program see http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/prog/nexus/menu-eng.html.
Entry into Canada is solely determined by Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials in accordance with Canadian law, see http://www.cbsa.gc.ca for details. Canadian law requires that all persons entering Canada must carry both proof of citizenship and identity. A valid U.S. passport or NEXUS card satisfies these requirements for U.S. citizens. If U.S. citizen travelers to Canada do not have a passport or approved alternate document such as a NEXUS card, they must show a government-issued photo ID (e.g. Driver’s License) and proof of U.S. citizenship such as a U.S. birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or expired U.S. passport. Children under sixteen need only present proof of U.S. citizenship.
U.S. citizens entering Canada from a third country must have a valid U.S. passport. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens to visit Canada for up to 180 days. Anyone seeking to enter Canada for any purpose besides a visit (e.g. to work, study or immigrate) must qualify for the appropriate entry status, and should contact the Canadian Embassy or nearest consulate and see the Canadian immigration web site at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/index.asp. Anyone with a criminal record (including even misdemeanors or Driving While Impaired (DWI)) charges may be barred from entering Canada and must qualify for a special waiver well in advance of any planned travel for further processing, which may take some time.
For further information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Canadian Embassy at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001, tel. (202) 682-1740, or the Canadian consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Juan or Seattle. The Canadian Embassy’s web site is http://www.canadianembassy.org/.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: IMPORTATION OF FIREARMS: Firearms are much more strictly controlled in Canada than in the United States. As of January 1, 2001, visitors bringing any firearms into Canada, or planning to borrow and use firearms while in Canada, must declare the firearms in writing using a Non-Resident Firearm Declaration form. Multiple firearms can be declared at the same time. At the border, three copies of the completed, unsigned Non-Resident Firearms Declaration must be presented to a CBSA officer. Upon acceptance, this declaration will serve as a temporary license and registration certificate for up to 60 days. The Non-Resident Firearm Declaration costs $50 (Canadian). Visitors planning to borrow a firearm in Canada must obtain in advance a Temporary Firearms Borrowing License, which costs $30 (Canadian), payable at the border. These forms must be signed before a CBSA officer at the border and no photocopies are available at the border. Full details and downloadable forms are available at the Canadian Firearms Centre web site, http://www.cfc-cafc.gc.ca/, under the heading "Visitors to Canada."
Canada has three classes of firearms: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. Non-restricted firearms include most ordinary hunting rifles and shotguns. These may be brought temporarily into Canada for sporting or hunting use during hunting season, use in competitions, in-transit movement through Canada, or personal protection against wildlife in remote areas of Canada. Anyone wishing to bring hunting rifles into Canada must be at least 18 years old, and the firearm must be properly stored for transport. Restricted firearms are primarily handguns; however, pepper spray and mace are also included in this category. A restricted firearm may be brought into Canada, but an Authorization to Transport permit must be obtained in advance from a Provincial or Territorial Chief Firearms Officer. Prohibited firearms include fully automatic, converted automatics, and assault-type weapons. Prohibited firearms are not allowed into Canada.
In advance of any travel, please contact a Canadian embassy or consulate, or the Canadian Firearms Centre, http://www.cfc-cafc.gc.ca/, for detailed information and instructions on temporarily importing firearms. In all cases, travelers must declare to Canadian authorities any firearms and weapons in their possession when entering Canada. If a traveler is denied permission to bring in the firearm, there are often facilities near border crossings where firearms may be stored, pending the traveler's return to the United States. Canadian law requires that officials confiscate firearms and weapons from those crossing the border that deny having them in their possession. Confiscated firearms and weapons are never returned. Possession of an undeclared firearm may result in a one-year prison sentence. SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: PORNOGRAPHY AND CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES: Canada has strict laws concerning child pornography and in recent years there has been an increase of random checks of electronic media of travelers entering Canada. Computers are subject to search without a warrant at the border, and illegal content can result in the seizure of the computer as well as detention, arrest and prosecution of the bearer.
Canadian law prohibits the unlawful importation or trafficking of controlled substances and narcotics. Recently, a number of travelers, including Americans, have been arrested for attempting to smuggle khat, a narcotic from East Africa, into Canada. Smugglers risk substantial fines, a permanent bar from Canada and imprisonment. Please see http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/drugs/drugs_2005_e.htm#khat for details.
Please see our Customs Information.SAFETY AND SECURITY: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site, where the current Worldwide Caution, Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and other Public Announcements can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.CRIME: Although criminal activity in Canada is more common in urban areas, violent crimes such as murder, armed robbery and rape can occur throughout the country. Visitors to large cities should be aware that parked cars are regularly targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, and they are cautioned to avoid leaving any possessions unattended in a vehicle, even in the trunk. Due to the high incidence of such crimes, motorists in Montreal, Vancouver and some other jurisdictions can be fined for leaving their car doors unlocked or for leaving valuables in view. Auto theft in Montreal and Vancouver, including theft of motor homes and recreational vehicles, may occur in patrolled and overtly secure parking lots and decks. SUVs appear to be the particular targets of organized theft.
While Canadian gun control laws are much more strict than those of the U.S., such laws have not prevented gun-related violence in certain areas of Toronto.INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Each of Canada’s provinces has a Crime Victim Compensation Board to which American victims of crime in Canada may seek redress. See our information on Victims of Crime.MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Canada’s medical care is of a high standard but is government controlled and rationed. The level of public health and sanitation in Canada is high. Quick and easy access to ongoing medical care is difficult for temporary visitors who are not members of each province’s government run health care plans. Many physicians will not take new patients. Access to a specialist is by referral from a general practitioner only and even with a referral it may take months to obtain an appointment with a specialist. Emergency room waits are very long. No Canadian health care provider accepts U.S. domestic health insurance. Visitors who seek any medical attention in Canada should be prepared to pay in cash in full at the time the service is rendered. Traveler’s medical insurance is highly recommended even for visits to Canada. Some health care professionals in the province of Quebec might only speak French.
For information on avian influenza (bird flu), please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet, available at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/health/health_1181.html.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Canadian health care providers do not accept U.S. domestic health insurance or Medicare. Americans who seek any medical attention in Canada should be prepared to pay in cash in full at the time the service is rendered.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Canada is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Transport Canada is the Canadian federal government agency responsible for road safety, although each province or territory has the authority to establish its own traffic and safety laws and issue driving licenses. For detailed information on road conditions throughout Canada, as well as links to provincial government web sites, please see the Transport Canada web site at http://www.tc.gc.ca or the Canadian Automobile Association web site at http://www.caa.ca. There are typically 3,000 vehicle-related fatalities in Canada each year. The CAA honors American Automobile Association membership. Some automobile warranties of vehicles purchased in the U.S. may be invalid in Canada; please check the warranty of your vehicle.
Driving in Canada is similar to driving in parts of the United States. Distances and speeds, however, are posted in kilometers per hour, and some signs, particularly in Quebec, may only be in French. U.S. driver's licenses are valid in Canada. Proof of auto insurance is required. U.S. auto insurance is accepted as long as an individual is a tourist in Canada. U.S. insurance firms will issue a Canadian insurance card, which should be obtained and carried prior to driving into Canada. Unless otherwise posted, the maximum speed limit in Canada is 50km/hr in cities and 80km/hr on highways. On rural highways, the posted speed limit may be 100km/hr (approximately 60 miles/hr).
Seat belt use is mandatory for all passengers, and child car seats must be used by children under 40 pounds. Some provinces require drivers to keep their headlights on during the day. Motorcycles cannot share a lane, and safety helmets for drivers and passengers are mandatory. Many highways do not have merge lanes for entering traffic. Illegal, rapid lane-changes without signaling and tailgating are common. Emergency vehicles frequently enter the oncoming traffic lane to avoid congestion. At intersections, directional signs will indicate only which turn is allowed; any other turn is prohibited. In Montreal and Quebec City, it is prohibited to turn right on red. As in the United States, all emergency assistance in Canada can be reached by dialing 911.
Driving while impaired (DWI) is a serious offense in Canada. Penalties are heavy, and any prior conviction (no matter how long ago or how minor the infraction) is grounds for exclusion from Canada. Americans with a DWI record must seek a waiver of exclusion from Canadian authorities before traveling to Canada, see http://www.cbsa.gc.ca, which requires several weeks or months to process. It is illegal to take automobile radar detectors into Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, the Yukon or the Northwest Territories, regardless of whether they are used or not. Police there may confiscate radar detectors, operational or not, and impose substantial fines.
Winter travel can be dangerous due to heavy snowfalls and hazardous icy conditions. Some roads and bridges are subject to periodic winter closures. Snow tires are required in some Provinces. The Canadian Automobile Association (http://www.caa.ca) has tips for winter driving in Canada. Drivers should be aware that motorists running red lights is a serious concern throughout Canada, and motorists are advised to pause before proceeding when a light turns green. Travelers should also be cautious of deer, elk and moose while driving at night in rural areas. Holiday periods can be dangerous because of increased traffic.
Highway 401, from Detroit to Montreal, is one of the busiest highways in North America. It has been the scene of recurrent, deadly traffic accidents due to sudden, severe and unpredictable weather changes, high rates of speed, and heavy truck traffic. There have been numerous incidents involving road racing and dangerous truck driving, which have caused injuries to Americans. Drivers tend to be aggressive, often exceeding speed limits and passing on both sides, and police enforcement is spotty. In addition, approaches to border crossings into the United States may experience unexpected traffic backups. Drivers should be alert, as lane restrictions at border approaches exist for drivers in NEXUS and FAST expedited inspection programs. For specific information concerning Canadian driving permits, mandatory insurance and entry regulations, please contact the Canadian National Tourist Organization at http://www.travelcanada.ca.AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Canada’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Canada’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa. CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Canadian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Canada are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction. REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Canada are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site at https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Canada. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is in Ottawa, Ontario, at 490 Sussex Drive, K1N 1G8, telephone (613) 238-5335, fax (613) 688-3082. The Embassy
web site is http://canada.usembassy.gov/. The Embassy's consular district includes Ottawa, Easter Ontario (Kingston, Lanark, Leeds, Prescott, Refrew, Russell, and
Stormont); and those parts of the Quebec Regions of Outaouais and Abitibi-Temiscamingues near Ottawa.
U.S. Consulates General are located at:
Calgary, Alberta, at Suite 1050, 615 Macleod Trail SE, telephone (403) 266-8962; emergency-after hours-to report the death or arrest of an American (403) 2 66 -8962 then press '0'; fax (403) 264-6630. The consular district includes Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories, excluding Nunavut.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, at 1969 Upper Water Street, Suite 904, Purdy's Wharf Tower II, telephone (902) 429-2480; emergency-after hours-to report the death or arrest of an American (902) 429-2485; fax (902) 423-6861. The consular district includes New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.
Montreal, Quebec, at 1155 St. Alexander Street, telephone (514) 398-9695; emergency-after hours-to report the death or arrest
of an American (514) 981-5059; fax (514) 398-0702. The consular district includes Greater Montreal and the regions of Southern
Quebec Province (Laurentides, Lanaudiere, Laval, Montreal, Montregie, Estrie, and the southern parts of Centre-du-Quebec);
including Joliete, Drummondville and Sherbrooke.
Quebec City, Quebec, at 2 rue de la Terrasse Dufferin, telephone (418) 692-2095; emergency-after hours-to report the death or arrest of an American (418) 692-2096; fax (418) 692-4640. The consular district includes Quebec City and those regions of Quebec Province to the North and East of the Montreal and Ottawa Districts (indicated above), plus the Territory of Nunavut.
Toronto, Ontario, at 360 University Avenue, telephone (416) 595-1700; emergency-after hours-to report the death or arrest of an American (416) 201-4100; fax (416) 595-5466, http://toronto.usconsulate.gov. The consular district includes the province of Ontario except the six counties served by the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.
Vancouver, British Columbia, at 1095 West Pender Street, telephone (604) 685-4311; fax (604) 685-7175. The consular district includes British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.
All visa applicants are seen by appointment only. Information on visa appointments is available at www.nvars.com. For information on visa services for foreigners and consular/passport services for Americans who live in Canada please see our contracted web site, www.amcits.com. No visa or consular/passport information is available by calling the embassy or consulate switchboards.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated March 7, 2007 to update the sections on entry/exit requirements, traffic safety and road conditions, crime, aviation safety and importation of firearms and pornography.