Traditionally, United States citizens and permanent residents have needed only to present some form of identification that proves citizenship and/or residency, such as a birth certificate, voter-registration card, driver’s license with photo, or alien card (essential for nonresident aliens to reenter the United States) to enter Canada. But as of January 1, 2008 the United States requires its citizens to present a passport for reentry to the U.S. in accordance with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Therefore it is imperative to carry a passport, even though one is not technically required for entry to Canada. At press time, there was some talk of developing an alternative secure document less costly than a passport. For the latest, check out the travel section of the U.S. Department of State website (http://travel.state.gov ).
All other foreign visitors entering Canada must have a valid passport and may need a visitor permit or Temporary Resident Visa depending on their country of residence and the vagaries of international politics. At present, visas are not required for citizens of the United States, British Commonwealth, or Western Europe. The standard entry permit is for six months, and you may be asked to show onward tickets or proof of sufficient funds to last you through your intended stay. Extensions are available from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office in Calgary . This department’s website (www.cic.gc.ca ) is the best source of the latest entry requirements.
You can take the following into Canada duty-free: reasonable quantities of clothes and personal effects, 50 cigars and 200 cigarettes, 200 grams of tobacco, 1.14 liters of spirits or wine, food for personal use, and gas (normal tank capacity). Pets from the United States can generally be brought into Canada, with certain caveats. Dogs and cats must be more than three months old and have a rabies certificate showing date of vaccination. Birds can be brought in only if they have not been mixing with other birds, and parrots need an export permit because they’re on the endangered species list.
Handguns, automatic and semiautomatic weapons, and sawn-off rifles and shotguns are not allowed into Canada. Visitors with firearms must declare them at the border; restricted weapons will be held by Customs and can be picked up on exit from the country. Those not declared will be seized and charges may be laid. It is illegal to possess any firearm in a national park unless it is dismantled or carried in an enclosed case. Up to 5,000 rounds of ammunition may be imported but should be declared on entry.
On reentering the United States, if you’ve been in Canada more than 48 hours you can bring back up to US$400 worth of household and personal items, excluding alcohol and tobacco, duty-free. If you’ve been in Canada fewer than 48 hours, you may bring in only up to US$200 worth of such items duty-free.
For further information on all customs regulations contact Canada Border Services Agency (204/983-3500 or 800/461-9999, www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca ).