I've just found a great deal on a trip to Miami, what documents do I need to have in order to travel?
This is a common questions that I am presented with. It is important to consider the requirements before booking an international trip of any kind: you would hate to miss your vacation due to being turned away at the airport!
You will need a passport. As of January 2007, Canadians flying into the USA require passports. You are still allowed to travel by car, train or bus without a passport, but by January 2008 these travelers require passports as well. I recommend getting a passport now if you have travel plans of any kind. Your passport should be valid until at least six (6) months after your return to Canada.
How do I get a passport, and how long does it take?
This depends on your situation, if you have a Canadian passport issued after January 2002 there is a new simplified process to obtain a new passport. Canadian Citizens applying for their first passport, or renewing a passport issued before 2002 have a more complicated application to submit. If you are a Permanent Resident (Landed Immigrant) of Canada, you are not allowed to apply for a Canadian Passport, and must follow a different process altogether.
All application forms / instructions are available at your local post office. Be sure to check with Passport Canada for unique situations (my passport was stolen!), Updates and office locations for applying in person.
Simplified Passport Renewal
If you are an adult looking to renew a passport that was issued after January 31 2002, and you do not need to change your name, replace a lost, stolen or damaged passport, you may be able to take advantage of the new simplified passport application . This option is available only to those that are staying in Canada and were 16 years of age or older and staying in Canada when the previous passport was issued.
This application allows you to skip the Guarantor process, and avoid submitting proof of identity, as well as your birth certificate or citizenship card. You must submit the application form, two (2) new photographs, a processing fee of $ 87, and your previous passport.
Passports applied for in person can be ready in as little as two (2) weeks. Passports applied for by mail will take at least six (6) weeks.
Standard Passport Application
For those who do not have an adult passport issued after January 31, 2002, you must use the full application. This could be your first passport application, you were under 16 when your last passport was issued or you are staying outside of Canada.
For these applications you need to have a guarantor, but new rules allow almost everyone to have access to someone that can sign for them. Many Canadians by virtue of holding a passport themselves can now act as guarantors. You will be required to submit the application form, a fee of $ 87, proof of identity (ie. Driver's License), two (2) photographs and original proof of citizenship.
Like the Simplified Application, passports applied for in person can be ready in as little as two (2) weeks, six (6) weeks by mail.
What if I am a Permanent Resident (Landed Immigrant) of Canada, not a Citizen?
You will need to ensure that you have a valid Permanent Resident (PR) Card. This is required to return to Canada after your trip. If you are unsure of the procedure to obtain a PR Card, you should get in touch with an Immigration Specialist like myself, or Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Generally PR Cards take about 6-8 weeks to process.
You will also need to carry a valid passport from your Country of Citizenship. If this passport is not current you will need to contact that country's embassy or consulate in Canada to apply. Be aware that the length of time, fees, and the amount of documentation required varies greatly country to country. Some will be able to renew an existing passport the same day, others will find that it takes several months and involves a lot of supporting documents.
Depending on the passport you carry, you may need a visa in order to enter the United States. The United States does not view Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residence in the same way. The American authorities will treat you as a Citizen of the country who passport you are carrying. Be sure to check out this requirement several months before you want to travel: American visas often take weeks or months to arrange.
When making an application of any type ensure that it is signed! Make sure you have included everything asked for on the checklist including the fee.
If your passport applications requires you to provide proof of citizenship, make sure you know where your Birth Certificate or Certificate of Citizenship is! Passport Canada will not accept your current Canadian Passport as proof of citizenship. If you need to replace a Birth Certificate or Citizenship document, be sure to apply well ahead of time!
Be sure to carefully read all instructions from Passport Canada before applying.