Visitors to Canada must hold a valid passport with at least six months remaining before its expiration. Visitors from visa-exempt countries (with the exception of the US) are required to purchase an electronic travel authorization (eTA; $7; see the 'Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)' section at www.canada.ca), similar to the USA's ESTA visa-waiver, before departing their home country. It's all done online, so the process is fairly streamlined.
Visitors from non-visa waiver countries must apply for the appropriate visa, prior to arriving in Canada.
Many of Canada's larger airports are transitioning to automated passport gates; you'll need your passport and eTA documents to hand when you use one. If you can't use the automated gates, you'll be directed to a border officer, who will ask you a few questions about the purpose and length of your visit. Questioning may be more intense at land border crossings and your car may be searched. Once the immigration officer has verified your passport, eTA/visa and travel plans, you’ll go through customs.
For updates (particularly regarding land border crossing rules), check the websites for the US State Department (http://travel.state.gov) and Citizenship & Immigration Canada (www.cic.gc.ca).
Having a criminal record of any kind, including any drunk-driving related charges, may keep you out of Canada. If this affects you, be sure to contact the Canadian embassy or consulate in your home country.
The Canada Border Services Agency (www.cbsa.gc.ca) has the customs lowdown. A few regulations to note:
Alcohol You can bring in 1.5L of wine, 1.14L of liquor or 24 355mL beers duty-free.
Gifts You can bring in gifts totaling up to $60.
Money You can bring in/take out up to $10,000 cash; larger amounts must be reported to customs.
Personal effects Camping gear, sports equipment, cameras and laptop computers can be brought in without much trouble. Declaring these to customs as you cross the border might save you some hassle when you leave, especially if you’ll be crossing the US-Canadian border multiple times.
Pets You must carry a signed and dated certificate from a veterinarian to prove your dog or cat has had a rabies shot in the past 36 months.
Prescription drugs You can bring in/take out a 90-day supply for personal use (though if you’re bringing it to the USA, know it’s technically illegal, but usually overlooked for individuals).
Tobacco You can bring in 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 200g of tobacco and 200 tobacco sticks duty-free.
All international visitors, with the exception of travelers from the US, require a passport to enter Canada.
Visitors from the US require a valid US passport, passport card, enhanced drivers license or NEXUS card to enter Canada at a land or sea border crossing. However, when traveling by air to/from Canada, US citizens are required to present a US passport or NEXUS card only.
With the exception of US nationals, all visitors to Canada require either an electronic travel authorization (eTA; visa-waiver) or a formal visa.
Currently, visas are not required for citizens of 46 countries – including most EU members, Australia and New Zealand – for visits of up to six months.
To find out if you need an eTA or are required to apply for a formal visa, go to www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp.
Visitor visas – aka Temporary Resident Visas (TRVs) – can be applied for online at www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/visa.asp. Single-entry TRVs ($100) are usually valid for a maximum stay of six months from the date of your arrival in Canada.
A separate visa is required for all nationalities if you plan to study or work in Canada.
Visiting the USA
Admission requirements are subject to frequent change. The US State Department (http://travel.state.gov) has the latest information, or check with a US consulate in your home country.
Under the US visa-waiver program, visas are not required for citizens of 38 countries – including most EU members, Australia and New Zealand – for visits of up to 90 days (no extensions allowed), as long as you can present a machine-readable passport (e-Passport) and are approved under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (www.cbp.gov/esta). Note you must register at least 72 hours before arrival and there’s a US$14 fee for processing and authorization.
All visitors, regardless of their country of origin, are subject to a US$6 entry fee at land border crossings. Note that you don’t need a Canadian multiple-entry TRV for repeated entries into Canada from the USA, unless you have visited a third country.