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), similar to the USA's ESTA visa waiver, before departing their home country. Visitors from non-visa-waiver countries must apply for the appropriate visa prior to arriving in Canada.
Note that questioning may be more intense at land border crossings and your car may be searched.
The Canada Border Services Agency (www.cbsa.gc.ca) website 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; 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 taking it to the USA, know it's technically illegal, but overlooked for individuals).
Tobacco You can bring in 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 200g of tobacco and 200 tobacco sticks duty-free.
Most international visitors require a passport to enter Canada. US citizens at land and sea borders have other options, such as an enhanced driver's license, permanent resident card or NEXUS card. See Canada Border Services (www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca) for approved identification documents.
Visitors from certain countries require a visa to enter Canada. Those who are exempt require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA; $7), with the exception of Americans. This must be applied for prior to traveling and can be completed online. It usually takes minutes but can take days. See www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta-start.asp.
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 now 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.
Visa extensions ($100) need to be filed with the CIC Visitor Case Processing Centre in Alberta at least one month before your current visa expires.
Admission requirements are subject to rapid change. The US State Department (www.travel.state.gov) has the latest information; you can also 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 and are approved under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (www.cbp.gov/esta). Note that you must register at least 72 hours before arrival with an e-passport, and there's a $14 fee for processing and authorization.
Canadians do not need visas to enter the USA, though they do need a passport or document approved by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (www.getyouhome.gov). Citizens of all other countries need to apply for a US visa in their home country before arriving in Canada.
All foreign visitors (except Canadians) must pay a US$6 processing fee when entering at land borders. 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.