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Vancouver to Seattle Border Crossing: Which Travel Documents do I need?

Quick Guide to Documents Needed for Travel between Canada and the U.S.

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Vancouver, BC, is just an hour north of the U.S. border, making it easy to travel to the U.S. for a day trip to Seattle or a shopping spree in Bellingham.

Use this Quick Guide to find out which travel documents you need for the Vancouver to Seattle border crossing and how to get them, including how to get a NEXUS card or enhanced driver's licence.

For information on duty-free limits and transportation options, see Vancouver to Seattle Crossing the Border: Complete Guide.

1. What type of documents do I need to travel from Vancouver to Seattle?

No matter how you travel from Vancouver to Seattle--whether it's by car, train or bus--you must have the correct travel documents to enter the U.S. and return to Canada. You also need to have the required documents for any children traveling with you.

Canadian citizens must have either a Canadian passport, a NEXUS card, a Free and Secure Trade (FAST) card, a Certificate of Indian Status, or an enhanced driver's licence (EDL) or enhanced identification card (EIC).

Vancouver residents who are not Canadian citizens must have a passport and any visas required for travel to the U.S./outside Canada. Check the U.S. Border and Protection site for details for your specific country of origin and allow plenty of time before your trip to obtain any necessary visas.

2. What about children under 15?

For travel by air to the U.S. from Canada, children, like adults, must have either a passport or a NEXUS card. However, when traveling by car, bus or train from Canada to the U.S. (the usual mode of travel from Vancouver to Seattle), Canadian citizens aged 15 years or under are only required to present proof of Canadian citizenship, such as an original or a photocopy of a birth certificate, or an original citizenship card.

The Canada Border Agency also says that divorced or separated parents should carry copies of the legal custody agreements for the children.

3. What is an enhanced driver's licence (EDL) or enhanced identity card (EIC)?

Enhanced driver's licences (EDL) and enhanced identity cards (EIC) are alternatives to passports that will allow Canadian citizens to cross the border between the U.S. and Canada. You can apply for a EDL or EIC at 16 driver licensing locations in B.C. via ICBC. See the ICBC site for locations and instructions on booking an appointment.

4. What is a NEXUS card and how do I get one?

The NEXUS card offers expedited travel to "low risk" travelers who frequently cross the U.S./Canada border. When driving from Vancouver to Seattle, the NEXUS card allows you to cross in a special lane, so that you can skip the longer line-ups, greatly reducing the amount of time you spend waiting at the border. The NEXUS card can also be used during air travel, to reduce wait times in customs lines.

To apply for your NEXUS card, you must pay the $50 per person application fee, book an appointment to be interviewed by both Canadian and U.S. border officials, then pass the interview. To travel in the NEXUS lane at the border, all passengers in a car must have their own individual NEXUS cards. (So an entire family must have a NEXUS card for each traveling family member, including babies and children.)

Check your eligibility for a NEXUS card and start the application process at the Canada Border Services Agency site.

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