Can a New Driver’s License be Used as a Passport?
Crossing the border and traveling internationally can get confusing. You may be wondering, can a new driver’s license be used as a passport for traveling, when driving over the border into the U.S. from Canada? The short and simple answer is no.
Canadians Visiting the U.S. By Land (Car)
For travel into the U.S. by car, you will need one of the four options listed below. For British Columbians, note that the Enhanced Driver’s Licenses are being permanently phased out. So for most people, your passport would be the obvious first choice. NEXUS interviews at enrolment centres in the U.S. remain suspended until further notice. (Thanks, COVID).
- Canadian passport
- Enhanced Driver’s License/Enhanced Identification Card
- NEXUS, FAST/EXPRES
- SENTRI enrolment cards
NEXUS is a voluntary program designed to speed up border crossings for low-risk, pre-approved travelers into Canada and the U.S. NEXUS users may travel through the often faster NEXUS lanes at the land border crossings and in airports. Reference: U.S. Customs & Border Protection
Some provinces may have an Enhanced Driver’s License still, but most seem to be phasing out the program.
Canadians Entering the U.S. by Air
Canadians entering the U.S. by air are required to present:
- A valid passport, OR
- A NEXUS card when departing from Canada
To Get Your Canadian Passport For The First Time
To apply for a new adult passport, you must be a Canadian citizen and 16 years of age or older. Children may apply for a child’s passport.
You will need to:
- Fill out an application
- Get your supporting documents and passport photos (you can get photos from London Drugs or any photo counter, and you are not allowed to smile)
- Find a guarantor and 2 references
- Find out how to submit your application and fees
- 5 Year Adult Passport – $120
- 10-Year Adult Passport – $160
- Child Passport (0-15 years) – $57
Additional fees apply if you are in a hurry and need to get your passport expedited (faster).
Personally, I opted for the 10-year passport and I’m glad I did as I find renewing these types of things is kind of annoying if I’m not in the mood.
Passport offices tend to get very busy and long wait times are normal. It helps to arrive first thing in the morning and at a Service Canada location that is not as busy as others.
U.S. State Driving Laws
It might be good to read up on state driving laws for the state you’ll be driving in. There are sometimes differences, like in some places you aren’t allowed to turn right on a red light.
You may turn right at a red light or red arrow in the state of Washington
- If it’s safe to do so and,
- You come to a full stop and,
- Traffic is clear and,
- You stay out of the intersection as you wait
- *Unless there’s a sign posted that prohibits it
Fun fact: Right turn on a red light is not allowed in Montreal.
Other Tips for Driving to the U.S.
- Check to see if you can change your speedometer from km to miles. You can on most cars
- Consider travel insurance for longer trips. I recommend Goose Insurance (not an affiliate link).
- Remember you may have to pay duty if you go shopping. You can estimate your potential duty and tax charges on this site
- Remember Canadian and U.S. Dollar amounts are not the same
- If you’re a New Driver, be sure to follow your restrictions while driving in the U.S. (Display the N sign, zero alcohol, etc.) Check out my full article ICBC L&N Driver Restrictions – Summary and Bottomless FAQ to get all of the details.
- Carmen became a driving instructor in beautiful North Vancouver at the age of 22 due to some crazy people who agreed to hire her. After that, there was never a dull moment teaching many different folks from many different places how to drive using automatic and standard vehicles and a minivan.
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