The type of passport you need to visit Canada depends on where you call home. Travelers who are citizens of the United States count Canada as a close neighbor to the north, and, in fact, you may live just a few miles from the border. But you'll still need a U.S. passport to cross the border unless you qualify for one of the Trusted Traveler programs and plan to cross by land.

Crossing Into Canada

It's not that far from home, yet Canada is a foreign nation with its own rules and border security. You'll need to establish your identity and citizenship at the border, and nothing works better for this than a U.S. passport book. The passport book is the traditional multi-page document that border agents stamp as you travel through.

If you have a passport card, you can also use it to drive across the Canadian border and to drive back. But it won't work if you take a plane in either direction. That means that, if you have only a passport card, you can cross into Canada in a car, but won't be able to take an airplane home in case of an emergency. Nor will you be able to use the passport card to travel to Europe, Asia or elsewhere in the world other than Mexico, the Caribbean and the Bahamas. Why consider a passport card if its use is so limited? Because you can get one for far less than you'll have to pay for a passport book.

To enter Canada, your passport (book or card) must be valid at the time of entry. If you are traveling on to Europe, you'll need a passport with at least three months of remaining validity from your projected date of departure. If you want to stay more than 180 days, you'll need to apply for a visa. You may also need a visa if you want to work, study or immigrate.

Trusted Traveler Programs

If you travel often between the U.S. and Canada, consider applying for membership in a trusted traveler program. You'll need to apply, get a background check and sit down in person for an interview to determine whether you qualify as a low-risk traveler.

If you're accepted into the NEXUS program, you can cross the border without a passport and your crossing will be expedited. NEXUS program members are pre-screened travelers. Their border processing is expedited when entering the United States and Canada with dedicated processing lanes at designated northern border ports of entry, as well as NEXUS and Global Entry kiosks at certain airports. NEXUS members traveling by boat can also get expedited processing at marine reporting locations.

The FAST program card will also get you across the border. This is a trusted traveler program for commercial vehicles.