Before you embark on a vacation, business trip, or day's adventure across the border, be sure you are prepared with the proper documentation. Having the right documents ready and at hand can smooth out the process of crossing international borders and help out when you arrive at your destination.
The following list details the documents you may need in order to travel.
Your passport is the only universally accepted travel document. Carrying your Canadian passport ensures you have the right to return to Canada after your travels, and is required in order to cross many international borders.
Passports can vary in duration of validity, and it is important to check how much longer your passport will be valid prior to travel. For more information on passport regulations and renewals, visit: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/passport/index.asp.
Different countries have varying regulations on travel visas. While some require a visa to be acquired in order to enter the country, some only require visas for visitors of certain nationalities or trips of certain durations. Visas are available in a variety of lengths and classes, including student visas, work visas, and pure travel visas.
Obtaining a visa can be a simple application or a lengthy process – it is best to investigate the visa requirements of your chosen destination well in advance of travelling. To apply for or inquire about visas, Canadians should contact the embassy or representative of that country in Canada.
To determine whether or not you require a visa to travel to a specific destination, consult the Government of Canada's travel advisory site: http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories.
Whether for a lengthy vacation or a simple day trip, any time you leave Canada it is critical to obtain travel insurance. Unexpected costs abroad can be devastating if they come out of your own pocket. Stay safe and covered, and purchase the appropriate travel insurance before your departure.
Information regarding your insurance should be clearly documented and carried on your person during your travels. It may also be useful to leave a copy of your insurance policy with your next of kin at home, and brief any travel companions on the details of your plan.
For information on ScotiaLife's travel insurance options for you and your family, visit: http://www1.scotialifefinancial.com/slf/en/0,,5076,00.html.
NEXUS & CANPASS
NEXUS card holders are pre-approved, low-risk travellers. These individuals are allowed to use specific border crossings, without being subjected to the ordinary level of questioning by customs and immigration officers. NEXUS cards allow entry into Canada and the United States, and are given to citizens of either country.
In order to qualify for the NEXUS program, both Canada and the United States must clear the individual according to their own set of criteria and admission requirements. Background security checks will be conducted by both Canadian and American Law Enforcement Officers.
NEXUS card holders cannot have a criminal record, or must have been granted a pardon for any previously accused offenses. As well, there must be no record of violation of customs or immigration legislation.
A full list of criteria, and information on applications, can be found at: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/prog/nexus/application-demande-eng.html.
Similar benefits can be utilized by members of the CANPASS program, which has designations for air travel – private, corporate and commercial – as well as for private marine transport and remote border crossing. Information can be found at: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/prog/canpass/menu-eng.html.
Children's Consent Letter
When travelling across international borders with children under the age of 18, it is crucial to carry a consent-to-travel letter. Especially if the child is travelling with one or neither of their parents/guardians, this can prevent intense questioning or prohibition of travel.
The consent letter should be signed by every non-accompanying person or organization that holds rights to make major decisions for the child. These rights include custody rights, guardianship rights, or parental authority in Quebec. It is recommended that the document is certified by an official with the authority to administer an oath or solemn declaration.
For more information on travel-consent letters, including a template for their creation, see: Travelling with Children.
Permanent Resident Card
If you are a permanent resident of Canada and you plan on travelling abroad, you must carry your official Permanent Resident Card as proof that you have permission to re-enter the country upon return.
Similarly to Canadian passports, the expiry date of Permanent Resident Cards can vary. This should be checked in advance of travel.
It is important to note that a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship does not serve the same function as a Canadian passport.
A Citizenship Certificate is not a valid document for entering or exiting Canada, and will not be internationally recognized as a form of travel identification.
Dual Citizenship or Dual Nationality
While holding multiple citizenships is legal in Canada, it may not be recognized in other countries. This discrepancy in laws may prevent Canadian officials from interfering on your behalf, should you find yourself in trouble – legal or otherwise – abroad.
The Government of Canada, therefore, recommends that unless you are legally required to enter under a passport issued by your alternate citizenship, travellers should present themselves as Canadians to foreign authorities.
When visiting the country you hold your dual citizenship in, it is your responsibility to become aware of local laws and obligations you may hold as a returning citizen. This includes, but is not limited to, tax payments, military service, or payment of educational fees. Confirm the information you gather and carry this in a document on your person while travelling.
International Driving Permit
If you plan on driving while abroad, it is worthwhile to investigate the International Driving Permit (IDP). This designation allows licensed motorists to operate vehicles in designated countries without extensive tests or applications. This is especially useful in countries that may not recognize a Canadian driver's licence as valid.
While this card is useful in many countries, it cannot be used within Canada, and must be re-applied for each year that it is desired. IDPs are issued by the Canadian Automobile Association, and applications can be found at: http://www.caa.ca/travelling/idp/.
International Student Identity Card
If you are travelling on exchange or on other travel-study programs besides full-time registration at a non-Canadian school, you may not receive an official student card.
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is an internationally recognized student ID card, and allows the carrier to identify as a student for the purposes of discounted travel fares, entrance to museums or other cultural sites, and other such pursuits.
Information on the ISIC can be found at: http://isiccanada.ca/.
International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis
In order to enter certain countries, travellers may be required to present an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. This certifies that you are inoculated against the Yellow Fever Virus. This is especially important when travelling to and from designated Yellow Fever Zones.
List of Canadian Government Offices Abroad
As a traveller, it is useful to carry information regarding the Consular Services offered by the Canadian Government in your selected destination.
These offices, and the officials within them, can assist you with a wide range of emergency situations while abroad. In the instance of an emergency, this information should be readily available. Research consular services in your destination prior to departure, and keep the resulting information in a ready and accessible location while abroad.
Information regarding Consular Services in each country can be found at: http://travel.gc.ca/assistance/embassies-consulates
Documentation for Pets
If travelling with a pet or other animal, it is important to do diligent research on the importing laws of your destination country. With many pet dogs and cats, this will include the completion of a Canadian International Health Certificate, verified by a licensed veterinarian and endorsed by a government official.
Some animals may require a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit for international travel.
Animals in carriers must have enough room to lie down, turn around, and stand in a comfortable and natural position. Carriers must be secure and safely ventilated.
Last But Not Least
Once you have ensured you have the proper documentation, the final step is to make copies, and keep them in separate locations. If an important document is lost, a photocopy can help you replace the missing item, report the loss, and retain important information or numbers.
Once you have all the relevant documents, and their photocopies, it's time to travel!