Travelling can be very stressful. You leave the house thinking of all the things you may have forgotten and hoping for a smooth ride to your destination. This stress can multiply when you are travelling across the border. Citizen, resident or visitor, you must have certain documentation with you at all times while travelling.
The types and number of documents necessary will vary based on your status and what you are able to obtain as proof of status. It is also important to remember that the documents that are required must be the original documents. No copies of any kind will be accepted at immigration.
When you are a citizen of the United States (or Canada), you may enter the United States at any land or sea port of entry with any one of the following documents:
- U.S. or Canadian Passport
- U.S. Passport Card
- Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
- State or Provincial Issued Enhanced Driver’s License
- Enhanced Tribal Cards (when available)
- U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
- U.S. Merchant Mariner Document
- Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
- Form I-872 American Indian Card
- Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Card
In the event that do not have any of the above mentioned documents, the Immigration officer will request 2 (two) pieces of documentation from you to allow entrance into the United States. One document must show proof of your identity. Documents accepted for identification purposes are:
- Driver’s License;
- Identification card issued by a federal, state, provincial, county, territory, or municipal authority; or
- U.S. or Canadian military identification card.
- The other document you must present must show proof of citizenship (of the U.S. or Canada). Documents accepted for citizenship purposes are:
- U.S. or Canadian birth certificate issued by a federal, state, provincial, county, territory or municipal authority
- U.S. Consular report of birth abroad
- U.S. Certificate of Naturalization
- U.S. Certificate of Citizenship
- U.S. Citizen Identification Card
- Canadian Citizenship Card
- Canadian certificate of citizenship without photo
It should be noted that the above documentation referencing Canadians are only for Canadian citizens who are entering the United States for visitation purposes only and not for any unlawful purpose.
What happens then, for those who are not a citizen of either country? Persons who hold immigrant or non-immigrant visas who reside in the United States, but hold citizenship elsewhere (not including Canada), must travel with all their documents or they may not only be denied entry into the United States, they may be sent back to their country of citizenship. Such situations are rather rare because, as most visa holders will tell you, the time, money and energy put into obtaining the visa in the first place is a constant reminder to have all documentation in order prior to travel, not only domestically, but internationally as well. The documents necessary for travel in this instance can vary depending on the status of the individual.
Those who hold permanent residency in the United States must have their passport from their country of citizenship as well as their Permanent Residency Card, also known as the Green Card. These two documents demonstrate the travelers’ right to travel as well as their immigration status in the U.S.
Those who hold non-immigrant visas (such as students or visitors) must carry their passport along with their current visa, usually stapled or stamped into their passport for ease of access. The visas given to non-immigrant visa holders must be re-stamped or re-issued upon reentry into the U.S.
This information should serve as a guideline for travel documentation. If you are unsure about what documentation to carry with you because of your current status in the United States, that has not been mentioned above should speak with their immigration attorney to verify the necessary documents as well as any restrictions that may be applicable to your specific case.
If you are able to ensure that you have your travel documentation that you are required to show upon re-entry into the United States, then you can focus more on what’s more important, enjoying your trip.