My kiddos are often asking when we can visit a foreign country. Well, the most frugal and obvious answer to this inquiry is a quick getaway to Canada! Not to mention, the exchange rate is definitely in our favor right now!
The silly thing that keeps holding us back from traveling to Canada is not knowing what kinds of documentation we need for travel. So, I’ve put on my detective hat just for our readers to let you in on the scoop. Hold onto your mounty hats, because this is a lot of information. But, you’ll be happy to find it easily digestible and all in one place.
What Forms of ID do I need to take my kids to Canada from Washington?
Traveling By Land:
For adults and anyone over age 16, you must have a passport, passport card, enhanced driver’s license (EDL), or a “trusted traveler” document such as a NEXUS Card.
Children 15 years old and younger (including infants) must travel with their birth certificate. If they are traveling without both of their parents, written authorization from the non-traveling parent(s) along with contact information where they can be reached is required. If there is shared custody of a minor, it is recommended that legal custody documents be carried. If you are traveling with minors for whom you are not the parent or legal guardian the Government of Canada recommends carrying a consent letter to prove authorization for travel, including legal parents/guardians full name, address, and phone number.
Pro Tip: Keep two copies of your child’s birth certificate, one for travel and one to keep safe at home. This way if anything happens to it while you are traveling, you can rest assured that your child still has documentation at home.
Teens between the ages of 16-18 are able to travel with only a birth certificate if they are part of an adult supervised school, religious, cultural or athletic group.
According to the Washington State Department of Licensing, anyone can cross the border with an Enhanced ID (EID). This seems like a good alternative to carrying around your child’s birth certificate while traveling. The EID fits safely in your wallet.
Traveling By Sea:
If traveling by boat or ferry, requirements for entry are the same as by land.
Traveling By Air:
When traveling by air, all citizens are required to present a passport.
Should I get an EDL or a Passport?
When I’ve explored the idea of international travel, I’ve wondered if it is really worth it for myself or my children to obtain a passport. Here are a few things to consider when determining whether to get an enhanced DL/ID or a passport. Remember, your kiddos can simply travel with their birth certificates.
How soon do you need it?
If you know your dates of travel, you can determine how much time you have to get the proper documentation. For an enhanced ID/DL, you will need time to secure an in-person interview with the DOL for each member of the family and then allow 2-3 weeks to receive the permanent EDL/EID in the mail. You will receive a temporary EDL, but it is not valid for border crossing.
Obtaining a passport is a longer process, taking 4-6 weeks following the in person application.
How much do you want to pay?
It is very inexpensive to obtain a Washington state EDL/EID. To upgrade your Washington state license to an EDL, you will pay $3 for each year of time remaining on your license. Obtaining an EID for the first time for a minor will run you $72 for 6 years. If your child already has a Washington state ID, pay only $3 for each year of time remaining on the ID.
A passport will cost you $110 for an adult and $80 for a child. Or, pay only $30 for an adult passport card and $15 for a child passport card, which is only valid only for return to the U.S. by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. For a passport, you will also have to provide your own passport photos, which are an additional cost.
What will you be using it for?
A passport is much more versatile than an enhanced ID. You can use it for any kind of travel, and it is absolutely necessary for air travel. A passport is also valid for 10 years for an adult and 5 years for a child, while the enhanced ID will only last up to 6 years. If you plan or even dream of traveling to a foreign country by air during that time, the passport might be the way to go. However, for a family a 4, springing for passports is a weighty expense.
Additionally, the Washington State Department of Licensing currently reports that Washington State licenses may eventually not be a valid form of ID for air travel to any location, domestic or international. However, the Washington State Enhanced ID/DL will be accepted as proper documentation for domestic air travel. This means that at some point, you may be required to obtain either a passport or a Washington Enhanced ID/DL for domestic air travel in addition to international air travel. Washington currently has an extension with the Department of Homeland Security until January 22, 2018 to comply with federal requirements under the REAL ID Act.
Trusted Sources for Additional Information:
- Washington State Department of Licensing
- Washington State Department of Transportation
- US Passports and International Travel
- US Customs and Border Protection: NEXUS Program
- Canada Border Services Agency
Now you have all the information you need to start planning your trip to Canada! If you have traveled there before with kiddos, what are some fun things to do when traveling as a family?