My wife, daughter and I (all US citizens) are planning to fly to Toronto and back.

According to https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Canada.html:

"Entry into Canada: Canadian law requires that all persons entering Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid U.S. passport, passport card, or NEXUS card satisfies these requirements for U.S. citizens. Children under 16 need only present proof of U.S. citizenship."

However, to get back into the US, according to https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/3618/kw/travel:

"Children are also required to present their own passport when traveling by air."


"U.S. citizen children ages 15 and under arriving by land or sea from a contiguous territory (Canada or Mexico) may present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate"

In other words, it seems as though a birth certificate is sufficient to travel from the US to Canada via air. However, in order to return by air, a passport is required (the birth certificate is only valid if traveling by land and sea).

HOWEVER, I see things all over that say a birth certificate is acceptable for both border crossings. For example, on https://traveltips.usatoday.com/things-required-back-canada-109007.html:

"If you're traveling to and from Canada with children under the age of 16, you must provide an original or a copy of each child's birth certificate. Other acceptable documents for American minor children include a Consular Report of Birth Abroad and a naturalization certificate. Children don't need a U.S. passport for this trip."

Needless to say I'm really confused. I don't see anything that says my daughter won't be allowed into Canada, but how about coming back?

  • A US citizen must be allowed entry to the US. However, you can be delayed while CBP establish citizenship. A passport is the easiest way to do that, but it seems from your own comments that a birth certificate will suffice for your daughter.
    – user79658
    Nov 16, 2018 at 19:52
  • Which of my comments say that? That's the answer I'm hoping for, but the US (.gov) site pretty explicitly (I think) says that a birth certificate is only valid for land or sea crossings, and a passport is required to return by air. Are you reading it differently?
    – Jer
    Nov 16, 2018 at 22:02
  • 5
    @CannonFodder the airline won't let her board a flight to the US without a passport.
    – phoog
    Nov 16, 2018 at 22:37
  • The USA TODAY article you link to mostly discusses land and sea crossings, devoting only one sentence to air (which says that a passport is required for everyone). This includes the out of context quote you copied into your question. It does not contradict the official requirements at all, taken in its proper context (of land and sea crossings only). Nov 17, 2018 at 2:37
  • @phoog: what about if they are going through preclearance (which is likely when flying from Canada to the US)? in that case, the airline has no reason to refuse boarding to someone if they have already gone through US immigration, right?
    – user102008
    Dec 31, 2018 at 1:02

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately, since you are traveling by air, you do need to have a passport (or Nexus card) for the child or you won't be allowed to board a flight to the US, as @phoog says.

You didn't mention which airline you are using, but you can easily look up the travel documents required and confirm for yourself. For example the official Air Canada site says:

Travel Documents:

Canadian and U.S. citizens must present either a valid passport or a valid Nexus card when travelling by air between Canada and the United States.

Other airlines will be the same.

In fact the (unofficial) document you linked to also states:

If you are returning to the U.S. from Canada by air, you can only use a U.S. Passport as proof of citizenship.

There is a bit more leniency at land crossings and IIRC some exceptions for youth sports teams, but not for air travel. A casualty of 9/11.

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