I live in Los Angeles, and my wife and I would like to travel to Vancouver on August 3 this year. We plan on being in the Seattle area a few days before this. We do not have passports. What is our best and cheapest option to travel to/from Canada?

I looked at NEXUS, but it requires an in-person interview near the Canadian border (looks like a missed a mobile enrollment in L.A. last year, wish I had known about it at the time). Can I schedule an interview on or around July 30, and get a card in time to travel on Aug. 3? It looks like they mail the card to you after approval, can I have it mailed and expedited to a hotel in Seattle?

If this is not feasible, is Global Entry my only other option, other than getting a passport? Is the time frame (less than 5 months away) even feasible for us to be able to do this?

It seems that a birth certificate and a driver's license (even a RealID) is not sufficient for entry back into the U.S. from Canada, is this correct? And California does not have enhanced driver licenses like those available in Vermont and Washington state, right?


  • 1
    Why would you even consider more expensive options rather than simply getting a passport?
    – Aganju
    Mar 9, 2019 at 13:51
  • @Aganju: NEXUS ($50) and Global Entry ($100) both appear, on their face, to be cheaper than getting a first passport ($145). Of course, NEXUS and GE are valid for 5 years while a passport is valid for 10, and there are other issues with both as I mentioned below. But if you just want to make one trip, and aren't aware of the other issues, NEXUS and GE would look like cheaper options. Mar 9, 2019 at 15:25
  • "It seems that a birth certificate and a driver's license (even a RealID) is not sufficient for entry back into the U.S. from Canada, is this correct?" Well, US citizens cannot be denied entry to the US no matter what, so if you can satisfactorily prove your US citizenship (which a birth certificate showing birth in the US, plus a photo ID showing that you are that person, should be able to do for the most part), they will eventually let you into the US, but you may be detained for a while while they verify it.
    – user102008
    Mar 9, 2019 at 15:40

1 Answer 1


Your cheapest and simplest option is to get a passport card. It costs $65, is valid for 10 years, and you can apply at a post office or similar location near your home. It will probably take 1-2 months for the card to arrive, so you have plenty of time.

However, the passport card only allows you to travel into Canada, Mexico, and certain Caribbean nations by land or sea. It will suffice for the trip you have in mind, but if there is any significant chance that in the next 10 years you may want to travel internationally by air, or to travel beyond North America, you may want to just pay the extra and get a regular passport instead ($145).

Global Entry does not help because you have to already have a passport in order to apply for Global Entry. As for NEXUS, if it is anything like Global Entry, they will only mail the card to your home address and it takes several weeks to arrive.

You are correct that a birth certificate and driver's license are not sufficient to enter Canada and come back to the US. And California does not issue enhanced drivers licenses. As of this writing, NY, MN, MI, VT and WA are the only states that do.

  • 2
    Correction. As of January 2018, California DMV started issuing Real ID licenses. However, there is no requirement to replace old IDs before their expiration date.
    – DoxyLover
    Mar 9, 2019 at 10:31
  • 3
    @DoxyLover: Yes, but those Real ID licenses are still not enhanced driver's licenses and so they cannot be used for international travel. Those are two distinct programs, though they are often confused, and I have not heard that California has any plans to issue EDLs. Mar 9, 2019 at 15:12
  • If we presume the OP will want to make some use of the passport or passport card during the 10 year validity, in addition to the described trip, it's worth noting the passport has a place for the holder's signature and the card doesn't. Some rules, such as for notarizations in some states, require an ID document to have the holder's signature, so the card wouldn't work in those cases. Mar 9, 2019 at 15:19
  • @user102008: help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/3618/related/1. "U.S. citizens entering the United States by land or sea are required to present a valid WHTI-compliant document" [which does not include "birth certificate and driver's license"]. Also, 22 CFR 53.1. It is true that you can enter Canada with only a US driver's license and birth certificate, but OP also wants to be able to come back. Mar 9, 2019 at 15:46
  • In practice, if all you had was a license and birth certificate, the US immigration officers would probably eventually let you in, but it would likely be a very large hassle and I don't recommend it. Mar 9, 2019 at 15:47

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