I am going to be driving from California to Alaska going through Canada. I have a the updated CDL and my birth certificate. Will that documentation allow me to make my trip?

  • Are you a US citizen? Is your driver's license an "Enhanced Driver's License" (available from MI, MN, NY, VT, or WA)? – Michael Seifert May 23 '19 at 16:20
  • Does CDL stand for "California Driver's License"? That won't be sufficient. You will need a passport card or passport book for this trip (there are some other options but they are less practical). – Nate Eldredge May 23 '19 at 16:42
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    CDL usually stands for 'commercial driver's license,' so it's unclear if it's that or the 'C' stands for California. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas May 23 '19 at 17:34
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    @MichaelSeifert California DMV also issues federally-compliant Enhanced Licenses. – DavidSupportsMonica May 23 '19 at 21:12
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    @David No they don't. They issue Real ID which is independent from EDL. EDL requires, among other things, the same RFID used in passport cards. California cancelled EDL plans in 2013. – user71659 May 24 '19 at 1:40

If you're a US citizen, you don't need a US passport to enter Canada, but people who have traveled with only a birth certificate have reported being delayed at the Canadian border and having their vehicles searched.

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you must carry proof of citizenship such as a passport, birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship or naturalization, a U.S. Permanent Resident Card, or a Certificate of Indian Status along with photo identification.

No matter your mode of travel, we recommend you carry a valid passport for all travel abroad, including visits to Canada from the United States.

By law US citizens must enter the US using a passport or other WHTI compliant travel document (by land or sea).

  • U.S. Passports

  • U.S. Passport Cards

  • Enhanced Driver's Licenses

  • Enhanced Tribal Card (ETC)

  • Trusted Traveler Cards (Global Entry*, NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST

  • Military Identification Cards (for members of the U.S. armed official maritime business)

But there is no actual penalty in the law for not doing so. If the US border officers can verify that you are a US citizen, they will have to let you in. But you can count on being delayed (again) and probably having your vehicle thoroughly searched (again). You can also count on a verbal dressing-down from the CBP officer for not having proper documents.

As a truck driver you can use a FAST card even if you aren't driving your truck, provided you're traveling alone (or everyone with you is also a FAST member). But as I understand it Canada also requires you to present your passport along with the FAST card (the terms are a bit vague about this).

I can't recommend trying to travel outside the US without a passport, or at least a passport card for travel to Canada. I think it's worth it just to save the several hours of delay and uncertainty at the border crossings.

Finally, if you're unable to enter Canada for some reason, you can still travel to Alaska using the Alaska State Ferry, boarding in Bellingham, WA.

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    P.S. Don't try to bring firearms when you drive up. Many people have them seized and get refused entry because shotguns and rifles require prior paperwork to bring them through Canada, and handguns aren't allowed. It's easiest and safest to have them shipped. – Michael Hampton May 23 '19 at 18:53
  • Does Canada accept American Trusted Traveler Cards? (Specifically, Global Entry) – Andrew Lazarus May 23 '19 at 19:06
  • @AndrewLazarus Canada doesn't accept Global Entry for entry into Canada, though you can certainly use it to enter the US. – Michael Hampton May 23 '19 at 19:25

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