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My 16 year-old from the U.S. wishes to visit me in Canada for the holidays. She planned to obtain an enhanced driver's license, but she failed her test. Can she be refused re-entry into the U.S. without an enhanced driver's license or passport?

  • How is she planning to enter Canada to start with? – waiwai933 Dec 19 '15 at 19:34
  • Canada only requires a birth certificate for those under 18. – Daniel Smith Dec 19 '15 at 19:39
  • What state is she in? For example, Washington State and Michigan will issue an Enhanced ID Card (EIC) for people of any age. But they usually take several weeks to process. – choster Dec 19 '15 at 20:49
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    Most states will issue a an ID which works exactly like a drivers license for the purposes of identification, but doesn't grant the bearer the ability to drive. This is likely an option for your daughter, but since we don't know which state she resides in, it's hard to know. – Flimzy Dec 19 '15 at 21:10
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    @Flimzy the states that issue enhanced DLs also are the same states that issue enhanced non-driver ID's. – phoog Dec 19 '15 at 22:14
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Most state DMV's will also issue a non-driver ID version of a license to eligible residents. Check with your local DMV to determine what forms and processing are needed.

  • @user102008 this isn't always true. For example, New York offers an Enhanced Non Driver ID which can be used in lieu of a passport to travel overland between the United States, Canada and Mexico. – LessPop_MoreFizz Dec 20 '15 at 1:47
  • A drivers license it not a valid document either. Since some years, you MUST have a passport – Aganju Dec 20 '15 at 1:59
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    @Aganju Enhanced Drivers Licenses, issued by several states along the border, are an exception. They are considered WHTI compliant documents for crossing the border by land or sea and a passport is not required. – LessPop_MoreFizz Dec 20 '15 at 2:00
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz as you are no doubt aware, enhanced DLs/IDs are not the only exception. Also, before receiving an enhanced license or ID, an applicant must prove US citizenship. I mention the latter point because it is sometimes a source of confusion. – phoog Dec 20 '15 at 17:49
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If she is a US citizen, and she can satisfactorily prove her US citizenship, she cannot be denied entry to the United States. What kind of documents does she have? expired passport? birth certificate + photo ID? Though why doesn't she get a passport?

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    Without going into too much detail - her mother refuses to get her a passport because that would cost her money. She has a birth certificate, learner's permit (with no photo) and her student ID (with photo). – Daniel Smith Dec 19 '15 at 20:15
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    @DanielSmith the only way to know for sure is to try and see what happens. It could be stressful, though. If she gets into Canada, she won't be stuck there. The US has to let her back in as she is a citizen. The big unknowns are how much of a hassle it would be and whether they can fine her. I don't think they can, but I am by no means certain of that. – phoog Dec 19 '15 at 22:22
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    @DanielSmith A US citizen can never be refused entry, but if she hasn't got proper documents she could be detained for several hours while her identity is verified. – Michael Hampton Dec 19 '15 at 22:32
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    Thank you all for your help and advice, I greatly appreciate you all taking the time. Happy Holidays. – Daniel Smith Dec 19 '15 at 23:31
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    @DanielSmith: If cost is the issue, what if you pay for it? What if your daughter pays for it? Otherwise, her mother not wanting her to get a passport raises concerns of permission to travel abroad and international child abduction. – user102008 Dec 20 '15 at 2:00
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A US Citizen can never be refused entry. You just have to provide proof that you are a citizen.

Now, here is what the CBP has to say:

Children: U.S. citizen children ages 15 and under arriving by land or sea from a contiguous territory may present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate (issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where he or she was born), a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Naturalization Certificate. If the child is a newborn and the actual birth certificate has not arrived from the Vital Records Department, we will accept a Hospital issued birth certificate.

A birth certificate is proof of this; however your daughter is above 15 she will need to provide another proof of citizenship; which can include any of the following:

Land or Sea Travel: U.S. citizens entering the United States by land or sea are required to present a valid WHTI-compliant document, which include:

  • U.S. Passports
  • U.S. Passport Cards
  • Enhanced Driver's Licenses
  • Trusted Traveler Cards (Global Entry*, NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
  • Military Identification Cards (for members of the U.S. armed forces on official orders)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Document (for U.S. citizens on official maritime business)

*The Global Entry (GE) card is only an ENTRY document and may not be used to enter Canada, Mexico or Adjacent Island.

This means that unfortunately, your daughter will need an approved form of ID as listed above. She can travel, but she'll likely be detained at the border; and then eventually released for entry after a review of her details.

There will be a delay, but she won't be denied entry. She'll just have to wait as they check out her details.

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