Can Green Card Holders Travel to Canada?

U.S. green card holders are considered permanent residents and can travel to Canada without a visa. However, if you are a green card holder, you may need additional documentation depending on how you travel to or through Canada. Flying has the most restrictions.

If you’re wondering what you need to do as a green card holder to travel to Canada or pass through it on your way to another country, we’ll give you all the details. Depending on what documents you have, your travel to or through Canada may be easier than you think.

Canadian flag flying in Vancouver
A Canadian flag flying in Vancouver. If you are a green card holder, you can travel to Canada with Electronic Travel Authorization from the Canadian government.

Travel Between the U.S. and Canada Is Relatively Easy

The U.S. has a close and extensive relationship with Canada. They share the world’s longest international border, trade $1.8 billion in goods and services daily, and 380,000 people cross between the countries every day. 

This unique relationship has resulted in special immigration provisions for Canadian and U.S. citizens and permanent residents. However, if you are a green card holder, you will still need valid travel documents (like your green card and passport) to cross the border.

Traveling to Canada by Land or Sea Directly From the U.S.

If you are traveling by land or sea, the only documents you’ll need are your proof of U.S. permanent resident status (like a green card). You do not need a travel visa, nor be part of a tour group. This is the easiest way to get into Canada and get a taste of the travel advantages of full citizenship.

Flying Into or Through Canada Requires a U.S. Passport

Canada is a foreign country, and like all foreign countries, you will need a valid passport to travel through the air internationally. Since you are not an American citizen yet, you will need to have a valid passport from your home country to use Canadian airports. Green card holders cannot obtain U.S. passports.

Once you become a full U.S. citizen through naturalization, you can apply for a U.S. passport and use that instead of your current one. You also need one more piece of documentation. You must file an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) with the Canadian government.

Do I Need a Visa to Go to Canada If I Have a Green Card?

No visa is required to simply travel to Canada if you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a green card. Generally, permanent residents are allowed to travel to Canada freely and remain for a 6-month stay. You can also apply for an extension if you want to stay longer.

Entering the country as a visitor does not allow you to work in Canada or study for an extended period of time. To work or study, you may be required to get a special immigration permit.

What Is an Electronic Travel Authorization?

An Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is similar to a visa but for visa-exempt foreign nationals traveling by air to Canada. Similar to how other travel documents work, the eTA is linked to your passport and is valid for up to five years or when your passport expires, whichever comes first. 

Once you have an eTA, you can travel to Canada as often as you want and stay up to six months. The cost of getting an eTA is CAD $7 and you can apply online. You will need your passport, an email address, and a credit or debit card. 

Note that eTA approval does not mean you can get into Canada! Green hard holders must still present their green card and passport to the border officer and answer their questions.

A Common eTA Mistake

One mistake that can get you turned away at the border is to have an incorrect passport number on your eTA form. The number you need to use is at the top of the main passport information page. This is the page that has your photo on it. Use the eTA help guide for more information.

What Else Do I Need To Do to Travel to Canada?

The Canadian Government has an app and website called ArriveCAN. This tool gives you information about the current travel restrictions and requirements to enter and stay in Canada. You can also get informed on the latest pandemic travel restrictions.

As of this writing, Canada is requiring all travelers to enter their travel plans into ArriveCAN within 72 hours before they enter the country. This is likely to help with tracing any coronavirus cases. Please look at ArriveCAN for the latest information for green card holders traveling to Canada.

Will Traveling to Canada Affect My Permanent Resident Status? 

International travel as a permanent resident won’t put your green card at risk. If you plan on staying abroad for longer than a year, you will need to fill out several essential forms and ensure that your re-entry to the U.S. is as smooth as possible. 

If the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) deems that your stay abroad constitutes abandoning the U.S. as your primary home, your green card may get revoked. While the vast majority of trips don’t have any issues, if you need to travel for more than a year, it is advisable to get a reentry permit to protect your green card status.

Make the Proper Arrangements Before You Travel to Canada

Even though you don’t need a visa to travel to Canada as a green card holder, you should still make proper arrangements to ensure that nothing goes wrong, such as: 

  • Ensuring that your green card is valid for the duration of travel
  • Getting an advance parole (Form I-131) to travel outside the U.S. if you’re currently waiting for your green card with a pending I-485 
  • Having all your travel documents and authorizations organized and secure before and during your trip 

As long as you take the proper steps, you can avoid many risks and any potential problems arising from traveling with your permanent resident status. 

Travel Internationally Worry-Free 

Canada is one country where the United States green card holders don’t need a visa to enter. However, if you are visiting anywhere else globally, you may need to fill out paperwork and several applications to get cleared. If you’re planning a trip soon, FileRight can help you get started today.

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