Traveling between the United States and Canada is common, which makes people wonder: does Canada stamp US passports when you enter?

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Canadian border officials do stamp US passports on entry, although sometimes this isn’t consistent.

Keep reading to learn more details.

In this guide, we’ll provide a comprehensive look at Canada’s practices regarding stamping passports of US citizens and visa holders entering Canada by land, air, or sea.

We’ll cover whether you need a passport when traveling to Canada, what the stamp looks like if there are exceptions, and what to do if your passport isn’t stamped.

Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada from the US?

When planning a trip to Canada from the United States, one of the first things you need to consider is whether or not you need a passport.

The answer to this question depends on your citizenship status and the purpose of your visit.

US Citizens

If you are a US citizen, you are required to have a valid passport when traveling to Canada.

This applies to both land and air travel. The passport should be valid for the entire duration of your stay in Canada.

It is important to note that a passport card or an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) can also be used for land travel between the two countries, but not for air travel.

US Permanent Residents and Other Visa Holders

US permanent residents (green card holders) and other visa holders are also required to have a valid passport when traveling to Canada.

Additionally, they may also need to apply for a visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) depending on their country of citizenship.

It is recommended to check the official website of the Government of Canada for the most up-to-date information regarding entry requirements.

It is important to ensure that your passport is valid before planning your trip to Canada.

Passport processing times can vary, so it is advisable to apply for or renew your passport well in advance to avoid any last-minute complications.

Does Canada Stamp Passports at Land, Air, and Sea Crossings?

By Land

When it comes to entering Canada by land, whether it’s through a border crossing or driving through a tunnel, passport stamping is not a common practice.

Unlike some countries that stamp passports as a formality, Canada generally relies on electronic systems to record entry and exit information.

This means that travelers crossing the border by land may not receive a physical stamp in their passport.

However, it’s important to note that the absence of a stamp does not affect the validity of the entry or exit.

Though passport stamping is not the norm, there have been instances where border officials have stamped passports, especially if there are specific circumstances warranting it.

These circumstances could include visa requirements, security concerns, or other exceptional situations.

So, while it may not be a routine occurrence, it’s always a possibility that your passport may be stamped when crossing the Canadian border by land.

By Air

When traveling to Canada by air, passport stamping is more common compared to land crossings.

Upon arrival at a Canadian airport, travelers are likely to receive a stamp in their passport.

This stamp serves as proof of entry into the country and may also include the date of entry.

It’s important to keep the stamp visible and intact, as it may be required when leaving Canada or for any future immigration-related matters.

Receiving a stamp at the airport can also be a memorable souvenir of your visit to Canada.

It’s always exciting to see that official mark in your passport, reminding you of your journey and the adventures that await you in the Great White North.

By Sea

For those entering Canada by sea, whether on a cruise ship or a private vessel, passport stamping does not typically occur.

Similar to land crossings, Canada relies on electronic systems to record entry and exit information for sea travelers.

However, as with any situation, there may be exceptions depending on the circumstances.

For instance, if there are specific visa requirements or security concerns, border officials may choose to stamp passports.

It’s worth noting that even if your passport isn’t stamped when entering Canada by sea, you may still receive other documentation, such as a landing card or a customs declaration form.

These documents serve as proof of entry and should be kept safe throughout your visit to Canada.

What Does the Canada Entry Stamp Look Like?

When traveling to Canada, many individuals wonder what the Canada entry stamp looks like.

The Canada entry stamp is a rectangular ink stamp that is placed in your passport by Canadian border officials upon entry to the country.

It serves as proof of your legal entry into Canada and is an important document to keep for future reference.

Appearance and Design

The Canada entry stamp typically features the iconic maple leaf, which is a national symbol of Canada. The stamp is usually in black ink and contains the following information:

  • Date of entry
  • Port of entry
  • Immigration officer’s initials

The stamp is placed on one of the blank pages of your passport, usually near the visa or immigration section.

It is important to ensure that the stamp is clear and legible, as it may be required for various purposes such as applying for a work permit or permanent residency in Canada.

Importance and Validity

The Canada entry stamp is an official record of your entry into the country.

It is proof that you have gone through the necessary immigration procedures and have been granted permission to enter Canada.

The stamp also serves as a record for the Canadian government to track the entry and exit of individuals for immigration and security purposes.

The validity of the Canada entry stamp depends on the type of visa or entry permit you have. For tourists and visitors, the stamp is usually valid for up to six months.

For individuals with work permits or study permits, the stamp may be valid for the duration of their permit.

Keeping Your Entry Stamp

It is important to keep your Canada entry stamp in good condition and ensure that it does not get damaged or smudged.

In case of any issues, it is recommended to contact the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate for assistance.

Additionally, it is advisable to make a photocopy or digital scan of your passport, including the entry stamp page. This can serve as a backup copy in case your passport gets lost or stolen while traveling.

Are There Exceptions to Canada Stamping Passports?

While Canada generally stamps passports upon entry and exit, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

These exceptions are mainly for travelers who hold certain documents that allow for expedited border crossings or who fall into specific categories.


One exception to Canada stamping passports is for travelers who hold a NEXUS card.

The NEXUS program is a trusted traveler program that allows for expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers between Canada and the United States.

NEXUS cardholders can bypass regular customs and immigration lines and use self-serve kiosks instead. As a result, their passports may not always be stamped when crossing the border.

It’s important to note that while the passport may not be stamped, the NEXUS card itself will be scanned to verify the traveler’s identity and eligibility for expedited processing.

Enhanced Driver’s Licenses

Another exception to passport stamping in Canada is for travelers who hold an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) issued by certain U.S. states. An EDL is a driver’s license that has been enhanced to serve as a valid form of identification for travel purposes.

These licenses include a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that allows for expedited border crossings between the U.S. and Canada.

Similar to NEXUS cardholders, travelers with an EDL may not always have their passports stamped when crossing the border, as the RFID chip in their license provides the necessary information for clearance.

Children Under 16

Children under the age of 16 are generally not required to present a passport when traveling between the U.S. and Canada, as long as they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Instead, they can present an original or certified copy of their birth certificate as proof of citizenship.

Since children under 16 may not have a passport to stamp, they will not receive a passport stamp when crossing the border.

It’s worth noting that these exceptions to passport stamping are specific to Canada and may vary for other countries. Travelers should always check the requirements of their destination country before traveling.

What If Canada Doesn’t Stamp Your Passport?

It is a common misconception that every country stamps passports upon entry and exit. However, this is not always the case.

Canada, for instance, does not stamp US passports. Instead, they rely on electronic systems to track visitor records and validate entry and exit.

So, what does it mean if your passport doesn’t get stamped when you enter or leave Canada?

Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

Canada has implemented the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) system for visa-exempt foreign nationals traveling to Canada by air.

This means that if you are from a visa-exempt country, you will need to obtain an eTA before your trip.

The eTA is electronically linked to your passport, eliminating the need for a physical stamp.

Proof of Entry and Exit

Even though your passport may not be stamped, it is essential to keep a record of your entry and exit from Canada.

You can do this by retaining your boarding passes, hotel receipts, or any other documents that can serve as proof of your visit.

These records may be required when applying for visas in the future or for immigration purposes.

Trusted Traveler Programs

If you frequently travel between the United States and Canada, you may consider enrolling in a trusted traveler program.

Programs such as NEXUS and Global Entry expedite the border clearance process by providing pre-screened travelers with dedicated lanes and streamlined procedures.

While these programs do not involve passport stamping, they offer a convenient way to cross the border efficiently.

Travel History and Passport Validity

It’s worth noting that some countries may require you to provide a travel history when applying for a visa or when entering their borders. In such cases, not having passport stamps from Canada may create difficulties.

However, you can still provide other relevant documentation, such as flight itineraries or hotel reservations, to support your travel history.

Remember, not having your passport stamped by Canada does not invalidate your visit or create any legal issues.

It simply means that Canada relies on electronic systems and other forms of documentation to track visitor records. So, don’t worry if you don’t see that Canadian stamp in your passport!


To summarize, Canadian border officials do routinely stamp passports of US citizens and visa holders when entering Canada by land, air, or sea.

However, exceptions exist in some cases, such as for NEXUS card holders or children under 16.

While a passport stamp is not required for entry, it can serve as helpful proof of your legal entry into Canada if questioned later.

If your passport isn’t stamped for any reason, be sure to keep other documentation handy as evidence of your entry date.

We hope this guide gave you a comprehensive understanding of Canada’s practices regarding stamping US passports.

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