A passport is an identity document that allows a person to enter another country. It's the best way to prove that you're a Canadian citizen.
You can still travel to some countries without a Canadian passport, but this is becoming more and more rare. To avoid problems, it's a good idea to have a valid passport.
How to Get a Passport
You must be a Canadian citizen to apply for a Canadian passport, and you must file a passport application with Passport Canada.
The process for getting a passport, or renewing one, depends on whether you're
- a Canadian citizen living in Canada or in the United States, or
- a Canadian citizen living somewhere else in the world.
Passport Canada's website explains the different situations.
For Canadians living in Canada or the United States, there are two different ways to get or renew a passport:
- the passport application or renewal process
- the simplified renewal process
Passport Application and Renewal
These are the steps to get or renew a passport:
- Complete and sign an application form. You can get the form from a Passport Canada office, a post office or online. Complete all sections except for the "Guarantor's Declaration."
- Ask your "guarantor" to complete and sign the "Guarantor's Declaration" section of the application form. A guarantor is someone who knows you and can confirm your identity. Guarantors must meet ALL the following criteria:
- are Canadian citizens
- are 18 or older
- a valid Canadian passport, or
- a passport that expired within the year that the passport office receives your application
- were at least 16 years old when they applied for their own passport
- know you for at least two years
- can confirm your identity
- Submit these items with your application:
- two identical passport photos which meet the requirements described in the application form and on Passport Canada's website (Your guarantor must sign the back of one of the photos and state that it is your true photo.)
- proof that you're a Canadian citizen (for example, a birth certificate or a certificate of citizenship)
- proof of identity (for example, a driver's license or a health insurance (medicare) card)
- a Canadian travel document (for example, a certificate of identity or a refugee travel document) issued in your name in the last 5 years
- the passport fee mentioned in the application form
- Send your application, along with the documents listed above and the passport fee, to a Passport Canada office. You can also bring them in person.
Simplified Renewal Process
In some cases, you can renew a passport using the "simplified renewal process." This process lets you renew your passport without having to resubmit proof of citizenship, identity documents or a guarantor's declaration. You simply provide these documents:
- a completed application form ("simplified renewal passport application" form)
- two identical photographs in the required format
- your most recent passport
- the applicable fee
To be able to use the simplified renewal process, you must meet all of these conditions:
- You were at least 16 years old the last time you applied for a passport.
- The name on your application form is identical to the name on your previous passport.
- You have a previous passport that
- is valid for 5 or 10 years,
- is not damaged,
- was never reported lost or stolen, and
- is still valid or expired less than a year ago.
For any passport application or renewal, you must send the required documents by mail or bring them in person to a Passport Canada office.
How Long an Adult Passport Is Valid
An adult passport is valid for five or 10 years. It's best to renew your passport before it expires. Otherwise, you'll have to make an application for a new passport, and you won't be able to use the simplified renewal process.
Children Need Their Own Passport
Children, even newborns, must have their own passport. Passports for children under 16 are valid for five years.
To obtain a passport for your child, complete an application ("child general passport application" form) and submit it with all the required documents and fee to Passport Canada.
Travel to the United States
You don't always need a passport to go to the United States. It depends on whether you're travelling to the United States by sea, land or air.
By Land or Sea
You need one the following documents:
- NEXUS card
- FAST (Free and Secure Trade) card
- enhanced driver's licence (EDL) (As of October 1, 2014, the SAAQ no longer issues EDLs.)
- enhanced identification card (EIC)
- Certificate of Indian Status
To learn more about these documents, go to the travel section of the Government of Canada website.
You need a valid passport.
In some cases, you may enter with a NEXUS card.
If Your Passport Expires While You're Away
Passport Canada says you should not go on a trip with a passport that will expire while you are away, or will expire shortly after you return. To learn more, contact the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit before you leave.
Some countries refuse to let people enter if their passport will soon expire.
Lost or Stolen Passports
If you're in Canada when your passport is lost or stolen, contact Passport Canada and the local police. Explain the circumstances surrounding the loss or theft of your passport.
If you're outside Canada when your passport is lost or stolen, report the loss or theft to the nearest Government of Canada office and to the local police.
For more information on what to do if your passport is lost or stolen, visit Passport Canada's website.
Before You Leave Canada
It's a good idea to take the following precautions before you leave:
- Make photocopies of your passport (the page with your name and photograph). Keep one copy in your luggage, separate from your actual passport. Give another copy to a family member or friend who'll be in Canada while you're away. These photocopies will be helpful in case your passport is lost or stolen.
- Register with the Government of Canada's Registration of Canadians Abroad service. This free service helps you to stay in contact with the government in case of an emergency while you're away, or even during an emergency in Canada (for example, an earthquake).
- When travelling alone with children under 18, you need the other parent's written consent to take them out of Canada. Prepare a letter using the form on the Government of Canada's website and have the other parent sign the letter. If you're travelling with children who are not yours, you need their parents' written consent. You can use the same form. Check the Government of Canada website for more information.
- Learn about the country you're visiting. Visit the Government of Canada website for information on other countries and precautions to take, for example, vaccinations needed, the country's laws and other important information.
- Check your insurance coverage, including your health insurance, travel insurance and life insurance. This is also a good time to review your will and your mandate in anticipation of incapacity.
You can visit the Passport Canada website to find out about other precautions to take before you leave.
A visa is a document that a country gives to a foreign person. It lets that person enter the country and stay temporarily on its territory.
You need a visa to enter some countries. To find out whether you need a visa to enter the country you want to visit, go to the "Country travel advice and advisories" page of the Government of Canada website. From this page, you can also get general information and advisories about most countries.
Applying for a visa can be a very long process, so make sure to give yourself enough time. The cost of a visa varies from country to country.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.