Entering US from Canada by Car: Requirements & COVID-19
According to the United States Department of Transportation, in 2019 alone, an average of approximately 45,000 passenger vehicles crossed the US-Canada border daily through the various land ports of entry. It's worth noting that this number may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.
That said, it’s safe to say that number is much higher today with the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Hence, entering the US from Canada by car is certainly a busy affair.
Below, we answer popular questions including what you need to cross the US border from Canada by car, COVID-19 requirements as of February 2023 (and whether you still need COVID-19 test results), a list of the busiest land border crossings to keep in mind, and share the least busy time of day and week to cross into the US from Canada by car.
What do you need to cross the US border from Canada by car?
It's always a good idea to check the current travel requirements and restrictions before your trip, as these can change at any time. You can find more information on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website or by contacting the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. At time of writing to cross the US border from Canada by car, you will need several things:
Valid travel documents: You will need a valid passport, passport card, or other approved travel documents to enter the United States. Make sure to check the expiration date of your travel documents before you leave for your trip.
A visa or ESTA: If you are not a citizen of a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program, you will need to obtain a visa before entering the United States. If you are a citizen of a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program, you will need to apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) before your trip.
Proof of vehicle ownership: If you are driving your own vehicle, you will need to provide proof of ownership, such as a vehicle registration, insurance card, or rental agreement.
Proof of financial support: You may be asked to provide proof of financial support, such as a bank statement or a credit card, to show that you can support yourself during your stay in the United States.
Your itinerary: You may be asked to provide a detailed itinerary of your trip, including your planned destinations and the length of your stay.
Any necessary permits: Depending on your trip's purpose and activities, you may need to obtain additional permits, such as a hunting or fishing license.
Here are the latest entry and exit requirements, including useful links and resources, from the Government of Canada’s official website.
What are the COVID-19 requirements to cross the border into the United States?
The COVID-19 requirements to cross the border into the United States are subject to change and may depend on factors such as your country of origin and the mode of transportation you are using to enter the country.
For the latest information, visit the Frequently Asked Questions: Guidance for Travelers to Enter the U.S. page, posted on the US’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website.
As of February 2023, the following are the requirements for travelers entering the United States by land:
All foreign nationals entering the United States by land are required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. The accepted vaccines are those authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You will need to show proof of vaccination to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the border crossing.
All foreign nationals entering the United States by land are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of crossing the border. The test must be a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) or a viral antigen test. You will need to show proof of the negative test result to the CBP officer at the border crossing.
Read this before you travel to the United States, from CDC’s website.
It is important to note that these requirements may change at any time, and it is recommended to check the latest guidance and requirements from the US government before traveling.
Additionally, some US states may have additional COVID-19-related restrictions, so it's a good idea to check the state's health department website for the latest information.
We strongly suggest you visit the COVID-19 and International Travel page here, from the Government of Canada’s official website.
As of October 1, 2022 for all travelers entering Canada from the US, proof of COVID-19 vaccination is not required (except for travelers arriving from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Macao).
What are the busiest US-Canada car border crossings?
Here are the busiest US-Canada car border crossings. These border crossings are all located in the eastern part of the United States and are heavily traveled due to their proximity to major cities and transportation routes.
On the Canadian side, these crossings are all in Ontario, so for our US friends visiting Canada’s busiest province for a road trip getaway, here are 5 regions you need to visit.
It's worth noting that the level of traffic at these crossings can vary depending on the time of day and day of the week, and it's always a good idea to check border wait times before traveling to avoid delays.
- Ambassador Bridge: The Ambassador Bridge connects Detroit, Michigan, with Windsor, Ontario, and is the busiest US-Canada border crossing for passenger vehicles.
- Blue Water Bridge: The Blue Water Bridge connects Port Huron, Michigan, with Sarnia, Ontario, and is the second-busiest US-Canada border crossing for passenger vehicles.
- Peace Bridge: The Peace Bridge connects Buffalo, New York, with Fort Erie, Ontario, and is the third-busiest US-Canada border crossing for passenger vehicles.
- Rainbow Bridge: The Rainbow Bridge connects Niagara Falls, New York, with Niagara Falls, Ontario, and is the fourth-busiest US-Canada border crossing for passenger vehicles.
- Lewiston-Queenston Bridge: The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge connects Lewiston, New York, with Queenston, Ontario, and is the fifth-busiest US-Canada border crossing for passenger vehicles.
Is there a least busy time of day and week to cross into the US from Canada by car?
Early morning weekdays are best
The least busy time of day and week to cross into the US from Canada by car can vary depending on the border crossing and other factors. However, as a general rule, weekdays are usually less busy than weekends, and early morning (before 8 a.m.) and late evening (after 8 p.m.) are typically the least busy times of day to cross the border.
Consider commercial traffic volume and busy summer months
Additionally, there are some specific factors that can impact the traffic at each border crossing, such as the volume of commercial traffic and the time of year. For example, border crossings in the summer months may be more congested due to increased tourism and vacation travel.
Check border crossing real-time wait times online
It's always a good idea to check the border wait times before you travel to plan your trip accordingly. Many border crossing agencies provide real-time wait times on their websites or through mobile apps. You can also check social media feeds or local news sources for information on border wait times and traffic conditions.
Well, now that we got all this technical information out of the way, it’s time to enjoy your journey by car. And if you’re driving with a passenger, here are 7 road trip car tips when travelling with a partner.