Do I need an ESTA if I’m Canadian?

ESTA for Canada

Canadian citizens do not need an ESTA to travel to the USA. There is a special agreement between the US and Canada, similar to a Canada visa waiver, which allow citizens of both countries to travel easily between the two without the need for a visa.

If you are entering the US by land, sea or air with a valid Canadian passport, it is not necessary to apply for an ESTA visa waiver. This is because Canadian citizens are able to travel freely to the US for tourism and non-remunerative business purposes without a visa. Furthermore, Canada is not part of the ESTA Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and therefore Canadian citizens cannot apply for the US Electronic System of Travel Authorization.

The ESTA for Canada does not exist however there are some occasions when travelers from Canada may need a visa for the US:

US Visa for Canadian Residents

  • Residents of Canada who hold a Canadian passport are considered citizens of Canada and therefore have the right to travel to the US visa-free: a valid Canadian passport is required when arriving in the US.
  • For people who have dual citizenship, that is to say, they have double nationality: Canada and another nation, to enter the US without a visa, they must ensure to use their Canadian passport when entering and leaving the country.
  • Residents whose nationality means they are not eligible to apply for an ESTA, must visit the US Embassy or Consulate to apply for a visa for USA from Canada.
  • Those residents whose citizenship belongs to one of the 39 VWP eligible countries can travel to the US from Canada with an ESTA visa waiver:

From January 2009, the Department of Homeland Security introduced the ESTA for those countries who form part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in order to facilitate access to the US for tourists and non-paid, temporary business travelers and improve security systems for immigration and border control.

For eligible travelers, arriving by sea or air, the ESTA form is simple and fast to complete, allowing applications to be quickly processed in order to obtain the necessary travel authorization for the US.

Traveling to the US from Canada

There are few requirements to enter the US for Canadians:

  • When traveling to the US from Canada via air or sea, all valid Canadian passport holders must present only their passport in order to gain access to the US. There is no need for a Visa for Canadians entering the US for tourism or temporary business activities.
  • Upon entering the US via land border controls, Canadians must present their passports and National ID cards.

There are slightly more requirements for travel to the US for Canadian residents who are not citizens of Canada:

  • For residents whose nationality is not eligible for the ESTA visa waiver, it is necessary to present a visa obtained from the US Embassy or Consulate.
  • For those residents whose nationality meets the eligibility requirements of ESTA, it is compulsory to apply for the ESTA visa waiver before traveling and present their passport upon arrival.

Before embarking on your trip to the US, remember to get all your paperwork in order, which includes resident permits, ESTA or other necessary visas or travel authorizations, travel arrangements, ensuring passports are valid etc. in order to avoid any nasty surprises at the border when traveling from Canada.

Note: If you are in Canada and planning to travel to the US for tourism or just transiting the airport, then you need to apply for the ESTA.

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