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Headed to the Olympics? Not Without a Passport

With the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) in full effect, you’re not getting back into the U.S. from Canada—whether by land, air, or sea—without some kind of enhanced identification. So if you’re headed to the Olympics this February and don’t have a passport, you’ll need to act fast to ensure you’re sitting trackside when Apolo Ohno blows by, or Yu Na Kim lands that triple lutz.

So do you absolutely need a passport to go to Canada? If you’re flying, yes. Current processing times are four to six weeks for routine service, or two to three weeks for expedited service. Fees are $100 for first-time passport applicants or $75 for renewals, plus another $75 per passport ($60 for expedited service plus $15 in overnight delivery charges) to get your passport in a hurry.

But if you’re arriving by land or water, there are other forms of enhanced identification that you can use. A passport card, for instance, can be used for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. Processing times are similar to passport books, but the cards cost less: $45 for folks who don’t already have a passport, or $20 for people who already have a passport book.

There are also a number of WHTI-compliant documents you can use instead of a passport (book or card) to travel to Canada by car or boat, including an enhanced state driver’s license (only available in Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Washington), which you can get in two to three weeks for $15 to $30 more than the cost of a regular license. To cross back into the U.S., you can also use a Trusted Traveler Card or certain forms of military or Native American identification. And children under 16 can still cross land and sea borders with a U.S. birth certificate.

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