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Can you return to Canada with an expired passport during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Last Updated Jul 7, 2020 at 9:15 am PDT

FILE - A Canadian passport is displayed in Ottawa on Thursday, July 23, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Service Canada only accepting passport applications from people in exceptional circumstances

U.S.-Canada border restrictions allow travellers to enter a country where they hold citizenship

Canadians still urged to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country

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Deanna asked: “My minor child holds dual Canadian/U.S. passports and would like to fly to visit her other parent in the U.S. and then return to Canada. However, her Canadian passport expired amid the shutdown and we’ve been told that the Canadian government has halted passport applications for now. Is this true and is it advisable for her to travel to the U.S.? Will she be able to return to Canada holding an expired Canadian passport and Canadian birth certificate?”


It’s true that Service Canada has stopped accepting applications for new passports, except for a few extraordinary circumstances. If you have a serious illness or need to take care of someone who does, if you need to travel to keep your job or if you have an organization supporting your travels “on humanitarian grounds,” you can still apply for a passport.

But Deanna’s daughter should still be able to cross the U.S.-Canada border in both directions.

The border restrictions allow most Canadians to fly into the U.S. and the land-border rules allow travellers to enter any country where they hold citizenship.

So this traveller shouldn’t have trouble returning to Canada, as long as she can prove her citizenship – and she won’t need a current Canadian passport to do so. The Canada Border Services Agency accepts provincial or territorial birth certificates accompanied by government-issued photo ID as proof of citizenship.

But just because she can make the trip, doesn’t mean she should.

An official travel advisory from the federal government urges Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country.

“As foreign governments implement strict travel restrictions and as fewer international transportation options are available, you may have difficulty returning to Canada or may have to remain abroad for an indeterminate period,” reads the advisory.

“If you choose to travel despite these advisories, be aware that commercial airspace closures and movement restrictions can occur without warning and could prevent your return to Canada.”

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