If you are a U.S. permanent resident, you don’t have to apply for a visa in order to visit Canada. Even if you hold a passport from a country whose citizens are required to present a visa to enter Canada, all you need is your green card, and Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) if you’re flying to Canada. See updates below.
Below is an excerpt from the Canadian immigration authority’s website with regard to Visitor Visa Exemptions:
persons lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence who are in possession of their alien registration card (Green card) or can provide other evidence of permanent residence.
If you are staying in the United States under a non-immigrant status, such as F-1, B-2 or H-1, you do need to obtain a visitor visa before travelling to Canada, if your country is on the list that requires visas. You may have heard of the “30-day rule (Automatic Revalidation),” but don’t confuse it with entering Canada because it is only referring to your return to the United States.
If you are already a U.S. citizen, you don’t need a visa to visit Canada or a long list of other countries. The Department of State publishes extensive country-specific information, including entry/exit requirements, for U.S. passport holders planning to travel abroad.
Updated June 23, 2013:
This post was originally written to discuss visa requirements for U.S. permanent residents visiting Canada. From the comments below, however, it seems more readers have questions about passports, especially expired passports.
According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), if you are a U.S. permanent resident, AND you are traveling to Canada directly from the United States, you don’t even need a passport as long as you can prove your identity and status. Your valid green card (or valid I-551 stamp on your passport) is sufficient proof of U.S. permanent residence.
However, if you are traveling to Canada from another country other than the U.S. you will be required to have a valid passport, even if you have possession of a green card.
Confused? Let’s summarize: There are three pieces of documents we’re talking about here – visa, green card and passport.
- If you have a U.S. green card, you don’t need a visa to visit Canada.
- If you have a U.S. green card, and travel to Canada directly from the U.S., you don’t need a passport either.
- If you have a U.S. green card, and travel to Canada from another country, you will need a valid passport, but you don’t need a visa.
Having said that, we strongly recommend that you always carry a valid passport for international trips. It is the only universally-accepted document that proves your identity. Even for the limited case discussed here where you are not required to have a passport, the Canadian government still suggests that you carry your passport nonetheless. You’re taking on unnecessary risks by not having a valid passport with you while traveling.
U.S. permanent residents
Permanent residents of the United States may travel to Canada from the United States or Saint-Pierre and Miquelon without passports, travel documents or visas provided they produce satisfactory evidence of their identity and status. However, if these persons travel to Canada from any other part of the world they require passports (or travel documents) and are visa-exempt (provided they can substantiate their status as a U.S. permanent resident). – Source: Canada Border Services Agency: Guide for Transporters
From the same document, Appendix I, item 11:
11. U.S. Permanent Resident Card
Indicates permanent resident status in the United States. Holders do not require a passport or temporary resident visa when travelling directly from the United States to Canada.
Updated July 2019: Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
- If you fly to Canada, you are expected to have an eTA in addition to your green card (or other evidence that can prove your U.S. permanent residency). You can apply for eTA online, and it usually takes a few minutes to get an approval. You will need a valid passport, a credit card to pay the application fee (7 Canadian Dollars for now), and an email address. At the point of entry, you will present your green card and the passport you used to apply for the eTA – no visitor visa is required.
- If you travel to Canada by land or by sea directly from the U.S., you will only need to provide proof of your permanent resident status (such as your Green Card). No visa or eTA is required.