Gold Medal Getaways: Crossing the Border

What you need to get to Canada and back

Category: featured stories


Crossing the Border
What you need to get to Canada and back—quickly!

The traditional U.S. Passport is the all-access pass for international travel by land, air or sea at all points of entry. Cost for first-time, adult applicants, $100; allow four–six weeks for processing; The wallet-size U.S. Passport Card is valid for entering the United States only at land or sea crossings from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda. Cost for first-time adult applicants, $45; allow four–six weeks for processing; The EDL is a Washington state driver’s license that can be used at land and sea entries along the Canadian and Mexican borders. Bring your current Washington driver’s license and additional proof of citizenship (i.e., an official birth certificate) to apply at one of 14 designated driver licensing offices. Cost is $15 to upgrade from a current license; allow three weeks for processing;

If you absolutely hate waiting in lines, consider applying for a NEXUS card, which will expedite your border crossing and is particularly convenient for people making frequent runs across the border. The Trusted Traveler Program includes the NEXUS card and the FAST card (for commercial, business users). NEXUS is valid for Canadian land and sea border crossings with additional requirements for air travel. There are separate NEXUS lanes at major border points, including Blaine—meaning that frequent travelers to Canada can save time at crossings, but every passenger in the car must have a NEXUS card to qualify for the NEXUS lane. A background check, fingerprinting and an in-person interview are required; Seattleites can schedule an interview at the Boeing Field office (206.553.0667). A retinal scan is necessary if you want to use your NEXUS card for air travel. Cost for first-time adult applicants, $50 (no fee for kids); getting quickly across the border: priceless. Allow four–six weeks for processing. For details, information and border wait times, visit or

Our favorite border-crossing tip:

You’re returning home from Canada and in a rush to cross the border (perhaps your TiVo broke and the Sounders game is on television). Use the NEXUS lane to enter the duty-free store (you don’t have to be a NEXUS cardholder to do this). Buy something—a soda, magazine, Canadian Mountie hat—and then reenter the NEXUS lane (if you qualify) or merge into the regular traffic lanes to cross the border. We can’t guarantee that it will always put you ahead in line, but sometimes it will. Sneaky? Yes, but desperate times call for desperate measures!