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Old 01-12-2015, 11:55 PM
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U.S. citizen drives into Mexico without a passport, so what actually does happen...

...when they attempt to return to the U.S.? (Or from Canada, as applicable?)

If memory serves you now need a passport when re-entering the United States from Mexico. The Mexican authorities don't bother to check anyone's papers when entering that country, but the ICE inspectors do need to see your passport on the return journey. Knowing the road into Tijuana as I do, it's conceivable that a careless, preoccupied, or GPS-challenged motorist might not notice the LAST USA EXIT sign and a few minutes later find himself/herself outside the country. I'm not saying it's likely, but anything's possible, especially if the driver isn't from around here. I myself, when attempting to reach Deerfield, IL from O'Hare, almost made it as far as the Wisconsin border. I remember there seemed to be an inordinate amount of truck traffic, with high profile boxy trailers, and I couldn't see most of the signs.

So let's say I'm that driver. After some hours of waiting, I finally make it up to the row of inspection booths and I'm forced to admit: "I am an American citizen, but I regret to inform you I don't have my passport with me." But so as not to make the scenario more ridiculous than necessary, I am able to add: "But I do have my CA driver license and a couple of debit cards on U.S. bank accounts. plus other typical odds and ends that one carries in a wallet. I also have my phone, which is chock full of American phone numbers."

What would happen next? I assume I'd be told to drive into some sort of extra-special inspection area. Would I be questioned at length, and would this interrogation automatically be conducted in an adversarial or accusatory manner? Would I be asked to provide some numbers for American contacts, so they could call them to verify my bona fides? I have no doubt they'd let me in eventually, but how long would it take?

And the same question for returning from Canada.
Old 01-13-2015, 12:11 AM
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My elderly parents drove to San Diego last September and overshot and arrived at 9 at night in Mexico. They turned around, got in line at the border and waited over an hour in line and had no trouble getting through with their normal identification and California plates. And very white wrinkly skin.
Old 01-13-2015, 12:13 AM
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Quote:
All adults arriving by land from Canada or Mexico must have a passport.
http://travel.state.gov/content/pass...do-i-need.html

Or maybe an enhanced driver's license (PDF warning) from Michigan, New York, Vermont or Washington.

Third-party web sites are saying an American without a passport may be required to go to a US consulate or the US Embassy in Mexico in order to gain entry back into the USA,

Paging Eva Luna!
Old 01-13-2015, 12:32 AM
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There was a thread a week or two ago about a fellow who was born in USA but went back to Israel with his parents at age 1 - then his next visit as an adult he was denied entry because (speculation by threadsters) he was travelling on another citizenship passport and it was stated "if you are an American citizen you must enter the country using an American passport".

Of course, that's for dual citizens. OTOH, I've entered Britain several times using my Canadian passport not British one, so I guess the rest of the world does not have that sort of hangup?

It used to be a drivers' license was enough to drive over the border, but that changed a few years ago.

Presumably they could tell you to turn around, but if Mexico refuses to take you, then I don't know what happens. I assume there's some sort of offense for entering without proper documentation? After all, there's laws against pretty much everything...

Last edited by md2000; 01-13-2015 at 12:34 AM.
Old 01-13-2015, 12:44 AM
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"Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in." - Robert Frost.

In general, the point about citizenship is that you have a right of entry to the state(s) of which you are a citizen. The point about a passport is to establish that you are a citizen, but if you can establish it by other means then, yes, they will let you in. But it make their life a lot easier if you carry a passport, so they discourage people from using other means to establish citizenship by being, basically, very bolshie about it. Producing a California driver's licence, evidence of having US bank accounts and a phone with lots of US numbers in it make it likely that you are a US resident, but it doesn't prove that you are a citizen, so if they choose they can give you hassle, the object being to encourage you to carry your damn passport next time. The thing is, though, it's also hassle for them; life is much easier if they wave you through. So it may depend on what kind of mood they're in, and how busy the day it, as to how much grief or delay you suffer before you get in.
Old 01-13-2015, 01:27 AM
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Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
Of course, that's for dual citizens. OTOH, I've entered Britain several times using my Canadian passport not British one, so I guess the rest of the world does not have that sort of hangup?
I had a bit of a hangup in Helsinki. I had flown JFK-DUS(seldorf)-HEL(sinki). In DUS the line for non-EU citizens was really long, so I used my Irish passport on the EU line and was waved right by (no stamp). Later that day, I was taking a ferry to St. Petersburg, and the border control looked all over my US passport for some entry stamp. I just shrugged and said I guess they didn't stamp it in Germany (the truth )
Old 01-13-2015, 03:31 AM
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I had the Canadians let me in with just a driver's license during the period when US customs wanted a driver's license and a birth certificate (or a passport). I got a dirty look and a "don't do it again" but they let me back in without too much trouble.
Old 01-13-2015, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by UDS View Post
The point about a passport is to establish that you are a citizen, but if you can establish it by other means then, yes, they will let you in. But it make their life a lot easier if you carry a passport, so they discourage people from using other means to establish citizenship by being, basically, very bolshie about it.
Ironically, one of the very first revolutionary acts of the Bolsheviks was to abolish all passports. They called them a barbaric example of tsarist oppression.
Old 01-13-2015, 09:09 AM
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Two years ago I accidentally drove across the border into Canada without my passport and it took quite a while before they allowed me back into the country even though I had a valid US drivers license and car registration showing that I lived in the US. I was told to pull over into a special area and wait in a large room until it could be all sorted out. I don't think I was the first person to have this happen.

If I remember correctly my wife had to locate my passport, scan a copy of the first page and email it to the US Immigration office at the Canadian border. Luckily she was home at the time. It took quite a while for all that to happen, but eventually I was allowed to leave and was told never to do it again.

Ironically the reason it happened was that I was there to visit the US Border office to apply for a special pass that would let me more easily get through airports and borders. (I had left my passport at home by mistake since I needed it for the special pass.) The road signage near the border was so confusing that even with my GPS I couldn't figure out how to get to the US border office and ended up in a lane that took me straight over the border with no way to turn around. The Canadian border agent chuckled when I told him I was there by mistake and didn't have my passport. He must have known exactly what I was going to have to go through...

Last edited by dolphinboy; 01-13-2015 at 09:12 AM.
Old 01-13-2015, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Coriolanus View Post
I had a bit of a hangup in Helsinki. I had flown JFK-DUS(seldorf)-HEL(sinki). In DUS the line for non-EU citizens was really long, so I used my Irish passport on the EU line and was waved right by (no stamp). Later that day, I was taking a ferry to St. Petersburg, and the border control looked all over my US passport for some entry stamp. I just shrugged and said I guess they didn't stamp it in Germany (the truth )
Do they stamp US or Irish passports when entering or leaving Germany? Many years ago, as a U.S. citizen, and when Germany was still divided, the only time I ever got a stamp was when leaving East Germany to enter either West Berlin or West Germany.
Old 01-14-2015, 12:44 AM
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When I renewed my regular passport recently I paid a bit extra and got a second photo passport which resembles a drivers license which states on its face, "United States Of America Passport Card". On the back side it also states, "Valid only for international land and sea travel between United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda".

Interesting that it would mention "the Caribbean" and not specific countries. I assume it will be good for travel to Cuba.

Last edited by Little_Pig; 01-14-2015 at 12:45 AM.
Old 01-14-2015, 12:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Little_Pig View Post
When I renewed my regular passport recently I paid a bit extra and got a second photo passport which resembles a drivers license which states on its face, "United States Of America Passport Card". On the back side it also states, "Valid only for international land and sea travel between United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda".

Interesting that it would mention "the Caribbean" and not specific countries. I assume it will be good for travel to Cuba.
That's up to Cuba. This may be a level of detail that they haven't addressed yet. But in any event I would guess that most travel from the US to Cuba would be by air.
Old 01-14-2015, 01:37 AM
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What happens if you have a passport but your passenger does not?
Old 01-14-2015, 02:08 AM
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Originally Posted by eschereal View Post
What happens if you have a passport but your passenger does not?
That could complicate the situation, depending on who it is.

I'm certainly no expert, but I think the CBP has a lot of leeway in how they handle a situation like this. They can hassle (detain, etc.) someone who does have a passport. Here's the story of a family (that went to a wedding in Cananda) and had a horrible experience on their return.
Old 01-14-2015, 02:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little_Pig View Post
When I renewed my regular passport recently I paid a bit extra and got a second photo passport which resembles a drivers license which states on its face, "United States Of America Passport Card". On the back side it also states, "Valid only for international land and sea travel between United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda".

Interesting that it would mention "the Caribbean" and not specific countries. I assume it will be good for travel to Cuba.
I got one of those, too, and it never occurred to me that that could mean Cuba, but it's a good point.
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Originally Posted by UDS View Post
That's up to Cuba. This may be a level of detail that they haven't addressed yet. But in any event I would guess that most travel from the US to Cuba would be by air.
Right. I just assumed that the purpose was only for returning, because I've only used it in Mexico, where they often don't even stop you when you drive in. Of course, if it's really "valid" for those other countries, they must have agreed to let people in with it.

I guess the question is, supposing Cuba did accept it, could one return from Cuba with it. I don't see why not.
Old 01-14-2015, 04:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus View Post
Do they stamp US or Irish passports when entering or leaving Germany? Many years ago, as a U.S. citizen, and when Germany was still divided, the only time I ever got a stamp was when leaving East Germany to enter either West Berlin or West Germany.
This was 2010. I just showed my Irish passport in DUS and was waved right on by. Flew to Helsinki. Lovely city with friendly people. Then a very long line for the ferry to St. Petersburg. The last stamp on my passport was the exit from JFK. So the border control folk in Finland were very curious. I shrugged and said the folks in Germany must not have stamped it (they were stamping USA passports but not Irish/Shengen/EU's). Anyways, made my boat.
Old 01-14-2015, 05:44 AM
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I was watching 48 Hours a few weeks ago and they were telling the story of Bruce Beresford-Redman. He was detained as a a suspect in his wife's murder in Cancun, Mexico, where they were vacationing. He was released and ordered not to leave the country and police kept his passport. He simply walked across the border using his driver's licence as ID.

I was amazed that such a thing was possible, but apparently it's no big deal.
Old 01-14-2015, 09:06 AM
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In general your own country can't refuse to let you in. A few years ago someone posted about their daughter that was moving home from the UK and accidentally put her passport in one of the boxes that was sent home ahead of time. In practice you're not likely to like the hassle this creates before you (eventually) get let in.
Old 01-14-2015, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
Ironically, one of the very first revolutionary acts of the Bolsheviks was to abolish all passports. They called them a barbaric example of tsarist oppression.
I think that was because Tsarist-era passports were required for travel within the country, weren't they? More like identity papers for internal security, and not crossing international borders IIRC.
Old 01-14-2015, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Little_Pig View Post
When I renewed my regular passport recently I paid a bit extra and got a second photo passport which resembles a drivers license which states on its face, "United States Of America Passport Card".
I suggest everyone get one of these, since sometimes you need a second photo ID. Or you are traveling and you wallet gets stolen, making it difficult to board the return flight. Keeping one of these hidden in your luggage would be nice.
Old 01-14-2015, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by don't ask View Post
I was amazed that such a thing was possible, but apparently it's no big deal.
A person can get in without any ID at all, if he or she can convince CBP. I know a guy who got robbed in Mexico, and came back with no wallet. Because his story was convincing, (as well as, of course, his answers to general questions about his employer, background, etc.), they let him in, after taking his finger prints and making him sign a bunch of documents.
Old 01-14-2015, 11:55 AM
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The last few times I drove to Canada on my (Canadian) passport, the Canadian authorities asked to see my US Green Card. Of course in Canada, my green card status doesn't mean anything, but they wanted to make sure I would be able to get back in when I went back.
Old 01-14-2015, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Mdcastle View Post
In general your own country can't refuse to let you in. A few years ago someone posted about their daughter that was moving home from the UK and accidentally put her passport in one of the boxes that was sent home ahead of time. In practice you're not likely to like the hassle this creates before you (eventually) get let in.
That's what I thought, but according to another thread - the fellow was born in USA, moved to Israel at age 1 and never owned a US passport - he was denied entry for a business trip because a US citizen cannot enter the USA on a foreign (i.e. Israeli) passport.
Old 01-14-2015, 04:33 PM
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That's what I thought, but according to another thread - the fellow was born in USA, moved to Israel at age 1 and never owned a US passport - he was denied entry for a business trip because a US citizen cannot enter the USA on a foreign (i.e. Israeli) passport.
Sometimes people think they're denied entry when they really aren't. Choosing to voluntarily leave rather than sit in a jail cell for a couple of days while your lack of a passport is investigated is technically just a personal choice to leave, not denial of entry.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 01-14-2015 at 04:34 PM.
Old 01-14-2015, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
That's what I thought, but according to another thread - the fellow was born in USA, moved to Israel at age 1 and never owned a US passport - he was denied entry for a business trip because a US citizen cannot enter the USA on a foreign (i.e. Israeli) passport.
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Originally Posted by Lord Feldon View Post
Sometimes people think they're denied entry when they really aren't. Choosing to voluntarily leave rather than sit in a jail cell for a couple of days while your lack of a passport is investigated is technically just a personal choice to leave, not denial of entry.
On the other hand, there's this:

http://law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1185#b

8 U.S. Code 1185

(b) Citizens
Except as otherwise provided by the President and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may authorize and prescribe, it shall be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States unless he bears a valid United States passport.
Old 01-14-2015, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by abderian View Post
On the other hand, there's this:

http://law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1185#b

8 U.S. Code 1185

(b) Citizens
Except as otherwise provided by the President and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may authorize and prescribe, it shall be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States unless he bears a valid United States passport.
So when I drove down to the US to renew my passport, mailed my old one to the passport authority, and then left the US for Canada without a valid United States passport, I was breaking the law?

I was once given a huge hassle trying to enter the US from Canada by air back in the days when you didn't have to have a passport. I was about 16. My mother was travelling with me. I was a US citizen, she was a Canadian citizen with no legal status in the US. They hassled me hugely, asked her if she'd heard what they said to me, and then waved her through. Ah, pre-9/11 international travel! (Edit: and although I was a minor, there were no questions asked about my father or his awareness of our cross-border travels.)

Last edited by Dr. Drake; 01-14-2015 at 07:11 PM.
Old 01-14-2015, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
That's what I thought, but according to another thread - the fellow was born in USA, moved to Israel at age 1 and never owned a US passport - he was denied entry for a business trip because a US citizen cannot enter the USA on a foreign (i.e. Israeli) passport.
Quote:
Originally Posted by abderian View Post
On the other hand, there's this:

http://law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1185#b

8 U.S. Code 1185

(b) Citizens
Except as otherwise provided by the President and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may authorize and prescribe, it shall be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States unless he bears a valid United States passport.
And ultimately, it's going to be left to the border guard on the scene.

Many years ago, my American-born, Canadian-by-naturalization ex-wife found herself on a business trip to Vancouver BC. Not planning on being in Vancouver for more than three or four business days, all she had in terms of documentation, was her Canadian passport, which she always kept in her purse. The business trip had to go on longer than planned, however; and with a weekend at her disposal, she thought she might go to visit her sister in Seattle.

She drove down in her rental car, and presented her Canadian passport at the border. The US guard, seeing her place of birth was the US, gave her a stern lecture on how she really needed her US passport to enter the US--and it was stern; she said that all that was missing was the Stars and Stripes waving, while a bald eagle sheds a tear, all to the strains of "America the Beautiful" playing in the background. But in the end, her let her in.

Anecdotal only, but it does help add credence to the "it's ultimately up to the border guard at the scene" theory.
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