The story of Emily Nield, a Canadian woman who was arrested for driving without a licence in the U.S. despite having a valid Ontario driver's licence, has raised an important question regarding travel in the U.S. by road — are Canadian drivers licences valid in all U.S. states?
The simple answer is yes, Canadians are free to drive "pretty much anywhere in the U.S." with a valid Canadian driver's licence, according to CAA. Nield's experience was just an odd case where the local authorities were ignorant of the law and did not follow proper protocol. Hopefully, U.S. police are more competent in actuality.
But even if they are, there are still some important technicalities that Canadians must keep in mind when driving in the U.S., especially in this day and age of heightened security. For one, Canadians are required by law to keep all of their travel documents with them at all times while in the U.S. This includes not only one's valid driver's licence, but one's passport or visa as well.
Most Canadians travelling in the U.S. leave their passport in their hotel room safes and only carry around their driver's licences with them while they're out and about. Usually this is fine, but in the event that you are stopped by local authorities, you will likely be required to provide your Canadian passport to verify your identity.
According to Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Canadians caught driving without their passport and related documents could face a $100 fine and up to 30 days in jail. In most cases, U.S. police don't enforce this archaic law, but given Nield's nightmare incident, it's better to be safe than sorry.
"As an added layer of security and peace of mind, if you are travelling and driving in the U.S., it is best to keep paper copies of other identification such as a passport or an IDP," said CAA.