To reduce the risk that international travel will lead to new COVID-19 outbreaks, the Government of Canada has implemented a series of measures, in effect as of February 21, 2021, that apply to entry into Canada at airports and land border crossings (including by Canadian citizens). The regulations are complex and require the vast majority of travellers to undertake a 14-day quarantine.

Work-related exemptions to the requirements described below are available for many of those who are involved in cross-border provision of essential services or who regularly cross the Canada-U.S. border in the course of their employment. Because these exemptions are narrowly defined, the relevant regulations should be carefully reviewed with professional advisors before reliance is placed on them.

Please note that vaccination and/or having recovered from a COVID-19 infection do not affect the requirements set out below. It is also important to note that provincial and territorial requirements may add to the federal requirements described in this post. For complete and updated information, be sure to check the Government of Canada’s website.

Arrivals by Air

Air arrivals, including charters, are limited to the four major international airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montréal. Cargo flights are not subject to this restriction.

Testing requirements

Air travellers continue to require proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken no longer than 72 hours before their scheduled departure time. Antibody tests are not accepted.

The new measures also require travellers:

  • to take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival in Canada; and
  • to take another COVID-19 molecular test on Day 10 of their 14-day quarantine.

For the Day 10 test, travellers will be provided with a COVID-19 test kit and instructions before leaving the airport.

Note that international travellers transiting through a Canadian airport by air, without leaving the airport’s secure area, will generally not require testing if they follow the required protocols.

Quarantining: in the hotel and afterward

Travellers flying into Canada, unless exempt (which is in very rare circumstances), are required to stay in a government-authorized hotel while awaiting the results of the COVID-19 molecular test taken on arrival. Travellers will be responsible for paying the cost of the hotel stay, as well as all associated costs for food during their stay and transportation to and from the hotel. Travellers must reserve and pre-pay for their accommodation through the ArriveCAN app.

Making a reservation

Click here for a list of the Government authorized hotels and for more information on how to reserve a room. Note that the travellers should only call if they are prepared to make a reservation, not for informational purposes. There can be significant delays in getting through to the reservation system.

The rest of the quarantine

After the mandatory hotel stopover, travellers are still required to carry out the balance of their 14-day mandatory quarantine at their destination (place of residence or place that they are visiting).

Arrivals by Land

While ports of entry on the Canada-U.S. border remain open, staffing and opening hours have been reduced at most of the smaller ports of entry in Québec, New Brunswick and western Canada.

Testing requirements

The negative test requirement now also applies to travellers entering by land. Those entering at a land border will need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test result taken in the United States within 72 hours before entry into Canada. While there is no requirement to quarantine at a hotel, travellers entering Canada at land borders are required:

  • to take a test using a self-swab kit at a border testing site (where available) or at the traveller’s quarantine location; and
  • to take a test on Day 10 of their 14-day quarantine.

The required testing kits will be available at the border. As of March 4, 2021, testing sites will be established at many, but not all, major border crossings. Registration is required.

Travelling Between Alaska and the Lower 48

Vehicular travel between Alaska and the Lower 48 states via Canada continues to be permitted where it is necessary. Strict conditions apply and entry from the south must be through one of five specially designated ports of entry in western Canada.

Penalties

These new travel measures have significant sanctions if not followed. Specifically, a violation of these new travel measures could lead to one or both of the following:

  • a fine of up to $750,000;
  • up to 6 months in prison.

Moreover, if a traveller breaks the mandatory quarantine or isolation requirements, and causes the death of, or serious bodily harm to, another person, he or she could face one or both of the following:

  • a fine of up to $1,000,000;
  • up to 3 years in prison.

Online Tool

The Government has published an online tool for determining eligibility to enter Canada. As the website notes, the tool may not capture all nuances of a particular situation and is for informational purposes only.