Adjustments to Canada’s border and travel measures


November 19, 2021

Today, the Government of Canada announced upcoming adjustments to Canada’s border measures. This backgrounder provides additional context to support travellers in understanding COVID-19 testing and vaccine requirements, as well as other border measures, which are an important part of Canada’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and serve to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.

Eliminating COVID-19 testing for air and land crossings of less than 72 hours

Effective November 30, 2021, fully vaccinated individuals with right of entry to Canada, who depart and re-enter the country within 72 hours of leaving Canada are exempt from providing a pre-entry COVID-19 molecular test result. This exemption is only for trips originating in Canada taken by fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents or individuals registered under the Indian Act, who depart and re-enter by land or by air and can demonstrate they have been away from Canada for less than 72 hours.

The exemption will also apply to:

  • people with medical contraindications as defined in the Orders in Council (OIC); and
  • unvaccinated children under 12 who are accompanying their parent, step-parent, guardian or tutor. The accompanying adult must be fully vaccinated (or have a contraindication) and have right of entry into Canada.

For fully vaccinated travellers with right of entry into Canada who are travelling by air, the 72-hour period runs from the initially scheduled departure time for their flight leaving Canada to the scheduled departure time for their return flight to Canada. Travellers will be responsible for maintaining proof of the 72-hour period to show airline/rail companies and border officials as required (e.g., boarding pass, travel itinerary).

Expanded list of accepted vaccines for the purpose of travel

Effective November 30, 2021, the Government of Canada will expand its list of accepted vaccines for the purposes of entry into Canada and exemption from some testing and quarantine requirements. The list will include Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN, matching the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Use Listing (EUL).

The EUL is an internationally recognized process to assess vaccines within an existing regulatory structure. The WHO uses the EUL to accelerate the availability of medical products needed in public health emergency situations. The process is based on an expert review of available data on the quality, safety, and efficacy/immunogenicity/performance of each individual product. The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) also leverages the WHO EUL for its COVID-19 vaccine portfolio.

To be considered fully vaccinated, a traveller must have received the full series of a vaccine—or combination of vaccines—accepted by the Government of Canada at least 14 days prior to entering Canada. Travellers can receive their vaccine in any country, and must upload their proof of vaccination in English or French into ArriveCAN when travelling to Canada. If the proof of vaccination is not in English or French, travellers must provide a certified translation in English or French. Travellers must bring proof with them when they travel that includes text with the vaccinations and dates received. Travellers must also comply with all other measures under the OICs, including pre-entry testing (unless exempt) and a suitable quarantine plan. Where available, Canadians are strongly encouraged to use the Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination.

The expanded list of COVID-19 vaccines and the definition of what is considered fully vaccinated will also be applied to the national vaccination requirements for the federally regulated transportation sectors.

Entry Requirements: Adjustments for certain travellers entering Canada

As of January 15, 2022, certain groups of travellers, who are currently exempt from entry requirements, will only be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved for entry into Canada. These groups include:

  • Individuals travelling to reunite with family (unless they are under 18 years of age if travelling to reunite with an immediate or extended family member who is either fully vaccinated or a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person registered under the Indian Act.)
  • International students (18 years of age and over)
    • Fully vaccinated students will be allowed to attend any provincially or territorially designated learning institution in Canada.
    • Unvaccinated students under the age of 18 must attend a designated learning institution with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by the province or territory where the school is located.
  • Professional athletes and their support staff, and amateur athletes.
  • Individuals with a valid work permit, including temporary foreign workers, outside of agricultural and food processing.
  • Most essential service providers (including truck drivers, emergency service providers and marine researchers).

As of November 30, 2021, travellers need to be fully vaccinated to travel within Canada with very few exceptions. There is a limited period, until January 14, 2022, during which individuals in specified exempt groups can continue to enter the country if unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, as well as take a connecting flight to their final destination that is scheduled to depart within 24 hours of the departure time of their flight to enter Canada. However, if they remain unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, they will not be allowed to take a plane or train beyond their original connection, except to depart Canada before February 28, 2022. As such, all travellers are strongly advised to make plans to get vaccinated as soon as they can, in order to travel freely in and outside the country.

On January 15, 2022, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers will only be allowed to enter Canada if they meet one of the limited exceptions, including:

  • agricultural and food processing workers;
  • foreign marine crew members;
  • those entering on compassionate grounds;
  • new permanent residents;
  • newly resettled refugees;
  • children under the age of 18 who are currently exempt from the travel restrictions, including international students who are studying at a designated learning institution that has a COVID-19 readiness plan; those travelling with a parent, step-parent, tutor or guardian who is either fully vaccinated, or a Canadian citizen, permanent resident of Canada or person registered under the Indian Act; and those travelling to reunite with immediate or extended Canadian family members in Canada; and
  • national interest exemptions.

Unvaccinated children under the age of 12 who are travelling with fully vaccinated adults do not need to quarantine BUT must follow public measures:

  • For 14 days after arrival the child MUST NOT:
    • Attend school, camp or day care.
    • Attend a setting where they may have contact with vulnerable people (e.g., long term care facility), including people who are immunocompromised, regardless of that person’s vaccination status or public health measures.
    • Travel on crowded public transportation that does not ensure physical distancing and masking.
    • Attend large crowded settings, indoors or outdoors, such as an amusement park or sporting event.
  • In addition, the child must take COVID-19 molecular tests as instructed, unless their parent, step-parent, tutor or guardian has evidence that the child had a positive COVID-19 test taken 10 to 180 days prior to arrival in Canada or the child is under 5 years of age.

Unless exempt, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers eligible to enter Canada will be required to:

  • have proof of a negative molecular pre-entry test taken no more than 72 hours before their flight’s initial scheduled departure time or arrival at the land border, or a previous positive COVID-19 molecular test taken within 10 and 180 days before arrival;
  • complete arrival (day 1) and post-arrival (day 8) testing;
  • quarantine for 14 days in a suitable place; and
  • submit all of the information above in ArriveCAN via the free mobile app or website.

ArriveCAN: New requirements for essential travellers

As of November 30, 2021, all exempt essential service providers will be required to identify their vaccination status in ArriveCAN, regardless of whether or not they are allowed to enter as unvaccinated. ArriveCAN will prompt them to provide details on their vaccine(s), including manufacturer, country received and date received, and to upload their proof of vaccination.

Exempt essential travellers include those travelling as/for:

  • most essential service providers (including most temporary foreign workers, emergency service providers and marine researchers);
  • cross-border work (e.g., you regularly cross the border to work);
  • medical and health care support (e.g., health care practitioner, to receive medical care, or to transport medical equipment or supplies);
  • trade and transport (e.g., truck driver or crew member on any aircraft, shipping vessel, or train); and
  • people who live in integrated trans-border communities.

If an exempt essential traveller previously created a reusable ArriveCAN receipt, they will be required to either download the latest version of the free ArriveCAN mobile app or sign in to the web version after November 30, 2021, and re-submit all of their information, including the newly required information on proof of vaccinations, to get a new exempt reusable ArriveCAN receipt. Once an exempt traveller creates a new reusable receipt, the receipt can be used for subsequent trips.

Until January 15, 2022, if an exempt essential traveller is not vaccinated, they will still be able to get an ArriveCAN receipt. After January 15, 2022, they must be fully vaccinated to get an ArriveCAN receipt. As of this date, most travellers who are currently exempt from quarantine will need to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada. They will also be required to upload their proof of vaccination in ArriveCAN.

Mandatory vaccination for federally regulated transportation sectors

As announced on August 13, 2021, travellers in the federally regulated air and rail sectors will need to be vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine accepted by the Government of Canada for the purpose of travel. After extensive consultations, Transport Canada issued orders and guidance to airlines and railways to implement the vaccination requirements for travellers, which came into effect at 3 AM (EDT) October 30, 2021.

The vaccination requirements apply to all travellers, 12 years of age plus four months, who are:

  • Air passengers flying on domestic, trans-border or international flights departing from most airports in Canada; and
  • Rail passengers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains.

As of November 30, 2021, a valid COVID-19 test will no longer be accepted as an alternative to vaccination for travel within Canada. To take a flight or a train, travellers must be fully vaccinated with one of the expanded list of vaccinations unless they qualify for a limited exemption to this requirement. These include:

  • Medical inability to be vaccinated;
  • Essential or urgent medical services and treatment;
  • Sincere religious beliefs;
  • Emergency travel; and
  • Other travel in the national interest.

For domestic and outbound travel, airlines and railways will administer the process for considering a traveller’s medical inability to be vaccinated, essential medical services and treatment, sincere religious beliefs, and emergency/urgent travel (including for urgent medical reasons). Travellers who think they may be eligible for one of these exemptions should contact their airline or railway company to obtain the necessary form and submit it in accordance with their carrier’s approval process (forms available starting November 30, 2021).

Transport Canada will administer exemptions for other domestic and outbound travel in the national interest. Travellers granted an exemption will need to have a valid COVID-19 molecular test, taken no more than 72 hours before boarding a regulated flight or train. Travellers will be able to submit applications under the domestic National Interest Exemption Program starting November 30.

Airlines and railways will continue to be responsible for confirming the vaccination status of travellers. In the aviation mode, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) will also support operators by confirming vaccination status.

This vaccination requirement continues to include specific accommodation to recognize the unique needs of travellers from small, remote communities (some of which are not accessible by road) to ensure they will be able to travel to obtain essential services in support of their medical, health, or social well-being, and return safely to their homes. The specific requirements for these communities will continue to evolve based on engagement with Indigenous organizations and provinces and territories in the coming weeks.

Transport Canada continues to work with the cruise ship industry, and other domestic and international partners, to permit the safe re-opening of Canada to cruise ship travel in spring 2022, including the specific vaccination requirements for cruise ship passengers, and other health protocols. Additional information will be available in the coming weeks.

The Government of Canada will continue to engage with key stakeholders, employers, airlines and railways, bargaining agents, Indigenous Peoples, local authorities, and provinces and territories to support the implementation of the vaccination requirement.

For travellers entering Canada: While Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and persons registered under the Indian Act will still be able to enter Canada if they are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, they will not be permitted to travel beyond their point of entry within Canada on a connecting flight or by rail. These travellers should plan their return accordingly by selecting a Canadian airport that is closest to their final destination, and expect to be subject to testing and quarantine.

After January 15, 2022, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated agricultural and agri-food workers, new permanent residents, and some children under the age of 18 will still be allowed to travel onward domestically to get established in Canada, but will also continue to be subject to testing and quarantine. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated resettled refugees will continue to be allowed to enter Canada and stringent health and safety protocols remain in place.

Foreign nationals who reside in Canada temporarily, and who entered Canada as unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, will be allowed to leave the country without being fully vaccinated up until February 28, 2022. After that time, foreign nationals will need to be fully vaccinated to board a flight or train in Canada.

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