It has been well over a year since the onset of the pandemic changed the way we conduct business, socialize, and attach wearable accessories to our rear-view car mirrors to protect others in public forums. At a minimum, there has been a disruption to one’s “normal” lifestyle, and unfortunately for others, they’ve lost someone they love.
The travel industry was hit hard as many people put off their plans to see family and friends. Depending on the country, conflicting pandemic protocol made it challenging to ascertain the best avenue to attend a relatives wedding, be with a sick parent, or even go to a loved-one’s funeral. This article focuses on the current protocol in place when a U.S. resident intends to visit Canada. These circumstances are subject to change, as the situation at the border remains fluid.
Summary and Takeaways
While the threat of COVID-19 has diminished considerably, the virus and its variants remain a top health risk. If you plan to move to Canada, it is important to educate yourself about the country’s pandemic-era protocols before you head to the border. The regulations around the virus are subject to change, but for now you may assume that you’ll be subject to Canada’s Quarantine Act that requires you to provide certain health-related information and undergo a basic process for screening for common COVID-19 symptoms.
- The Quarantine Act calls for a mandatory 14-day isolation period for those exhibiting telltale symptoms of the virus.
- All travelers should obtain proof of a negative result from a Canada-approved COVID-19 test within 72 hours of your departure.
- Antigen tests are not an approved testing method, and there are currently no exemptions or exceptions made for those who are vaccinated.
- There are different protocols depending on whether you arrive by air or travel by land. For example, air travelers must only enter through Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, or Montreal.
- Prepare well in advance for adhering to the Quarantine Act protocols, to allow time to get your documents in order and check for any newly updated guidelines.
Are you eligible to enter Canada?
You have a right to enter Canada if you are a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, are allowed to travel to Canada only if they are eligible. The most common eligible reasons align with joining an immediate or extended family member of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who plans on staying in Canada longer than 15 days (after all, the minimum quarantine period is 14 days). For less common scenarios, visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/coronavirus-covid19/travel-restrictions-exemptions.html.
The Quarantine Act
If you enter Canada, you are subject to the emergency order Canada placed under the Quarantine Act. This applies to all travelers arriving in or returning to Canada. Its purpose is to slow the spread of COVID-19. Failure to comply with this order is an offense under the Quarantine Act. Whether arriving by air or land, you must provide necessary information and undergo a screening process by border services or quarantine officers to assess symptoms. If symptoms are present, there will be a mandatory 14-day isolation period. For travelers without symptoms, you must self-isolate for 14 days. There are separate protocols for arriving by air or land. Under the Quarantine Act there is no practical difference between a 14 day mandatory isolation and a 14 day self-isolation.
People who travel by air, regardless of citizenship, will need to follow testing and quarantine requirements to keep Canadians safe, particularly given the new COVID-19 variants in Canada and around the world. At this time, you may only enter Canada through Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, or Montreal if traveling by air. Furthermore, you will need to monitor the following protocol:
- Before you travel
- Create and assess your quarantine plan prior to travel.
- Obtain documentary proof of an acceptable (not an antigen test) pre-entry COVID test with a negative result within 72 hours of scheduled departure. See “Accepted types of tests” on this website: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/flying-canada-checklist/covid-19-testing-travellers-coming-into-canada. Be ready to present that document at the airport. If you had the virus, you may continue to test positive for a long time; in order to embark, you must provide proof of a POSITIVE result for a test taken in the 14 to 90 day window before the scheduled flight.
- Reserve your three-night hotel stopover. Furthermore, all costs associated with your hotel stay will be your responsibility.
- Via the ArriveCAN app, submit your travel and quarantine plans.
- Boarding your flight
- Have your ArriveCAN receipt and pre-entry test results ready to provide to the airline.
- Check the requirements for boarding a flight to Canada.
- Arriving in Canada
- Have your ArriveCAN receipt, test results, hotel confirmation, and quarantine plans ready for assessment by a Border Services Officer.
- Take a Covid-19 test on arrival at the airport.
- Go straight to your pre-booked hotel for up to three nights to await results from your arrival test.
- Completing your hotel stopover
- The timing of your departure from the hotel will hinge upon the results of the arrival test taken at the airport.
- If results are negative, you will continue on to your final destination where you will serve the rest of your quarantine period.
- If results are positive, stay in your room until you receive a phone call from a Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) representative for further instructions. PHAC makes no promises as to when you will receive that call. There is anecdotal evidence that if you have no symptoms you will remain in the hotel, at your expense, and continue taking tests periodically until one comes back negative. There is other anecdotal evidence that you would be moved to another (less pleasant) location for a thorough medical review.
- Completing your full quarantine
- You must follow specific protocol to get from the hotel to your quarantine destination venue.
- On day 10 of your 14-day quarantine, you will be required to take another test. You must stay in your place of quarantine while you await the results from this test.
- If test results are negative, you may leave your place of quarantine after Day 14.
- If test results are positive, you must isolate yourself for 14 days beginning on the day you took the test. A PHAC representative will call you.
Note: For complete Quarantine protocol and requirements necessary to fly back to Canada, visit: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/flying-canada-checklist and read through all steps.
Although arriving by land still requires careful planning, you would forego the need to stay in an approved hotel location while you await results of your COVID test taken at an airport (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto & Montreal). You would still need to abide by the following protocol with a land port of entry:
- Before you travel
- Create and assess your quarantine plan prior to travel.
- Obtain and receive proof of an acceptable pre-entry COVID test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival into Canada (cannot be an antigen test). Or if you recovered from the virus and continue testing positive, you must provide proof of a POSITIVE Covid molecular test conducted in the 14 to 90 day window prior to the date you seek to enter Canada.
- Use the ArriveCAN app to submit your travel and quarantine plans.
- Arriving in Canada at a land border crossing
- Have your ArriveCAN receipt, test results, and quarantine plans ready for assessment by a Border Services Officer
- Receive your arrival and Day-10 COVID test kits.
- Complete your arrival test at the border if testing stations are available on site.
- Follow the instructions for driving to your place of quarantine.
- Must wear a mask and social distance at all times.
- Avoid stops and contacts with others.
- Use and remain in a private vehicle where possible.
- Pay at the pump for gas and use drive through when you need food.
- Sanitize hands frequently and avoid touching surfaces.
- At your quarantine site:
- Register your kit by phone or online according to the instructions in the kit.
- Setup an online appointment with a health care professional who will guide you through the testing procedure to make sure you do it correctly.
- Follow the instructions in the kit to arrange for pickup of your sample for delivery to the laboratory.
- Even if you get a negative result, you must remain in quarantine for the full 14 days.
- If you test positive, you must self-isolate for 14 days beginning with the day you took the test. A PHAC representative will call you with further instructions.
- On Day 10 of your quarantine, take the second test following instructions provided with the kit. The same rules regarding positive and negative results apply.
- Completing your mandatory quarantine
- Your quarantine begins on the day you arrive in Canada.
- Your quarantine ends 14 full days later assuming you have received your negative Day-10 COVID test result.
- If you begin to show signs or symptoms within the 14 day period, an additional 14 days of isolation is necessary.
- Use the ArriveCAN app to check in and report daily.
Note: There are no exemptions for vaccinated travelers, at this time. For complete Quarantine protocol requirements for a land crossing, visit: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/driving-canada-checklist and read through all steps.
Note that PHAC is aware that erroneous test results happen and that there are faulty test kits. No system is perfect. If you test positive, you have no symptoms, and you believe there has been a mistake, then explain your position to the PHAC representative when he/she calls in response to the positive result. You are your own best advocate.
In conclusion, if a visit or move to Canada is imminent, prepare yourself for protocols at the Canadian border well in advance. As these procedures are constantly in motion, contact Cardinal Point for further information regarding your cross-border wealth management and lifestyle endeavors.