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New COVID-19 travel & quarantine requirements

Brendan Sheridan

Canada has continually claimed to be one of the countries with the toughest COVID-19 related travel and quarantine requirements. In response to the new COVID-19 variants emerging in the UK and South Africa, the federal government has recently taken steps to make these requirements even stricter. In addition to reemphasizing to Canadian residents that now is not the time to travel, the federal government has implemented additional requirements related to entering and quarantining in Canada.

These new measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Canada are discussed below. There are limited exemptions to the COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements – please contact Stewart McKelvey to discuss your ability to qualify for one of these exemption.

Entering via land border

Pre-travel COVID-19 testing for land border entry

While there has been a pre-travel COVID-19 testing requirement in effect for individuals flying to Canada since January 2021, this requirement has recently been adopted for individuals entering Canada via land borders as well.

The land border COVID-19 testing requirement is similar to the requirement implemented for individuals flying to Canada. Specifically, all individuals five years of age or older that are travelling to Canada will now need to show results of a molecular COVID-19 test to enter Canada. The results of this molecular COVID-19 test must either show a negative result for a COVID-19 molecular test that was performed in the United States on a specimen collected no more than 72 hours before entering Canada, or a positive result for the test that was performed either in or outside of the United States on a specimen collected at least 14 days and no more than 90 days before entering Canada.

Please note that the type of test and the contents of the test results must meet the federal government’s requirements. The test results must be from an acceptable molecular test (ex: PCR or RT-LAMP tests), and cannot be from antigen test. A full list of acceptable tests can be found on the Government of Canada’s website.

The government is requesting that travellers make best efforts to have their test performed at a reputable laboratory or testing facility (i.e., one recognized by the local government or accredited by a third party, such as a professional organization or international standards organization), but specifically requires the following information to be included in the laboratory test results:

  • Traveller name and date of birth;
  • Name and civic address of the laboratory/clinic/facility that administered the test;
  • The date on which the test was conducted;
  • The method of test conducted (PCR or LAMP); and
  • The test result.

Each traveller must have evidence of this test result when entering Canada unless exempted. There are a few narrow exemptions to this requirement, including but not limited to:

  • Anyone under five years of age;
  • Certain crew members;
  • Emergency service providers;
  • Technical stops/flights refueling;
  • Certain individuals who are considered to be providing an essential service in the Chief Public Health Officer’s opinion or those whose presence in Canada, as determined by the Minister of Health, is in the national interest; and
  • Certain government officials and similar.

If the traveller is not exempt from this requirement and they do not have a test then they could be refused entry, in the case of a foreign national, or fined up to $3,000 and face criminal prosecution, in the case of a citizen or permanent resident.

Pre-travel – quarantine plan

Prior to travelling to Canada each individual must prepare a plan for their mandatory quarantine and provide this information directly to the Government of Canada through ArriveCAN. There are limited exemptions from the mandatory quarantine requirement, but these individuals must still upload their contact information to ArriveCAN as well track any individuals (names and contact information) who they came into contact with during the first 14 days in Canada and all locations visited.

It is important that travellers who are not exempt from the quarantine requirement have this quarantine plan prepared prior to travelling to Canada or they could be refused entry or forced to complete the full 14 day quarantine period in a federally-designated quarantine facility. Individuals who are exempt from the quarantine plan should have proof that they are exempted from the mandatory quarantine.

When preparing the quarantine plan you will need to determine a number of factors including the address where you will be completing your quarantine, whether you will be able to access the necessities of life (ex: food, water, medication), whether you will be able to avoid contact with other individuals including those who are considered to be vulnerable individuals (65 years or older, underlying medical conditions, compromised immune system) unless they consent and whether you will quarantine in a group living environment among others. This information along with your contact information, date of arrival, port of entry of arrival, purpose of travel and whether you are experiencing symptoms must be provided to the Government of Canada through the ArriveCAN system. All individuals entering Canada should have proof of submitting this information to the ArriveCAN system prior to travelling to Canada. The Government of Canada has provided detailed instructions on the ArriveCAN process on their website.

There are also limited exemptions to the quarantine requirement. These include, but are not limited to:

  • individuals, who in the Chief Public Health Officer’s opinion, are entering Canada to provide an essential service;
  • individuals who are essential to maintaining the flow of essential goods and people;
  • individuals who regularly cross the border to work or study;
  • individuals entering Canada to become a member of a crew on a marine vessel; or
  • individuals who live in an integrated border community among other exemptions.

While these exemptions are available, their application is fact-specific and are only applicable to select purposes of entry to Canada.

On arrival testing

In addition to the COVID-19 test that needs to be conducted prior entry to Canada, travellers entering Canada will now need to conduct a COVID-19 test on arrival to the country. The travellers will be provided with two COVID-19 collection kits, one to be used on the day they arrive in Canada and a second kit to use on day 10 of the 14 day quarantine. While there are some land ports of entry providing onsite testing stations, not all ports of entry will be providing these services. Instead, if you enter through a port of entry that does not provide these onsite testing services, the officers will be providing instructions on how to collect a nasal swab and how to send the sample for testing which you would need to follow when you arrive at your place of quarantine.

Travel to quarantine

Unlike arriving in Canada by aircraft, there is no requirement that individuals entering Canada by a land border need to stay in a government-approved hotel for three days. Travellers entering by land border can instead travel directly and without delay to their place of quarantine.

When travelling to your place of quarantine after entering Canada it is recommended that you use a private vehicle, remain in the vehicle as much as possible, and pay at the pump and use drive-throughs when necessary. Travellers cannot stop at stores to get supplies prior to arriving at their place of quarantine.

After entering Canada and arriving at their place of quarantine, all travellers must confirm arrival at the address provided for quarantine or isolation within 48 hours of entering the country. They also must complete daily COVID-19 symptom self-assessments for the duration of the quarantine/isolation period. ArriveCAN is also used to submit this information.

The only exception to these post-entry reporting requirements is for those who are exempt from the quarantine requirements.

Entering via aircraft

Pre-travel testing

As noted above, all individuals five years of age or older that are travelling to Canada will need to show results of a molecular COVID-19 test to enter Canada. The results of this molecular COVID-19 test must either show a negative result for a COVID-19 molecular test that was conducted on a specimen collected no more than 72 hours before the scheduled flight departure time of the flight landing in Canada or a positive result for the test that was performed on a specimen collected at least 14 days and no more than 90 days before entering Canada.

Please see the remaining requirements of the pre-travel COVID-19 test and exemptions above in the Pre-travel COVID-19 testing for land border entry section.

Pre-travel quarantine plan

As noted earlier in the Entering via land border section, prior to travelling to Canada each individual must prepare a plan for their mandatory 14-day quarantine, and provide this information directly to the Government of Canada through ArriveCAN as well as have proof that they have booked and prepaid for the three day mandatory hotel accommodations. There are limited exemptions from the mandatory quarantine requirement, but these individuals must still upload their contact information to ArriveCAN as well track any individuals (names and contact information) who they came into contact with during the first 14 days in Canada and all locations visited.

It is important that travellers who are not exempt from the quarantine requirement have this quarantine plan prepared prior to travelling to Canada or they could be refused entry or forced to complete the full 14 day quarantine period in a federally-designated quarantine facility. Individuals who are exempt from the quarantine plan should have proof that they are exempted from the mandatory quarantine requirement.

In addition to preparing the quarantine plan, everyone entering Canada by aircraft (and who does not have signs and symptoms of COVID-19) must quarantine themselves without delay at a government-authorized hotel, and remain there until they receive a result from their on-arrival in-Canada COVID-19 molecular test mentioned above. As noted, everyone entering Canada by air is required to show evidence of prepaid accommodation that will allow them to stay at one of these government-authorized hotels for a three-day period that begins on the day they enter Canada. The booking reference number for the three-night stay will be submitted using ArriveCAN, as discussed below.

Unaccompanied minors, unaccompanied dependent children, and those already exempt from the requirement to undergo post-arrival testing (which includes those exempt from the quarantine requirement), are exempt from this hotel stay requirement.

When preparing the quarantine plan you will need to determine all of the same information as mentioned in the above Entering via land border section. This information along with your contact information, date of arrival, port of entry of arrival, flight number, purpose of travel, proof of your three-night reservation at a government-authorized hotel, and whether you are experiencing symptoms must be provided to the Government of Canada through the ArriveCAN system. All individuals entering Canada should have proof of submitting this information to the ArriveCan system prior to travelling to Canada. The Government of Canada has provided detailed instructions on the ArriveCAN process on their website.

There are also limited exemptions to the quarantine requirement. These include:

  • individuals, who in the Chief Public Health Officer’s opinion, are entering Canada to provide an essential service;
  • individuals who are essential to maintaining the flow of essential goods and people;
  • individuals who regularly cross the border to work or study; or
  • individuals entering Canada to become a member of a crew on a marine vessel among other exemptions.

While these exemptions are available, their application is fact-specific and are only applicable to select purposes of entry to Canada.

Arrival requirements

As discussed above, travellers entering Canada will now need to conduct a COVID-19 test on arrival to the country. This is in addition to providing proof of having completed a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travelling to Canada. After arriving in Canada, each traveller will be required to undergo COVID-19 test before leaving the airport. Each traveller will also be provided with a COVID-19 collection kit to be used on day 10 of the 14-day quarantine.

After undergoing the COVID-19 test on arrival, each traveller will then need to immediately proceed to their government-approved reserved hotel to await their test results.

There are several exemptions to undergoing the COVID-19 test on arrival including, but not limited to:

  • Individuals who have proof to show they had a positive COVID-19 test taken between 14-90 days before travel;
  • Children who are four years of age or younger;
  • Diplomats and diplomatic or consular couriers;
  • Individuals in extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances set out in the Quarantine Order;
  • Travellers who are exempt from the quarantine requirement.

Each traveller will also need to provide proof of their prepaid booking at one of the government-approved hotels located at their port of entry when entering Canada, in addition to providing this evidence through their ArriveCAN submission, unless exempt.

The traveller is responsible for the cost of the hotel stay and all associated costs including food, security, transportation and infection prevention and control measures.

Within 48 hours of arriving in Canada, all travellers must confirm their arrival at their place of quarantine or government-authorized hotel. They also must complete daily COVID-19 symptom self-assessments for the duration of the quarantine/isolation period. ArriveCAN is also used to submit this information.

Quarantine

As noted, travellers arriving by aircraft to Canada will be expected to remain in a government-approved hotel for three days, unless exempt, while awaiting the test results of the COVID-19 test conducted on arrival. Those who receive a negative result before the three-day period ends will be allowed to proceed to a suitable secondary location for the remainder of their 14-day quarantine period. At this point, the traveller would be able to connect through to their destination city where they plan to complete their quarantine period, if they wear mask and practice physical distancing at all times, and if they travel by the most reasonable route. If a result has not been received by the end of the three-day period, the traveller may need to remain in the approved hotel for an extended period.

Depending on the individual’s province of final destination, the individual may simply need to complete the remaining days of their federal 14 day quarantine after the hotel stay, or may also be subject to a provincial quarantine requirement. For example, an individual who arrives in Toronto, Ontario and is travelling to Ottawa, Ontario will only need to complete the remaining days of their federal quarantine requirement, while an individual travelling to Nova Scotia will also be subject to the 14 day provincial quarantine which will in essence extend the quarantine period for this individual.

On day 10 of the quarantine, the traveller will need to complete the COVID-19 test referenced above. This individual should also be continuing to complete the daily check-ins through ArriveCAN.

Conclusion

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Government of Canada has adopted more stringent COVID-19 quarantine and testing-related requirements for each individual entering Canada. Due to the steps that each traveller must take before travelling to Canada, it is vital that you remain up to date on what is required and expected of you.


This update is intended for general information only. If you have questions about the above, please contact a member of our Immigration group.

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