As part of the rapidly changing travel regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, some Canadian travel regulations changed on January 15 as part of a planned regulation change from November. Now, fewer foreign nationals will be able to enter Canada if they are unvaccinated as some of the previously existing exemptions have been removed. The new regulations may create issues for those who were previously classified as essential and were allowed to cross the border regardless of vaccination status, as now some of those people will be deemed inadmissible unless they fit into a narrow group of exceptions.
The previous exemptions included exemptions for foreign nationals who were travelling to reunite with family, international students, professional athletes and their support staff, amateur athletes, individuals with a valid work permit (including most temporary foreign workers), and most essential service providers. Now, foreign nationals trying to enter Canada under these categories will need to be fully vaccinated in order to enter Canada.
There are some limited exceptions to the new regulations that allow certain foreign nationals who are not fully vaccinated to still enter Canada after the January 15 changes. These exceptions include 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 and national interest exemptions. If a foreign national falls under one of these grounds and is trying to enter Canada, they should be allowed to enter under the new regulation changes.
In anticipation of the regulations changing, there were rumblings from the Canadian Government in early January that international truckers would be exempt from the vaccine requirements that were mandated as part of the January 15 regulation changes. Shortly before the implementation of the changes, Canada Border Services Agency indicated that any reports that unvaccinated Canadian truckers would remain exempt from the quarantine rules were incorrect.
There are critics on both sides of the regulations, some arguing that the regulations should apply to truck drivers equally like they do to the rest of Canadians, and some arguing that truckers should continue to be exempt from the quarantine requirements.
Those who want the regulations to apply to truck drivers are worried that unvaccinated travel across the border could lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases while we are in the midst of one of the most severe case level loads since the beginning of the pandemic. There is also some concern about putting economics above public health if an exemption is created for truckers and the perception that Canadians will have regarding the exemption, considering the regulation change, which was made clear back in November.
Proponents of truck drivers receiving an exemption argue that their former status as essential should continue because of the supplies they bring into Canada. Further, there is some worry that a vaccine mandate for truckers would worsen supply chain issues and negatively impact the Canadian economy because of the reduced amount of truck drivers that will be available when the new regulations kick in. It is possible about 10% of Canadian truckers will be prevented from performing cross-border trips because of the new regulations. Some infectious disease specialists have found that a vaccine requirement for truckers would not make a large difference in the overall context of the pandemic.
Now, the Canadian Border Services Agency has clarified that not fully vaccinated non-Canadian truckers will be turned away at the border if they are unable to show proof of vaccination or a valid medical contraindication for the COVID-19 vaccines. Further, Canadian truckers will need to meet the requirements for pre-entry, arrival, and day eight testing as well as quarantine requirements if they are not vaccinated upon entry into Canada.
In December, the Canadian Government announced that there would be mandatory COVID-19 testing for all foreign air travellers coming into Canada aside from those coming from the United States. There has been pushback on this policy from the airlines, as Canada’s largest airlines and Pearson International Airport asked the federal government to drop the rule requiring vaccinated travellers to test upon arrival for COVID-19.
There has been pushback because the COVID-19 Omicron Variant has been pervasive throughout Canada and while a large number of COVID-19 tests are being used at the airports, some provinces have had to restrict the number of tests given to Canadians to those who are at a higher risk of being hospitalized or those who are in a setting where the virus could spread more quickly. Testing on arriving airline passengers yields around a 1% positive rate for COVID-19 as opposed to the 28% rate on domestic tests.
Many experts say the mandatory testing at airports adds little value in preventing the spread of the Omicron variant. Those who wish for the policy to be changed may have their wish come true, and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam indicated that the testing policy is going to be re-evaluated soon.
Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We successfully guide clients through the immigration process, with an eye toward the ever-changing regulations in light of COVID-19. We will work to find an effective solution for your individual immigration needs and ensure you are positioned for success with respect to your application.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration situation in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about whether you will be able to travel during these uncertain times, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.