A few months ago, we wrote about the possibility that Canada would use vaccine passports in the future for international travel. At that time, Canada was talking with other countries about implementing some sort of vaccine passport system, but there was some domestic pushback that cited privacy concerns as a reason why vaccine passports should not be required.
However, this week the Canadian government, via Immigration Minister Mark Mendicino, announced that vaccine passports are coming, and vaccinated Canadians will be receiving them for international travel. Vaccine passports will be standardized across all provinces and will include the owner’s inoculation history, including:
Vaccine passports will be available to all citizens, permanent residents and temporary residents living in Canada who are vaccinated.
Vaccine passports will be available “early this fall” according to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc. In order for the federal government to create a federal vaccine database and eventually begin to deliver the passports, it will need to access the vaccine data from all of the provinces.
Standardized passports will likely make travel more simple for many Canadians. Currently, each provincial health ministry has issued receipts that can be printed on paper, making proof of vaccination relatively easy to lose, or even falsify. This has already proven to be an issue at the border, with two Canadians travelling from the U.S. recently facing steep fines for a variety of health violations, including providing forged evidence of vaccinations when travelling back to Canada.
Rather than just proof of vaccine, the vaccine passport will allow foreign border officials to see the holder’s vaccination history directly provided by the Canadian government. Vaccine passports will also make it easier for Canadians to avoid quarantine when crossing the border to return home.
In fact, the passport could not only help Canadians avoid quarantine, but also help some Canadians avoid costly fines, like the one levied against an Ontario man at the end of July. In this case, a man was fined because he could not access his negative COVID-19 test through his phone due to a forgotten password. In theory, it’s possible someone travelling with the paper receipt provided at the time of vaccination may lose the document or damage it, resulting in similar fines in order to cross back into Canada. The vaccine passport system will likely come with an easier-to-access app that will be more efficient for when Canadians are crossing the border. For Canadians without access to a mobile device, there will also be a physical version of the passport available.
Provinces are split on providing passports, as some have unequivocally stated that they will not issue passports to residents, while some provinces have begun the process of providing vaccination proof to their citizens. Some provinces, such as Quebec are developing their own version of a vaccine passport. In Quebec, the passport will be used to access non-essential services, such as gyms and restaurants. Quebec is following the lead of some European countries, like France, which started requiring proof of vaccination for access to certain public areas.
Every province can provide its citizens proof of vaccination, but the vaccine passport from the federal government will be the one used for international travel. In fact, the passport may also be put into use for domestic flights, as just today, the federal government announced that all commercial airline passengers and employees will require vaccines soon.
On August 9, Canada opened its border to tourists from the United States for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been no word from south of the border as to when Canadians will be able to travel to the United States for non-essential reasons as of yet, but there was an encouraging sign this week. The United States State Department lowered the COVID-19 travel advisory for Canada to “Level 2 Exercise Increased Caution”. The Center for Disease Control followed suit and also lowered its level of caution for travelling to Canada. While this does not necessarily mean that the United States will lift its border restrictions with Canada, it is encouraging that federal agencies are adjusting the risk level for travelling to Canada. With the border restrictions set to expire on August 21, make sure to stay updated if you are indeed planning to travel.
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 fallout 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 your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.
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