As the summer wears on, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic along with it, we are starting to see additional impacts of the Canada-United States border closure. The border closure has been hard for people on both sides, with approximately 20% of Canadians reporting that they have experienced some form of hardship because of the closure. Those who reside and own businesses close to the border have also suffered, as they rely on cross-border traffic to provide them with revenue. With the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic lasting for a few years, it remains to be seen when the border will finally open.
From the date the border closed in late March until early August, approximately 13,000 would-be visitors to Canada have been denied entry by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Of the people denied entry, the majority were United States citizens, who comprised approximately 11,000 of the denied entries. The majority of those entered on land via car or train or over water, with a minority of the denials coming from air travel.
Although the border is closed to non-essential travel, many people are still trying to cross by misleading border officers. Canadians in British Columbia have reported seeing American boats in Canadian waters, defying the border closure. Some Americans have been attempting to enter Canada by using what is referred to as the “Alaska Loophole”.
The Alaska Loophole enables Americans to enter Canada by claiming they are travelling to Alaska, which requires travel through Canada. The Canadian Border Services Agency has recognized that this provision to allow Americans to drive through Canada to Alaska was being abused, so they have enacted regulations to help close the loophole. As of July 31, Canada has implemented restrictions on this loophole, to prevent abuse. The Canadian Border Services Agency in a press release stated:
“Stricter rules and additional entry conditions will be imposed on travellers transiting through Canada to Alaska for a non-discretionary purpose.”
The new Canadian Border Services Agency rules make it so that Americans looking to drive through Canada to Alaska can only cross the border through five designated border crossings. The allowed crossings are Abbotsford-Huntington, Kingsgate and Osoyoos, in B.C., Coutts in Alberta and North Portal in Saskatchewan. If you arrive at a different port of entry to those explicitly named to attempt to drive through Canada to Alaska, you will be denied entry.
Further, each in-transit foreign national will be allowed “a reasonable period of stay”, determined by the Canadian Border Services Agency within Canada in order to make their way to Alaska. However, travellers through Canada to Alaska will be required to take “the most direct route” to their final destination and are required to avoid all national parks, leisure sites and tourism activities en route. Travellers must also report to the Canadian Border Services Agency when they leave Canada. The final rule is that drivers will be given a tag for their car which must be attached to the rearview mirror for the entirety for their journey through Canada. The tag will include the date by which travellers must leave Canada. Failure to comply with the new rules can result in strict fines. The RCMP has been issuing tickets to American visitors who have strayed from the most direct route to Alaska in order to visit Canadian national parks, for example.
Some good news for Canadians looking to travel to Hawaii came on August 3 when it was announced that Canadians do not need to quarantine upon arrival to the state. As long as you can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival, Canadians will be allowed to skip the 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Hawaii. The negative test must have been obtained within 72 hours of arrival into the state. Flights from Canada to Hawaii are set to resume in early September. However, Canadians looking to take advantage of this change should keep in mind that they will still need to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to Canada.
It is important to remember that American rules on quarantining are set on a state-by-state basis, so if you are travelling to the United States, make sure to check the local regulations to ensure you are in compliance with the law.
If you are looking to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, make sure you stay updated on the rapidly developing situation, and make sure your travel qualifies as essential or you fit into one of the exemptions if you are looking to cross the border. If you need assistance do not hesitate to contact us.
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.