With the winter holidays coming soon, many Canadians will be travelling south across the border in order to visit friends and family in the next few months. It is no secret that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration regulations have been changing rapidly. Canadians have often been caught off guard by these regulation changes, as they update quickly, and are left to suffer the consequences, such as not being allowed to travel, quarantine upon return to Canada, or fines for failing to follow the new rules.
An example of the new rules causing issues for Canadians came recently from British Columbia. Due to the recent floods in British Columbia, Canadians who live in border towns were travelling to the United States in order to buy food, medicine and gasoline that was unavailable because of the floods. Upon return to Canada, the travellers were fined by the Canadian Border Services Agencies for not presenting a negative PCR test when returning from the United States. The fines came despite a supposed exception for Canadians in border towns who were crossing the border to pick up essential supplies. Although the fines have supposedly been rescinded, this incident is just one example of how Canadians have been fined since the beginning of the pandemic era travel rules. With the rules set to change again on November 30 and in January, it is vital to stay up-to-date to avoid issues at the border.
As of November 30, the rules for travelling are set to change again for Canadians. As of November 30, vaccination will be required for travel within and out of Canada. Starting on that date, COVID-19 molecular tests will not be accepted as alternatives to vaccination, unless the traveller is eligible for one of the limited exceptions, such as a medical inability to be vaccinated. The government recommends the traveller obtain and submit the exemption form with their airline prior to travel. Vaccination will be required for travel, and accordingly, the Canadian government updated the list of vaccines it will approve for travellers to be considered fully vaccinated. Prior to November 30, the Canadian government recognized the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for being fully vaccinated, provided that the traveller had received the correct doses of each vaccine. Starting on November 30, the Bharat Biotech Covacin, Sinopharm and Sinovac CoronaVac vaccines will be accepted by the government of Canada for travel. If you have one of the newly approved vaccines and are planning to travel to Canada after November 30, you should be allowed to enter.
There is a further policy change coming on November 30 that will be appreciated by Canadians. Starting on that date, fully vaccinated individuals with the right to enter Canada who depart and then re-enter Canada within 72 hours of leaving Canada will not have to present a pre-entry molecular test. This exception only applies to Canadian citizens, permanent residents and individuals registered under the Indian Act who depart and re-enter by land or by air and can demonstrate that they have been away from Canada for less than 72 hours. This new exemption extends to children who accompany the traveller who are under 12 years old. This policy change will have a positive impact on a large number of Canadians, as most trips by Canadians to the United States are day trips and the testing policy was effectively discouraging travel. Now, Canadians can visit the United States for short periods of time without having to take a COVID test in order to return to Canada.
The changes enacted on November 30 come with some exceptions that will last until January 14, 2022. During this period, individuals in specified exempt groups can continue to enter Canada if they are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. Currently, the exemptions include individuals who are travelling to reunite with family, International students, professional athletes and their support staff, amateur athletes, individuals with a valid work permit (including temporary foreign workers, excluding agricultural and food processing), and most essential service providers. This means that if you fall in this category, you should be able to enter Canada without being fully vaccinated until January 14, 2022, when the exemption ends.
Following the January 14 deadline, there will still be some limited exceptions as to who can enter Canada without being fully vaccinated. 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 you fall under one of these exceptions, you should be able to travel to Canada without being fully vaccinated after January 14, provided you have the right documentation.
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. If you have any questions about your potential classification or about how you should comply with the changing travel regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.
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