As we near the end of November, the many Canadians who are used to travelling to the warmer parts of the United States at this time of year have to make a decision as to whether or not to make the trip south for the winter. At this point, the Canadian-U.S. border is closed until at least December 21, and is likely to remain closed to non-essential travel well into the new year because of rising COVID-19 infections. Some may not realize that, despite the border being “closed”, Canadians are permitted to fly into the United States, even without essential status. Therefore, it is possible for Canadian snowbirds who travel to the United States every year to escape the winter to continue their tradition and make the trip south.

However, for those who are used to driving across the border to make use of their own car, trailer, or RV, there are options for them to be able to have their vehicle with them in the United States, despite not being able to cross the land border in their vehicle.

Snowbird Travel Expected to be Down Significantly This Year

According to a poll conducted among regular Canadian snowbird travellers in early November, only around 30% of snowbirds planned on moving ahead with their regular travel plans this winter. Of the remainder, 25% were still undecided, and nearly half of snowbirds had decided against travel.

When asked for their top reasons for rejecting the decision to travel down south, unsurprisingly, nearly 90% cited the risks of infection. While safety was clearly the primary concern, nearly 2/3 of respondents cited the fact that they cannot drive across the border. Some of these respondents no doubt preferred to drive to avoid the risks of flying with strangers, however many are accustomed to having their vehicles at their disposal while away, and for some, the vehicle may be essential to their plans, in cases where the vehicle is an RV. For those who have halted plans to travel due solely to the border closure, there may be an option to legally skirt that restriction.

Options to Transport Vehicles Across the Border

Some transport companies have reported a significant increase in requests to transport personal vehicles across the border, which they are attributing to the land border closure. Some companies are even capitalizing on the situation and offering customers seats on small chartered jets as part of a package whereby the company would fly the customer into the United States where their vehicle would be waiting for them upon arrival at the airport. These companies are able to exploit this loophole because commerce is considered essential, and transport vehicles fit within the commerce category.

This may seem like an extremely niche issue, but the Canadian government estimated that at least 300,000 Canadians could be considered snowbirds, based on the number of Canadians who return to Canada in the spring. With thousands of Canadians still looking to head to the United States despite the ongoing pandemic, this loophole seems like a good option.

Safety Should be Highest Priority, Canadian Government Warns

It is worth considering that the Canadian government continues to advise against all non-essential travel outside of Canada. Further, should a Canadian resident or citizen contract COVID-19 and are showing symptoms while outside of the country, it is unlikely they would be able to return home for treatment. For this reason, anyone planning to travel to the United States this winter should be sure to check their travel insurance coverage just in case.

Global Affairs Canada warned Canadians in an email to CTV News that, should complications arise during travel outside the country, the Canadian government may be limited in its resources to help.

If Canadians deem their travel essential and decide to leave Canada despite the advisories, note that the Government of Canada may have limited capacity to offer consular services…Canadian travellers should be aware that — as the COVID-19 situation changes constantly — governments that have reopened their borders to tourists could impose strict travel restrictions suddenly if they experience an increase in cases.

Air Travel in the U.S. Busier Than Ever Leading Up to Thanksgiving

For anyone planning on travelling to the United States by air, it may be a good idea to wait and see how COVID-19 numbers are affected by travel for U.S. Thanksgiving. In a country with skyrocketing numbers already, American airports reported the most travellers since March this week, so it is likely that the situation could become even more severe in coming weeks.

Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make travel arrangements. If you are planning to travel, you may also need a 14-day quarantine plan. If you have questions about where you can travel, please 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.

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