At the end of September, the United States released a preliminary report on how air travel regulations will change for travellers coming into the United States in the coming months. Specifically, the United States will be moving to a uniform system whereby they will be admitting travellers based on vaccination status rather than country of citizenship. Would-be travellers who are vaccinated against COVID-19 and have received a negative COVID-19 test will be able to enter the country by air. At the time that it was announced that the regulations would be changing, details were sparse but since then there has been some clarity in how the regulations will impact Canadians.
When the new air travel regulations were announced, it was made clear that vaccinated travellers would be able to enter the United States. However, at the time of the announcement, there was some uncertainty as to which vaccines would be recognized by the United States to let travellers into the country. Now, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that travellers will be able to fly to the United States if they have been inoculated with vaccines that have been approved or recognized for emergency use by the World Health Organization or the United States Food and Drug Administration.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has three vaccines listed that it has approved or authorized for emergency use. The vaccines included are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson. Although Astra-Zeneca is not approved by the United States, it has been approved by the World Health Organization. This means that most travellers who have been vaccinated with Astra-Zeneca, or the other three vaccines will be able to travel to the United States based on the proposed vaccine policy for the air travel regulation changes. However, there may still be people who have been vaccinated that could be excluded from travel depending on how the regulation is written.
Health Canada’s vaccine approval being different from the United States, may lead to some Canadians being excluded from travel to the United States when the new air travel regulation goes into effect. The uncertainty going forward stems from the air travel regulation announcement not specifying whether those with mixed vaccine doses will be able to travel to the United States by air as part of the new regulation. More than 3.9 million Canadians have received two different doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, with 1.6 million of those having received a dose of AstraZeneca followed by either Pfizer or Moderna.
The United States Food and Drug Administration does not allow for mixing doses of Pfizer and Moderna. Further, the World Health Organization approved vaccines require that people receive the same vaccine for both shots. If these rules follow the air travel regulation, it is possible that those approximately 3.9 million Canadians will be unable to travel to the United States because they chose to receive mixed vaccines. Currently, it is unclear if the mixed doses will be recognized by the American officials when the regulation is put into place. Some other countries do not or did not accept mixed vaccine doses in the past, so there is some precedent for if the United States refuses to recognize the mixed doses.
If you did receive mixed doses and are worried you will be unable to travel, you may be able to receive a third vaccine dose in order to comply with the potential air travel regulation depending on your province of residence. Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta are offering third doses to people in their province who require a third dose for travel. Starting October 15, Nova Scotia will be offering a third dose for people who need to travel for work and are unable to travel because the country they are travelling to does not recognize mixed vaccine doses. Currently, Ontario and British Columbia are not offering third doses to those who need them for travel, rather they are only providing a third dose for the immunocompromised. Be sure to keep up with the news if you are in a province that does not currently offer a third dose for travel, as that may change with the changing regulations in the United States.
Although many provinces now require a form of vaccine passport in order to access non-essential services such as restaurants, there is still no national Canadian vaccines passport for international travel that is available to Canadians at this point. This may change soon however as the Canadian government is expecting to release a singular proof of vaccination system for international travel in the “next couple of months”. In developing a vaccine passport for international travel, the government has indicated that they are focusing on making the certification digital but stressed that the documentation would be available in physical form as well. A vaccine passport will likely include the holder’s COVID-19 vaccination history, the number of doses, vaccine types, and the date and place where the vaccine was administered. Be on the lookout for when the international vaccine passport is released if you are planning to travel.
Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. If you are planning to travel, make sure you keep up with the regulations for the country or region you are planning on travelling to, as regulations can change rapidly in the COVID-19 pandemic era. More information regarding the changing United States air travel regulations will be revealed in the coming weeks so be sure to stay updated if you are planning on travelling to the United States in late autumn or this winter.
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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