Last week, we discussed the upcoming addition to the travel regulations affecting those arriving in Canada by air. This week we will provide updates on additional details surrounding the air travel requirements, as well as new measures to be implemented for those crossing into Canada by land.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently confirmed more details about the mandatory hotel stay that has been anticipated. Beginning Monday, February 22, all air travellers (with limited exceptions) will be required to take a molecular COVIS-19 test upon arrival in Canada. This is in addition to the current requirement that all flight passengers must obtain a negative COVID test result within 72 hours prior to boarding any incoming flight to Canada. All international flights will be required to land at one of four airports in the country (Montreal, Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver).
Prior to arrival, each passenger must make arrangements to stay at a government-approved hotel while they await their test results, at their own expense. The stay should cover a period of at least three days. Once a negative test result has been confirmed, travellers will be allowed to quarantine at home or at the location specified in their quarantine plan.
Anyone who receives a positive test result will be reloactted to a designated government facility for further quarantine and to monitor for any potential variants of COVID-19.
It was further announced this week that people crossing at the land border with the United States will now need to have taken a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of seeking entry, effective February 15. This comes on the heels of the aforementioned rule for air travellers, so it seems as though the government is really cracking down on travel, almost a year into the pandemic.
It should be noted that it is not permissible to refuse entry at a land border to a Candian returning home. Canadians and permanent residents abroad will still be able to come home, even without a negative test. However, should you show up at the border without having undergone the required test, you may face penalties, including a fine of up to $3,000 per person. There are certain exemptions to the new testing requirements. For instance, they will not apply to truck drivers and nurses in order to ensure supply chains, essential services and support for critical infrastructure remain unharmed.
All these changes have ruffled the feathers of snowbirds who are currently waiting out the winter in the United States. However, throughout the pandemic, the government has repeatedly cautioned against non-essential travel and has particularly warned that the rules and regulations regarding travel could change at any time. Anyone who made the decision to leave the country in the past few months should have been aware that there was a risk of stricter regulations being put into place by the end of the winter.
Regardless, the new regulations will put some snowbirds in a bind, as if you stay in the United States for more than 182 days of the year, you can lose your Canadian health insurance, and you may have to file United States taxes for the year. In addition, it’s ulikely anyone anticipated having to incur a cost of approximately $2,000 for a mandatory hotel stay upon arriving home. Those who are already out of the country may want to consider making arrangments to arrive home by car instead of by air, if possible.
To ensure compliance with the new measurements for all travellers, the federal government, through the Public Health Agency of Canada, is training security companies and their employees. These employees will be authorized as Screening Officers under the Quarantine Act and will visit quarantine locations to “establish contact, confirm identity and confirm that travellers are at the place of quarantine they identified upon entry to Canada”.
Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make travel arrangements. If you are planning to travel, make sure you qualify as essential or prepare an exemption request. Depending on where you are going, 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.