Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has implemented some of the most stringent border controls in the world. Over the past two and a half years, crossing the border has entailed showing essential worker status, being subject to long quarantines, and ongoing changes to the regulations. The newly implemented entry requirements are likely to make crossing the Canadian border much more accessible.
It is important to note however that despite the border restrictions, Canadian citizens and permanent residents were always able to cross the border to come back to Canada, albeit with some quarantine requirements.
On September 30, sweeping changes were made which largely changed the travel process of arriving in Canada. These changes impacted COVID-19 testing at the border, the use of the ArriveCan application, and vaccine requirements.
Random COVID-19 tests for travellers have been one border control initiative that Canada has used in order to try and help stop the spread of the virus. Approximately 5% of fully vaccinated travellers who enter Canada by air are subject to the random testing. The problem with the PCR COVID-19 tests that being used for this random testing is that they sometimes cannot differentiate between those who are actively infected with COVID-19, and those who were infected in the past and have since recovered. Therefore, false positives were causing unnecessary quarantine requirements.
Many have questioned the efficacy of the random testing at the border since its inception in late 2021 because of these issues, and the figures show that less than 2% of COVID-19 cases in Canada are linked to international travel.
Canada has now made using the ArriveCan app optional for travel into Canada going forward. The ArriveCan app was implemented in the middle of 2021 by the Canadian Government as a mandatory part of travel to Canada. Through the app, travellers provided their health information, travel documents, port of entry, and estimated time of arrival before crossing the border. Downloading and filling out ArriveCan was necessary for foreign nationals to enter Canada, as they could be denied entry if their information was not provided. For Canadians, entry to Canada could not be denied if they did not use the ArriveCan app, however, those who did not could face an eight day quarantine as well as COVID-19 testing.
While using ArriveCan is now optional, it is likely that in many cases, using ArriveCan will help to expedite crossing the border by giving the Canadian Border Services Agency the information they would request from travellers at the port of entry in advance. As such, some people may choose to still use the app in the interest of efficiency.
Canada’s border has been restrictive since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the vaccine requirement for travellers has been part of those restrictions. Unvaccinated travellers have largely not been allowed to enter Canada since vaccines became widely available. Unvaccinated Canadians could cross the border back into Canada, but faced long quarantines upon entry into Canada.
Now that the vaccine requirement has dropped, those who did not have vaccine exemptions will now be able to enter Canada regardless of their vaccination status, thereby removing a source of inadmissibility to Canada. The United States maintains a vaccine requirement for entry into the country and it is not clear at this time when the requirement will be lifted.
An interesting ramification of the vaccine policy change is that Canada’s sports teams will lose part of the home field advantage they have enjoyed since the vaccine policy was implemented. Opposing teams with unvaccinated players could not bring those players to Canada to play Canada’s teams, giving the Canadian teams an advantage in some cases when opposing teams had key players who were not considered fully vaccinated.
The masking requirements on trains and airplanes have also dropped and there will be no vaccine requirements for domestic travel in Canada. Further, the quarantine requirement has been dropped.
These changes bring Canada in line with the majority of European countries, as many disposed of their entry requirements earlier this summer. The changes should bring more travellers into Canada, as the potential pool of travellers has increased overall, and travel could become more efficient without as many restrictions on entry.
Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. Our lawyers successfully guide clients through the immigration process, with an eye toward the ever-changing regulations in light of COVID-19. If you have any questions about if you will be able to travel or about an immigration application during these uncertain times, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.
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