In the midst of the season, concerns regarding the omicron variant of COVID-19 and recent spikes in the number of cases throughout Canada have resulted in new regulations for international travel, as well as domestic reactions from the provinces. On December 15, the Canadian Government issued a general travel advisory that instructed Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada due to the risk of the omicron variant of COVID-19. The travel advisory will remain in effect for four weeks before it is re-evaluated. Following that travel advisory, conditions in Canada and regulations have been changing rapidly. If you do have travel plans for early 2022, make sure to stay updated on current regulations in order to avoid being caught out by the changing rules.
On November 30, the Canadian Government released new international travel regulations that relaxed the rules on international travel for Canadians, and travellers coming to Canada. Now, many of those rules have been changed in response to the current COVID-19 situation in the country.
The Canadian Government has backtracked on a recently changed policy that will have a great impact on international travel. Previously, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents who were outside of Canada and sought to return to Canada had to take a pre-arrival COVID-19 test in order to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon returning to Canada. The Canadian Government recognized the testing requirement restricted the ability of Canadians to take short term trips to the United States, so an exemption was instituted on November 30 that allowed Canadians to travel to the United States and then return to Canada without having to take a COVID-19 test, provided that the length of the trip was less than 72 hours.
As of December 21, this exemption is no longer in place. Now, all vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning to Canada will need a molecular COVID-19 test prior to returning to Canada in order to avoid the 14-day quarantine upon return to Canada.
Previously, in response to the omicron variant of COVID-19, the Government of Canada restricted flights from ten different southern African nations from landing in Canada. The move came following the outbreak of the omicron variant in that area of the world.
Now, the Canadian Government has lifted the travel ban on the ten affected countries and as such flights will be allowed from those countries into Canada again. Since December 18, flights and travellers from South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi, and Egypt can once again come to Canada. All air travellers will be subject to COVID-19 tests upon arrival, as the Canadian Government has indicated that it wants to test more air travellers and has increased capacity to test air travellers to over 20,000 tests a day as of the middle of December.
Canada is not the only country that is creating new travel regulations and banning travel to certain countries as a result of the omicron variant. Earlier this week, Israel announced that it would not be allowing travel into the country from Canada, the United States and eight other countries because of the omicron variant. The ban took effect on December 22nd and prohibited travellers from Canada, the United States, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Switzerland, and Turkey from entering Israel. It is unclear how long the travel ban will last but surely it will be announced when Canada and other countries will be allowed to travel to Israel again.
Following the changing international regulations in response to elevated COVID-19 case rates and the omicron variant, some provinces have taken action to create restrictions on travel from within Canada. Currently, there is a uniform federal policy throughout Canada that air and rail travellers 12 years old and older must show proof of vaccination in order to board planes and trains. While this policy is uniform, the provinces can promulgate some of their own regulations in order to add to the government’s regulations.
For example, Newfoundland and Labrador are requiring fully vaccinated travellers to submit a travel form prior to arrival and are also requiring fully vaccinated travellers to isolate for five days and take a COVID-19 test on each of those five days. Unvaccinated travellers must isolate for at least seven days after arrival. All of the other provinces allow for travel for the fully vaccinated without self-isolation, however, the Maritime provinces are requiring travellers to fill out forms prior to arrival.
Unvaccinated travellers are supposed to quarantine upon arrival in these provinces for at least seven days at which point they can leave isolation following a negative test. Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia are not requiring any self-isolation or rules that differ from the Canadian Government rules for rail and air travel. Manitoba is requiring travellers who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate for 14 days after entry into the province.
The provinces may yet decide to change these rules so if you are planning on travelling in Canada soon make sure you stay updated on the provincial regulations to ensure that you are able to travel to your destination.
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 work to find effective and innovative immigration solutions for individuals and businesses to ensure smooth entry under a variety of circumstances, no matter how complex.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in Canada and the U.S. in relation to COVID-19 and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about if you will be able to travel 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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