Canada just updated its travel rules again yet, this time quashing the COVID-19 pre-arrival testing requirement for vaccinated international travelers.
Travelers can still be randomly selected for a COVID-19 test at the airport upon arrival in Canada, but they won’t need to show proof of a negative test beginning April 1.
It’s the latest in a number of changes Canada has made over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let us remember that all measures are subject to review,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, as he announced the latest rule change on Thursday.
“We will continue to adjust them as the epidemiological situation here in Canada and abroad evolves.”
Here’s where all the rules stand now.
What are the vaccination rules?
Vaccination rules in Canada haven’t changed at all.
If you’re planning to come to Canada, you’ll still need to determine whether you qualify as a “fully vaccinated traveler” based on the Canadian government’s definition. This should be relatively simple, as very few of us would forget getting a needle stuck into our arms. But if you’re not sure, here are the government’s criteria.
You’re considered vaccinated if you:
- have received at least two doses of a vaccine accepted for travel, a mix of two accepted vaccines or at least one dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine have received your second dose at least 14 calendar days before you enter Canada
What vaccines are accepted?
- Bharat Biotech
- Janssen/Johnson & Johnson
- Pfizer-BioNTech — including for children aged 5 to 11 years
If your proof of vaccination isn’t in English or French, you’ll still have to get it translated. The “certified translation” has to include the stamp or membership number of a professional translation association that does it for you, and you’ll want to keep both the original version and the translated version with you while you travel.
What isn’t accepted?
- Partial vaccination — you must have gotten both doses of your vaccine course unless you got the Janssen vaccine.
- Natural immunity and a single dose of the vaccine — even if you’ve had COVID-19, you still have to complete your vaccine course to be considered fully vaccinated.
I’m not vaccinated. Have the rules changed for me?
Rules for the unvaccinated haven’t changed recently, even as similar rules have loosened for vaccinated people. Here’s where things stand right now.
Unvaccinated foreign nationals:
Unvaccinated Canadians are allowed to come to Canada, but there are more steps they need to take to ensure they aren’t exposing others to COVID-19.
- Check if you have COVID-19 symptoms.
- If you do, you won’t be allowed to board the plane home. If you’re driving, and you enter at a land border despite being positive for COVID-19 or showing symptoms, you could face a $5,000 fine — so the government recommends waiting 10 days before you cross into Canada or suggests that you get tested before entry to make sure you don’t have COVID-19.
- If you don’t have COVID-19 symptoms, you can enter Canada
- Unvaccinated travelers will be subject to a molecular test both when they arrive in Canada, and again eight days later. They also have to quarantine for 14 days.
There are also rules within Canada for unvaccinated travelers. You need to be vaccinated to board a cruise ship, or to take a plane or train within Canada.
When announcing loosened travel rules for vaccinated travelers on Thursday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra emphasized this domestic travel rule hasn’t changed.
What do I need to bring to the border?
What you’ll have to bring to the border will change as of April 1, 2022, when the government is dropping its negative test requirement for fully vaccinated passengers. Until then, this is what you have to bring with you.
Negative COVID-19 test:
- Currently, all travelers entering Canada — regardless of vaccination status — have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen test, taken within 24 hours of their flight or arrival at Canada’s border.
- As an alternative, they can show proof of a negative PCR test from within the previous 72 hours.
- After April 1, travelers who are fully vaccinated — with two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine — can skip this on their checklist.
Completed ArriveCAN App:
- Whether you’re flying or crossing the land border, you’ll have to fill out the ArriveCAN App. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can fill it out online right here.
- In the ArriveCAN App, you’ll be asked to upload your:
- contact information
- travel details
- vaccination information
After April 1, you’ll still need to fill out the ArriveCAN app — but if you’re fully vaccinated, you won’t need the negative COVID-19 test.
What are the latest quarantine rules?
When you enter Canada, you still have to have a quarantine plan ready to go — regardless of your vaccination status. If you’re vaccinated you still need a plan in case you test positive after your trip.
Here are the current quarantine rules.
You’ll need to enter your quarantine plan into the ArriveCAN app, and could be asked to explain it at the border.
Why do I need a quarantine plan?
- Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated travelers have to quarantine for 14 days
- Fully vaccinated travelers probably won’t need to use their quarantine plan, but they might still have to undergo random testing when they arrive in Canada. While they don’t have to quarantine while awaiting their results, if the results are positive, they can expect to have to isolate.
If you’re not sure whether your quarantine plan is good enough, the government has a tool where you can test your quarantine plan here. If you can’t quarantine at home or at your final destination, you’ll have to make alternate arrangements — like staying with family or friends, or at a hotel, a campground or an RV rental.
The government won’t reimburse you for the cost of accommodations, though, so make sure you have a plan.
If you don’t have a good enough place to quarantine, you might be directed to a federally designated quarantine facility, but the government says they’ll work with you to confirm that “all other options for quarantine accommodations” have been exhausted first.
If you follow these steps, you should get into Canada without issue — but always check the provincial requirements, too, just to be sure.
What are the rules for traveling within Canada?
Canada imposed strict vaccination rules for domestic travel on Oct. 30, 2021, and they haven’t changed yet. Alghabra reiterated these rules again on Thursday, giving no indication of whether the government plans to drop them anytime soon.
These federal rules apply if you’re hopping on a train, a plane, or a cruise ship.
Requirements for traveling within Canada:
- If you’re 12 or older, you’ll need to be fully vaccinated in order to board domestic flights, VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains, and cruise ships.
- Many cruise lines also require vaccination for kids aged five and up.
- Unvaccinated kids aged 12 years and under don’t need a COVID-19 test result to travel within Canada.
- If you’re unvaccinated and over the age of 12, you’ll have to present a valid vaccination exception and a negative COVID-19 test to board a plane, train or cruise ship. A negative test alone doesn’t cut it if you’re over 12 and unvaccinated.
All passengers traveling by air or rail within Canada will have to wear a mask, aside from when they’re eating, taking medication, or if they have a valid exemption.
- Medevac flights are excluded from vaccine requirements, regardless of where they depart or land
- Private flights are also excluded — as long as they don’t require access to airports with vaccination rules
Are there extra rules for cruise ships?
As of April 1, cruise ship passengers will still need to provide a negative antigen taken within 24 hours before the scheduled boarding time, but will no longer need to be tested again to get off the ship.
Canada tightened the rules for cruise ships on March 7, bringing about a much stricter regime for those hoping to vacation on the open water.
The government cited the “very high” chance of being infected with COVID-19 on a cruise ship — even if you’re fully vaccinated — as the justification for the strict rules.
Here are the current rules for cruise ships:
- If you’re 12 and up, you must be fully vaccinated to board a cruise ship. Many cruise lines also require vaccination for kids aged five and up.
- Before boarding a cruise ship, on top of being fully vaccinated, you’ll have to take a COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of boarding, or an antigen test taken within the last 24 hours.
- You must self-monitor for symptoms while on board and for 14 days afterward
What if I want to leave Canada?
The rules for leaving Canada change as often as other countries want to tweak them. Canada’s federal government won’t stop you if you want to leave the country — but other governments might not let you in.
You can check travel advisories and confirm entry requirements for countries around the world right here.
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