Restrictions for Individuals Travelling to Canada from the United States (All modes)

Date: August 11, 2020
Classification: Unclassified
Fully releasable (ATIP)? Yes
Branch / Agency: SPB/CBSA

Proposed Response:

If pressed on cross-border students:

If pressed on US cross-border students:


Every day, $2.7 billion-worth of goods and services passes through the Canada-U.S. border and that trade is essential to both our countries. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada and the U.S. are temporarily restricting all non-essential travel across its borders. In our respective countries, individuals are encouraged and are recommended to exercise caution by avoiding unnecessary contact with others (social distancing). This collaborative and reciprocal measure is an extension of that prudent approach.

Canada and the U.S. recognize the critical necessity to preserve supply chains between both countries. These supply chains ensure that food, fuel, and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border. Supply chains, including trucking, will not be impacted by this new measure. Canadians and Americans cross land border crossings daily to perform essential work, to study, or as a result of urgent or essential reasons. This travel should not be impacted.

To help manage the threat posed by international travel, Canada announced reciprocal restrictive measures with the U.S., for individuals in those countries who are travelling for non-essential, optional or discretionary reasons.

Regarding international students, the CBSA will continue to work with IRCC and other government partners to ensure proper border restrictions are being applied.

Non-essential travel restriction

On March 18, 2020, the Governments of Canada and the United States announced that both countries would be implementing collaborative and reciprocal measures to suspend non-essential travel along the Canada-U.S. border in response to the spread of COVID-19. Non-essential travel includes, but is not limited to, tourism, recreation, and entertainment. The restriction initially came into effect on March 21, 2020, for 30 days. Since that time, these temporary measures were renewed as of May 22, were revised on June 5, renewed on June 21, and again on July 20, and will remain in effect until August 21, 2020 unless otherwise renewed.

Essential Travel

Some examples of essential travel purposes are:

Border Services Officers must exercise discretion when enforcing the restrictions.

Refugee Claimants

Arriving between Ports of Entry (irregularly)

Refugee claimants who seek to enter Canada between official ports of entry (i.e., irregular migrants) will continue to be directed back to the U.S., but will later be allowed to return to Canada to make their asylum claims once the prohibition on entering Canada expires or is repealed.

Arriving at Ports of Entry

For those asylum seekers arriving at a land port of entry, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) applies. If an individual is not eligible to make a claim based on the STCA, they will be found ineligible, a removal order will be issued and they will be returned to the U.S.

If the individual meets an exception under the STCA, they will be able to enter Canada and have their claim for refugee protection processed. Exemptions and exceptions include:

Symptomatic Travellers

Any foreign national exhibiting signs and symptoms of a fever and cough or a fever and breathing difficulties is prohibited from entry, even if they are seeking entry for essential travel. The only exception to symptomatic travellers are refugee claimants who meet the exceptions, as described above.


Canadian citizens (and their immediate family members), permanent residents (and their immediate family members), Registered Indians under the Indian Act and protected persons are exempted from the above. They will be provided with a Public Health Agency of Canada pamphlet containing the latest health advice that advises travellers to self-isolate for 14 days.

For the purposes of the border restrictions, the definition of immediate family member has been aligned between Orders in Council and is as follows:

  1. the spouse or common-law partner of the person;
  2. a dependent child of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;
  3. a dependent child of a dependent child referred to in paragraph (b);
  4. the parent or step-parent of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner; or
  5. the guardian or tutor of the person.

However, a foreign national simply meeting the definition of “immediate family” does not guarantee their eligibility to enter Canada. The individual travelling for a non-discretionary (essential) purpose may still enter Canada.  But, foreign nationals can be exempt from the requirement to enter for an essential purpose if they can establish their intent to enter Canada to be with an immediate family member (who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident), their intent to remain in Canada for 15 days or more, and who agrees to comply with all the requirements to quarantine detailed in the Order pertaining to mandatory isolation.


Regardless of how they seek to enter Canada, all travellers arriving in Canada, including workers who provide essential services, are subject to questioning about their health. CBSA Officers not only query travellers on the state of their health, they observe visible signs of illness and will refer any traveller who they suspect of being ill, regardless of how the traveller responded to the health screening question.

Media Reports on Admissibility to the US by air

The CBSA cannot comment on recent media reports that Canadians are still able to fly into the United States. Information pertaining to specific rules around admissibility to the United States should be directed to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Approved by: Kathy Thompson, Vice-President, Strategic Policy Branch, [Redacted]

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