Restrictions for Individuals Travelling to Canada from the United States (All Modes)
Date: February 18, 2021
- The Canada – U.S. border is open for essential travel that supports trade and our economy.
- 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. These measures are in effect until March 21, 2021.
- Travel by asymptomatic people who have to cross the border to go to work or for other essential purposes, such as medical care, continues.
- As of February 15, 2021, foreign nationals arriving from the US must provide proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular test, which includes:
- a negative molecular test taken no more than 72 hours before seeking entry into Canada. For travellers arriving at a land port of entry (POE) the test must be taken in the United States; or
- a prior positive COVID-19 molecular test taken between 14-90 days before entry into Canada.
- Foreign nationals who do not have a valid molecular test will not be allowed into Canada.
- As of February 22, all persons, whether arriving in the air or land mode, must submit quarantine and contact information electronically (ArriveCAN) before boarding a plane to Canada or before arriving at the border, subject to limited exceptions.
- As of February 22, all travellers, with limited exceptions, will be required to undergo COVID-19 molecular testing on arrival and to take a second test later in the 14-day post-entry period towards the end of their quarantine.
- Additionally, asymptomatic foreign nationals who are immediate or extended family members of a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or registered Indian are permitted to enter Canada to be with their family members.
- These foreign nationals must abide by all public health requirements related to COVID-19 issued pursuant to the Quarantine Act, including the requirement to self-quarantine for 14 days and provide quarantine-related information.
- They must also establish at the time of entry that they intend to stay with their family members and to remain in Canada for a period of at least 15 days.
- Extended family members must also have a statutory declaration attesting to their relationship signed by the Canadian citizen, permanent resident or registered Indian; and are required to have a written authorization to enter Canada from IRCC prior to arriving at a Canadian port of entry.
- Foreign nationals seeking entry for compassionate reasons, such as attending a funeral or providing support to a critically ill person residing in Canada, are exempt from the prohibition on entry.
- Foreign nationals seeking entry for compassionate reasons must be in possession of a travel authorization letter from the Public Health Agency of Canada before arriving at the port of entry.
- International students can only enter Canada to study if they have a valid study permit and if their school is on an approved list of learning institutions that are capable of receiving students from abroad while respecting public health measures. This list is provided by provincial authorities and maintained and published by IRCC.
- Foreign nationals are prohibited from entering Canada for the purpose of claiming refugee protection unless they meet a limited set of exceptions, if arriving between ports of entry or, they meet an exception under the Safe Third Country Agreement, which applies at ports of entry.
- Claimants may also be allowed entry if their presence in Canada is determined by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness or the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to be in the national or public interest.
- All travellers arriving in Canada, including workers who provide essential services, are subject to questioning about their health.
- These measures apply in land, air, rail and marine modes.
- As of December 1st, high performance amateur athletes and supporting personnel participating or engaging in International Single Sport Events can seek entry into Canada after receiving an authorization letter from Heritage Canada.
If pressed on cross-border students:
- The Order in Council pertaining to mandatory quarantine and isolation has been amended to exempt cross-border students from the requirement to quarantine as long as they attend school on a regular basis and meet additional requirements outlined in that Order.
If pressed on opening up the border:
- The Government of Canada continues to adjust its posture as required given this is a very fluid situation.
- The Government of Canada will continue to explore a risk based and gradual approach to the easing of travel restrictions.
- The Government has introduced some measures to ease some border restrictions for family, students and compassionate cases, while balancing the public health risk.
- The effective travel restrictions that Canada has implemented continue to mitigate importation risks and provide confidence to Canadians.
- The Government of Canada will continue to use a science and risk based approach when considering how to move forward with the easing of border and travel restrictions.
Every day, $2.7 billion-worth of goods and services passes through the Canada-US border and that trade is essential to both our countries. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada and the US 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 US 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 US, for individuals in those countries who are travelling for non-essential, optional or discretionary reasons.
Order in Council
New OIC 44: 2021-0076 entitled Prohibition on Entry into Canada from the United States, has effect from the period beginning on February 14, 2021 (11:59:59 PM) and ending on March 21, 2021 (11:59:59 PM). This order repeals and replaces OIC 40: 2021-0009.
For a U.S. citizen or other foreign national to enter Canada from the U.S.:
- they must not have COVID-19 or suspect having COVID-19 and must not exhibit signs of symptoms of COVID-19; and
- their entry must not be for a purpose that is optional or discretionary (non-essential), unless they meet the immediate or extended family member exception; and
- they must be able to comply with the requirement to quarantine based on their purpose of travel and intended length of stay.
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-US 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 and/or revised on a monthly basis and will continue to be in effect while such renewals continue to be required.
Authorized Essential Travel
Some examples of essential travel purposes are:
- Crossing the border for work and study;
- Economic services and supply chains;
- Critical infrastructure support;
- Health (immediate medical care), safety and security;
- Shopping for essential goods such as medication or goods necessary to preserve the health and safety of an individual or family;
- Tending to family matters for essential purposes (bringing supplies to elderly parents or tending to sick family members); and
- Any other activities at the discretion of the officer that are deemed essential in nature.
Border Services Officers exercise discretion when enforcing restrictions.
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 US, 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 US.
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:
- American citizens regardless of where they reside and stateless persons if the U.S. is their country of former habitual residence;
- Claimants who have family members in Canada (i.e. spouse, son, daughter, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew);
- Unaccompanied minors;
- Claimants who hold Canadian visas or travel documents; and,
- Persons who do not require a visa to travel to Canada, but who required a visa to enter the U.S.
National Interest Exemption – Claim for Refugee Protection
Despite present border restrictions, claims for refugee protection are permitted if the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness or the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to be in the national or public interest, while recognizing the paramount public health interests of Canada and Canadians.
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 foreign nationals are refugee claimants who meet the exceptions, as described above.
Canadian citizens, permanent residents, persons registered as 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 travelers to quarantine or self-isolate for 14 days.
Exemptions for foreign nationals
Immediate Family Members
For the purposes of the border restrictions, the definition of immediate family member is aligned between Orders in Council and is as follows:
- the spouse or common-law partner of the person;
- a dependent child of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;
- a dependent child of a dependent child referred to in paragraph (b);
- the parent or step-parent of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner; or
- the guardian or tutor of the person.
Extended Family Members
For the purposes of the border restrictions, the definition of extended family member means:
- an individual who is 18 years of age or older and is in an exclusive dating relationship with the person (who is also over 18 years of age), has been in such a relationship for at least a year, and has spent time in the physical presence of the person during the course of the relationship (exclusive partner);
- a dependent child of an exclusive partner as defined in (a);
- a dependent child of a dependent child of an exclusive partner;
- a child of the person or of the person’s spouse, common-law partner or of the exclusive partner, other than a dependent child.
- a sibling, half-sibling or step sibling of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner; or
- a grandparent of the person or the person’s spouse or common-law partner.
Simply meeting the definition of “immediate family” or “extended family” does not guarantee a foreign national’s eligibility to enter Canada. Foreign nationals must also be travelling for a non-discretionary (essential) purpose to be granted entry to Canada. However, foreign nationals may 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 or extended family member (who is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or registered Indian), as well as their intent to remain in Canada for at least 15 days. They must also agreement to comply with all the requirements to quarantine detailed in the Order pertaining to mandatory isolation.
Extended family members must have, under both prohibition on entry OICs:
- a statutory declaration attesting to their relationship with the Canadian citizen, permanent resident or registered Indian signed by the Canadian citizen, permanent resident or registered Indian;
- a written authorization to enter from an officer designated under subsection 6(1) of the IRPA.
For the purposes of border restrictions, foreign nationals are exempt if they intend to enter Canada for the following reasons:
- To attend the death of or provide support to a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, temporary resident, protected person or registered Indians pursuant to the Indian Act, an individual residing in Canada who is deemed to be critically ill by a licensed health care practitioner ;
- To provide care for a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, temporary resident, protected person or registered Indians pursuant to the Indian Act residing in Canada who is deemed by a licensed health care practitioner to have a medical reason why they require support;
- Attend a funeral or end of life ceremony.
For the purposes of border restrictions, as of October 21, international students are exempt from the prohibition on entry if they seek to enter Canada to attend a listed institution and hold a valid study permit, or they may apply for a study permit when entering Canada, or if their application for a study permit has already been approved but the permit has not yet been issued.
A listed institution is an institution that is determined by the provincial government in which the institution is located to have appropriate measures in place to ensure that students can meet any applicable obligations under any order made under section 58 of the Quarantine Act and is published on IRCC’s website.
Immediate family members of international students, other than dependent children of dependent children, are also exempt from border restrictions when seeking entry for a non-discretionary purpose.
Note: A new exemption (with conditions) has been created under the mandatory isolation Order for cross-border students (and their drivers) who attend learning institutions in Canada and in the US on a regular basis.
High performance amateur athletes and support personnel
Foreign nationals who are high performance amateur athletes participating in an International Single Sport Event (ISSE) or persons deemed to perform an essential role in relation to an ISSE, may seek entry into Canada as long as they have an authorization letter issued by Heritage Canada (PCH). The authorization is granted and remains valid only with the support of the provincial government and local health authorities and may be revoked by PCH if this support is withdrawn or if the event is cancelled by the organizers. The discretionary purpose test will not apply at the POE.
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, but will look for 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
Between April 1, 2020 and January 19, 2021, 7,589,439 individuals entered Canada from the United States, an 88.7% decrease from the same period of time last year (67,170,125 from April 1, 2019 to January 19, 2020).
|April 1, 2019 to January 19, 2020
|April 1, 2020 to January 19, 2021
Since the implementation of the travel restrictions for travellers seeking entry from the US, to January 20, 2021:
- 25,697 U.S. citizens were denied entry to Canada from the US in the land/rail/marine mode for discretionary travel reasons;
- 3,567 foreign nationals (non U.S. citizens) were denied entry to Canada from the US in the land/rail/marine mode for discretionary travel reasons; and,
- 2,074 foreign nationals were denied entry to Canada from the US in air mode for discretionary travel reasons, of which, 1,596 were US citizens and 478 were other foreign nationals.
Approved by: Kathy Thompson, Vice-President, Strategic Policy Branch
- Date modified: