Travellers’ Isolation and Quarantine Obligations

Date: February 17, 2021

Classification: Unclassified

Branch/Agency: SPB/CBSA

Proposed Response:

If pressed on testing and quarantine exemptions:

If pressed on more stringent suitable quarantine plan:

If pressed on other measures to mitigate spread of virus at border:

If pressed on BSO authorities:


Order in Council

New OIC 43: 2021-0075  entitled Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Quarantine,  Isolation and Other Obligations),  has effect from the period beginning on February 14, 2021 (11:59:59 PM) and ending on April 21, 2021 (11:59:59 PM). This order repeals and replaces OIC 42:  2021-0011. This Order is to be read in conjunction with the Transport Canada Interim Order Respecting Certain Requirement of Civil Aviation Due to COVID-19 under the Aeronautics Act.


As of February 22, 2021, whether arriving by land or air, all travellers will be required to electronically submit their travel and contact information, including a suitable quarantine plan, via the ArriveCAN application before crossing the border or boarding a flight. (Digital submission pre-boarding has been mandatory in the air mode since November 21, 2020).

More stringent quarantine plan: For a quarantine location to be deemed suitable, travellers cannot stay with at-risk subpopulations including people who work in hospitals or long-term care facilities, adults over the age of 65, or those who are immunocompromised or at risk for more severe disease outcomes. In addition, travellers must avoid all contact with others in their household with whom they did not travel. 

Quarantine plan and contact information must be submitted for the 14-day quarantine period by electronic means to PHAC, unless travellers cannot do so because of a disability, inadequate infrastructure, a service disruption or a natural disaster, in which case this information can be provided in an alternate manner as specified by PHAC. This obligation does not apply to persons in transit who remain in sterile transit areas.

Asymptomatic travellers can submit their contact information through:

Pre-arrival testing requirement *new*

AIR MODE: As of January 6 at 11:59 PM EST, all travellers aged five (5) years or older, regardless of immigration status, who board an aircraft destined to Canada must present proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test. The test must be taken within 72 hours before the traveller’s scheduled departure and performed using one of two methods: either Molecular Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) or Reverse Transmission Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP). As of January 21, instead of providing a negative test, travellers can provide a positive test result of the test that was performed on a specimen that was collected at least 14 days and no more than 90 days before the aircraft’s initial scheduled departure time.

Unless otherwise exempt, before boarding, travellers must provide to the aircraft operator, documentation demonstrating the negative or positive test result including the following elements:

  1. the person’s name and date of birth;
  2. the name and civic address of the laboratory that administered the test;
  3. the date the test was conducted and the test method used; and
  4. the test results.

LAND MODE: As of February 15, 2021, all travellers, with some exceptions, are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test result taken in the United States within 72 hours of pre-arrival, or a positive test taken 14 to 90 days prior to arrival.  Exemptions include essential workers such as truckers and emergency service providers, as well as cross border communities.

Post-arrival testing requirement *new*

All travellers, with limited exceptions, will be required to undergo COVID-19 molecular testing at time of entry and once again later in the 14-day post-entry period while they are in quarantine. These test results will be analysed to track and limit spread of COVID-19 variants.

AIR MODE: As of February 22, 2021,all travellers, with some exceptions, will be required to take a COVID-19 molecular test when they arrive in Canada before exiting the first airport of entry, and another toward the end of their 14-day quarantine period. With limited exceptions, air travellers will be required to reserve prior to departure to Canada, a 3-night stay in a government-authorized accommodation (hotel). Travellers will be required to stay at their reserved hotel for up to 3 nights, at their own cost, while they await the results of their arrival test. If they receive a negative result, they will be able to continue travel to their final destination to complete the 14-day quarantine. Travellers who test positive, develop symptoms or do not have a suitable quarantine plan will be directed to complete their isolation at a Designated Quarantine Facility (DQF).

Hotel booking information will be available online as of February 18, 2021. Travellers will need to book a hotel in the city in which they first arrive in Canada. If they receive a negative result on their arrival test, they will be able to take a connecting flight to their final destination. There will be a number of hotels to choose from near each of the four international airports accepting international flights, in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Costs of these hotel stays may vary slightly at each location. It is up to the traveller to choose where they wish to stay and book in advance of departure. The price will include costs associated with the room, food, cleaning, infection prevention and control measures, and security as well as transportation.

LAND MODE: As of February 22, 2021, travellers entering Canada at the land border are required to take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival as well as towards the end of their 14-day quarantine. The GOC will operate 16 testing sites at points of entry across Canada. Five ports of entry will initially be available with 11 additional as of March 4. The GOC is also working to supply all other ports of entry with test kits for travellers to take home and self-administer testing on day 1 and towards the end of the quarantine period to meet requirements.

Five Land Ports of Entry with onsite testing as of February 22, 2021

Additional 11 Land Ports of Entry with onsite testing as of March 4, 2021


The new Order allows for some limited exemptions to the requirements for post-entry testing and government-authorized accommodations. This includes new provisions for persons providing essential services, persons seeking essential medical treatment outside of Canada, persons entering Canada to assist in a major disaster, and unaccompanied dependent children.

Testing exemption authorities in specific circumstances *NEW*

To manage unforeseen emergency and exigent circumstances when pre and post arrival testing may not be feasible, the following exemption authorities have been added as of February 14, 2021:

Alternative Testing Protocol *NEW*

In some cases where pre or post arrival testing or quarantine would not be appropriate due to the urgency or critical nature of the work being performed by the incoming traveller, the ability to leverage new testing technologies will continue to be useful through the potential future introduction of alternative testing protocols that could be considered for collection of samples within a different timeframe in limited circumstances.


Failure to provide documentary evidence of a COVID-19 test will not result in a prohibition on entry to Canada for those with a right of entry (Canadian Citizens, Permanent Residents, Registered Indians). Foreign nationals who are symptomatic or who fail to provide evidence of a valid pre-arrival test will be prohibited entry into Canada. Travellers who do not comply with quarantine or testing requirements pre and post arrival will be referred to PHAC and may be subject to a fine of up to $3,000 or face criminal prosecution. Additionally, travellers in quarantine or isolation are required to answer questions and provide information to peace officers on request.  Failure to provide accurate information or violating any instructions provided when entering Canada is an offence under the Quarantine Act and could lead to up to six months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines.


All travellers entering Canada who are subject to mandatory quarantine or isolation, as well as quarantine exempt persons, are required to provide mandatory health information to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) under the Quarantine Act:

Quarantine Exempt Classes of Persons

As of February 14, 2021, quarantine-exempt travellers must meet more stringent obligations with respect to mask wearing and must maintain a list of contacts during their initial 14-day period in Canada. Non-medical mask requirements have been amended to align with the Transport Canada Interim Order and exempts those younger than two years of age and those with physical restrictions that prevent mask wearing.

New quarantine exemption for a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, temporary resident, protected person or person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act who resides in Canada and who received essential medical services or treatments in a foreign country, if the person has the following:

Additional details

Cross-border students

Elementary and secondary students enrolled in listed institutions in Canada who enter to attend school on a regular basis are exempt from testing and quarantine requirements as long as the applicable jurisdiction and local health authority approved quarantine exempt students. The drivers of such students are also exempt from testing and quarantine as long as they enter to escort the student to and from the listed institution. Drivers can only leave the vehicle, if at all, to escort the student to and from the institution and must wear a mask (or face covering) while outside the vehicle.

Students enrolled in educational institutions in the US who attend regularly and return to their habitual place of residence in Canada are exempt from quarantine requirements. The exemption also applies to their drivers who return to Canada after dropping off or picking up students at a school in the US, as long as they wear a mask (or face covering) while outside the vehicle, if at all, and only for the purposes of escorting the student to and from the school.

Note: cross-border students may not provide direct care to persons over the age of 65 in the first 14 days of their return to Canada.

Cross-border custody arrangements

Dependent children entering Canada under the terms of a written agreement or court order regarding custody, access or parenting are exempt from testing and quarantine requirements. Their drivers are also exempt when travelling between Canada and the US for the purposes of respecting such arrangements as long as wear a mask (or face covering) while outside the vehicle, if at all, and only for the purposes of escorting the child to and from the vehicle.

Cross-border communities

Habitual residents of remote communities of Northwest Angle (Minnesota) or Hyder (Alaska) are exempt from quarantine requirements when entering Canada to access necessities of life from the closest community in Canada where such necessities are available.

Habitual residents of remote communities of Campobello Island (New Brunswick) and Stewart (British Columbia) who return to Canada after going to the US solely to access necessities of life in the closest community where such necessities are available.

Note: Residents of Point Roberts (WA) transiting through Canada to return to their habitual residence or to access mainland USA are also exempt from testing and quarantine requirements.

Land border crossing

Persons who seek entry to Canada at a land border crossing are exempt from quarantine and testing requirements as long as they remained in their vehicle at all times while outside of Canada after they:

Note: All persons in a vehicle of travellers denied entry into the US must quarantine if any one of them gets out of the vehicle.

High performance amateur athletes and essential 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 PCH authorization letter issued pursuant to subsection 7(2) of the order may include a risk mitigation plan with specific conditions (quarantine exemption) developed in consultation with PHAC and supported by applicable provincial government and local health authority.

Note: Not all high performance amateur athletes and essential personnel are exempt from the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement.


The mandatory isolation OIC has been updated to include an exemption from testing and quarantine requirements for persons who participate in a project (i.e. Alberta Pilot) to gather information to inform the development or quarantine requirements other than those set out in the order as long as they comply with the conditions imposed on them by PHAC. Such projects are entered under an arrangements between the Minister of Health and the minister responsible for health care in the province where the person enters into Canada.

Compassionate Entry

Pursuant to subsection 7.1(1), the requirements to remain in quarantine are different for a person who has written authorization from the Minister of Health for entry and a limited release from quarantine for one of the following purposes:


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

Date modified: