FAQ: Travel to Canada as a tourist in 2021
Canada is finally opening up to tourists after keeping the border tightly-zipped for the past 17 months, but things are still not totally back to normal.
In early July, the gradual reopening of the Canadian border began with fully vaccinated exempt travellers. Then on July 19, Health Canada announced that restrictions would be even less strict come August 9.
By September 7, we are expecting the border to reopen to fully vaccinated tourists from all countries. Of course, we are still in a pandemic, and these measures are subject to change.
But with what we do know for now, we answered some of the internet's most popular questions on coming to Canada this summer and fall.
When will travel to Canada resume?
The border is opening to fully vaccinated tourists from the U.S. one minute after midnight on August 9. They have to be U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Temporary U.S. residents like international students will have to wait until September 7 when Canada is scheduled to open to fully vaccinated tourists from the rest of the world.
Travel will resume to fully vaccinated travellers from all countries on September 7. Of course, this date is subject to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic. The government is always monitoring the coronavirus situation in Canada and abroad.
As for unvaccinated tourists, the prime minister of Canada has said it will be "quite a while" before these travellers can come.
How does Canada define "fully" vaccinated travellers?
Currently, Canada only considers you "fully" vaccinated if you have received the full recommended dose of a vaccine from a manufacturer approved by Health Canada. There are four: Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnston & Johnson).
Also, two weeks need to have elapsed between your final injection and your attempt to cross the border. Otherwise you risk being deemed "not fully vaccinated," which could result in being turned away at the border or having to quarantine.
What if I want to travel to Canada from India?
Canada extended the direct flight ban between Canada and India until August 21. For now, travellers from India will need to take an indirect route and supply a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departure in a third country.
Do I need to quarantine?
It depends. Everyone who comes to Canada still needs to arrive with a quarantine plan in case the officer determines they must isolate for 14 days. The final decision on who has to quarantine rests with the officers at the border.
Since July 5, fully vaccinated travellers who are exempt from travel restrictions do not need to quarantine. Exempt travellers include Canadians, family members, workers, and international students. Provided they produce a negative COVID-19 test at the border, they also are exempt from day-eight testing, which is normally required of people in quarantine.
The rules will change again starting August 9. Fully vaccinated travellers will no longer have to take the COVID-19 test at the border, unless they are subject to random testing.
Also starting August 9, the mandatory hotel quarantine will no longer be in effect. Until then, however, unvaccinated travellers will still have to stay in a government-approved hotel to wait on the results of their on-arrival test.
Will travel to Canada require COVID-19 vaccine?
It depends on the purpose of your travel and whether or not your are exempt from travel restrictions. If you are coming for an essential reason, but you are not fully vaccinated in the government's eyes, you will probably have to undergo quarantine and testing measures.
If you are coming for a non-essential reason — like tourism or shopping — you will need to be fully vaccinated, for now.
What if I am partially vaccinated, or fully vaccinated with a vaccine not approved in Canada?
At this time, you will still be subject to the same measures as unvaccinated travellers. In order to come to Canada, you will have to be exempt from travel restrictions, and undergo all testing and quarantine requirements.
What if I am not vaccinated?
Exempt travellers, such as Canadian citizens, permanent residents, family members, workers, most international students, and other essential travellers may still cross the border if they are not vaccinated.
They will have to do pre-arrival testing, on arrival testing, and day-eight testing while in quarantine. However, after August 9, they no longer have to stay in a government-approved hotel at their own expense while waiting on the results of their on-arrival test.
Until further notice, unvaccinated tourists are not allowed to come to Canada.
What if I can't get vaccinated because of a health condition?
Health Canada said if you have a condition that, according to the vaccine's label, makes it unsafe for you to be vaccinated, you may also qualify for eased quarantine.
Instead, you may have to follow a modified quarantine. More details on this are forthcoming.
What is "essential travel" to Canada?
"Essential travel" covers people who are travelling to Canada for work, emergency services, family reunification, or if you are a Canadian citizens or permanent resident. International students going to approved institutions also fall under this umbrella.
These people have generally been exempt from travel restrictions throughout the pandemic, starting at different times for some. In the fall of 2020, Canada expanded the definition to include international students, extended family members, and those travelling for compassionate reasons such as a funeral.
What is acceptable proof of vaccination status?
Whatever official proof of vaccination your healthcare providers gave you will likely do, as long as it is in English or French. If it is in any other language, you have to upload a certified translation to ArriveCAN, but not the original. However, you will have to keep both the original proof of vaccination and certified translation with you while you travel.
Before arriving at the border, you will need to upload your documents using ArriveCAN. You will have to provide the documents listed on the government webpage, which include:
- details of your first dose such as the date, country, and vaccine manufacturer;
- details of your second dose if it was required; and
- a photo or PDF file of the record of each dose, such as receipts, cards, or confirmations.
More specific details are available on Canada's travel website. For example, it will tell you they generally want the PDF version if it is available, since it is clearer. There is also a section on troubleshooting proof of vaccination in ArriveCAN.
Also, the government asks you bring the original proof of vaccination with you while you travel.
If your proof of vaccinated does not meet all of the government's requirements, officials may consider it invalid and ask you to complete the regular quarantine and testing requirements for unvaccinated travellers.
I'm travelling with my kids who cannot be vaccinated. Do they have to quarantine?
For now, unvaccinated kids will have to quarantine and complete testing requirements, even though their fully vaccinated parents or guardians do not.
But starting August 9, kids coming with fully vaccinated adults do not have to quarantine. Instead, they are asked to avoid group settings for 14 days.
What do I need to do before travelling to Canada?
For now, the requirements are different depending on your vaccination status and mode of transportation. For example, until August 9, non-vaccinated travellers will still have to do the hotel quarantine requirement if they are coming by air. However, land border-crossers do not.
The official checklist for travellers is on the government website. But in a nutshell:
All travellers age five and older need a pre-arrival test taken within 72 hours of your planned entry. In the case of air travellers, within 72 hours before the departure of your last direct flight to Canada.
You also need to use ArriveCAN to submit your documents within 72 hours before arriving to Canada. It is available as a mobile app, or online. All of the information is available on the government website. Generally speaking, you need your contact information, purpose of travel, date of arrival, port of entry, travel history, quarantine plan, and others. You will get a receipt once you have submitted all your information that you will show to the border officer when you arrive. If any of your travel details change after you submit your information, you will have to start over.
These COVID measures are in addition to the regular measures on incoming travellers to Canada. Unless you are from a visa-exempt country, you will need a Temporary Resident Visa in order to come to Canada. Those who are from visa-exempt countries will need an Electronic Travel Authorization. U.S. travellers do not need either.
What if I test positive after recovering from COVID-19?
Some people who have recovered from COVID-19 continue to test positive even though they are no longer infectious. These travellers must provide proof of a positive COVID-19 molecular test conducted between 14 and 90 days prior to scheduled departure. Starting August 9, they will accept positive tests as old as 180 days.
Can I come to Canada with a criminal record?
It depends a lot on how Canada assesses your crime against Canadian law. It can also depend on when the crime was committed, and what you have done to overcome inadmissibility.
Generally speaking, there are three options to coming to Canada with a criminal history:
- Temporary Resident Permit allows you to stay in Canada despite your criminal history. It signals to officials that your entry is justified.
- Criminal rehabilitation is basically when officials determine you are not a threat to public safety. Some people are deemed rehabilitated after 10 years, and allowed to come to Canada. If that is not an option, others may go for individual rehabilitation where they can demonstrate the are not a risk to Canadians.
- Legal Opinion Letter is written by a lawyer an is supposed to be an analysis of the individual's situation, and explain why they should be deemed admissible to Canada.
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