Full vaccination is becoming a mandatory requirement to travel in and out of Canada and the United States. This bulletin will summarize the new measures introduced by Canada and the United States that will impact international travel.
Proof of Full Vaccination is a Requirement for Travel Within and Out of Canada
Effective November 30, 2021, proof of full vaccination is now a requirement for travel within and out of Canada via air and rail. A valid COVID-19 test will no longer be accepted as an alternative to full vaccination unless the travellers are eligible for one of the few exemptions available, which includes medical grounds. Mandatory vaccination applies to both domestic and international commercial flights departing from Canadian airports. This does not currently apply to private flights that land and depart from private airports. The government has set out a grace period whereby temporary foreign residents, such as workers and students, who entered Canada before October 30, 2021 will be allowed to leave Canada before February 28, 2022 with a negative COVID-19 test.
Definition of Fully Vaccinated
In Canada, fully vaccinated is defined as an individual who has received the full series of a vaccine or a combination of vaccines, accepted by the Government of Canada, at least 14 days prior to entering Canada. Canada has historically only recognized the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. However, effective November 30, 2021, Canada now recognizes three additional vaccines, aligning itself with the United States; namely, Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN. This means more foreign nationals who received the Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN vaccines will now be able to travel to Canada. Prior to this change, foreign nationals who received the Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN vaccines were not permitted to travel to Canada unless they met one of the travel exemptions in the Order in Council. Foreign nationals who have received vaccines that are not part of list of accepted vaccines by the Government of Canada may still be able to travel to Canada, provided that they meet one of the travel exemptions in the Order in Council until January 15, 2022.
Canada Exempting COVID-19 Pre-Entry Test Requirement for Short Trips
Effective November 30, 2021, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents who depart and re-enter the country within 72 hours of leaving Canada are exempt from the COVID-19 test requirement. The exemption applies to air and land travel. However, the Government of Canada has yet to confirm if travellers arriving by airplanes following a trip of less than 72 hours will still be required to undergo a COVID-19 test upon arrival following the additional testing requirements that were recently announced to address the rising concerns with respect to the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
It is important to note that this exemption does not apply to foreign nationals in Canada with temporary status, such as workers and students. This means that if temporary residents leave Canada for less than 72 hours, they will still need a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours in order to return to Canada.
Canada Introduces Additional Measures to Address COVID-19 Omicron Variant of Concern
With the growing concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant around the world, the Government of Canada has banned inbound flights originating from certain countries and will be implementing additional testing measures. These measures will also apply to fully-vaccinated travellers.
On November 30, 2021, the Government of Canada announced that all incoming air travellers from all countries, except the United States, will imminently be required to take a second COVID-19 test when arriving in Canada, regardless of vaccination status and possession of a negative pre-entry test result.
Additionally, as of December 1, 2021, foreign nationals who have been in any of these countries within the previous 14 days will not be permitted entry into Canada:
- South Africa; and
Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be exempt from this entry ban. However, they will be subject to enhanced pre-entry and arrival testing, screening, and quarantine measures, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19, if they have been in any of these 10 countries in the previous 14 days.
Canada will continue to assess the evolving situation, monitor case data, in order to expand the above list of countries, and adjust border measures as required.
Tougher Requirements to Be Fully Vaccinated in Order to Travel to Canada
Effective January 15, 2022, certain groups of travellers, who are currently exempt from entry requirements, will only be allowed to enter Canada if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved for entry into Canada. These groups include the following:
- Individuals travelling to reunite with family. Children under 18 who are not fully vaccinated will continue to qualify for an exemption if they are travelling to Canada to reunite with an immediate or extended family member who is a Canadian, permanent resident, or person registered under the Indian Act;
- International students who are at least 18 years old;
- Professional and amateur athletes;
- Individuals with a valid work permit, including temporary foreign workers. There is an exception for temporary foreign workers working in agriculture or food processing; and
- Essential service providers, including truck drivers.
Foreign nationals who have their permanent resident applications approved will be exempt from the vaccination requirement. This means that they do not need to be fully vaccinated in order to travel to Canada. However, they will be required to quarantine for 14 days and to complete a COVID-19 test upon arrival and on day 8.
Tougher Requirements to Be Fully Vaccinated for Travel to the US
The land and ferry ports of entry between the US and Canada were reopened on November 8, 2021 for individuals who are fully vaccinated. Currently, international travellers who are not fully vaccinated but are entering the US via the land or ferry ports of entry for essential travel, such as truck drivers, would be allowed to enter the United States. However, effective January 22, 2022, the US will require that all inbound international travellers crossing at US land and ferry ports of entry be fully vaccinated. This means the US will stop allowing unvaccinated international travellers to enter the US for essential travels, including essential workers, such as truck drivers and medical professionals. As such, in order to enter the US through land or ferry ports of entry international travellers would need to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the CDC in the United States.
Inbound travel to Canada currently does not require mandatory proof of full vaccination for international travellers who are otherwise exempt from current travel restrictions. However, this list will be shortened on January 15, 2022. Commencing November 30, 2021, international travellers and Canadian citizens and permanent residents will need to be fully vaccinated in order to leave Canada by commercial airplane, train or marine transport unless they meet one of the exemptions.
As of January 22, 2022, the land and ferry ports of entry in the United States will be limited to international travellers who are fully vaccinated and there will no longer be an exemption for essential workers.
New immigration policies could continued to be introduced with short notice in order to manage the evolving COVID-19 situation in Canada, the United States, and abroad. Accordingly, in order to prevent delays in your global mobility plan it is recommended that you contact your legal immigration counsel as early as possible. If you have any questions regarding how the current immigration policies may apply to your company, please contact Daniel Lee or Stephanie Heinsohn-Spiropoulos.