British Columbians looking to travel across the Canada-U.S. border for a quick shopping trip will soon be able to do so without paying for a costly PCR test.
In a press briefing Friday (Nov. 19), federal officials announced that Canada will drop the mandatory PCR testing requirement for travellers who will be of the country for under 72 hours, effective Nov. 30.
But there are several things to consider before you head down south.
Who does the new rule apply to?
The new rule applies to fully vaccinated individuals with "right of entry to Canada" who depart and re-enter the country within 72 hours of leaving the country. This exemption is only for trips originating in Canada taken by fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents or individuals registered under the Indian Act, who depart and re-enter by land or by air and can demonstrate they have been away from Canada for less than 72 hours.
The exemption will also apply to:
- people with medical contraindications as defined in the Orders in Council (OIC); and
- unvaccinated children under 12 who are accompanying their parent, step-parent, guardian or tutor. The accompanying adult must be fully vaccinated (or have a contraindication) and have right of entry into Canada.
For fully vaccinated travellers who are travelling by air, the 72-hour period runs from the initially scheduled departure time for their flight leaving Canada to the scheduled departure time for their return flight to Canada.
Travellers will be responsible for maintaining proof of the 72-hour period to show airline/rail companies and border officials as required (e.g., boarding pass, travel itinerary).
Canada expanding the list of accepted coronavirus vaccines
Starting Nov. 30, Canada will expand the list of COVID-19 vaccines that travellers can receive to be considered fully vaccinated for the purpose of travel to Canada. The list will include Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN, matching the World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing.
Currently, Canada only accepts travellers who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra noted that "all vaccines approved under the emergency use listing must meet WHO standards for their quality and effectiveness."
To be considered fully vaccinated, a traveller must have received the full series of a coronavirus vaccine—or combination of vaccines—accepted by the Government of Canada at least 14 days prior to entering Canada. Travellers can receive their vaccine in any country and must upload their proof of vaccination in English or French into ArriveCAN when travelling to Canada.
If the proof of vaccination is not in English or French, travellers must provide a certified translation in English or French. Travellers must bring proof with them when they travel that includes text with the vaccinations and dates received.
Entry Requirements: Adjustments for certain travellers entering Canada
As of Jan. 15, 2022, certain groups of travellers, who are currently exempt from entry requirements, will only be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved for entry into Canada. These groups include:
- Individuals travelling to reunite with family (unless they are under 18 years of age if travelling to reunite with an immediate or extended family member who is either fully vaccinated or a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person registered under the Indian Act.)
- International students (18 years of age and over)
- Fully vaccinated students will be allowed to attend any provincially or territorially designated learning institution in Canada.
- Unvaccinated students under the age of 18 must attend a designated learning institution with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by the province or territory where the school is located.
- Professional athletes and their support staff, and amateur athletes.
- Individuals with a valid work permit, including temporary foreign workers, outside of agricultural and food processing.
- Most essential service providers (including truck drivers, emergency service providers and marine researchers).
As of Nov. 30, travellers need to be fully vaccinated to travel within Canada with very few exceptions. There is a limited period, until Jan. 14, 2022, during which individuals in specified exempt groups can continue to enter the country if unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, as well as take a connecting flight to their final destination that is scheduled to depart within 24 hours of the departure time of their flight to enter Canada. However, if they remain unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, they will not be allowed to take a plane or train beyond their original connection, except to depart Canada before Feb. 28, 2022.
Additionally, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers will only be allowed to enter Canada if they meet one of the limited exceptions, including:
- agricultural and food processing workers;
- foreign marine crew members;
- those entering on compassionate grounds;
- new permanent residents;
- newly resettled refugees;
- children under the age of 18 who are currently exempt from the travel restrictions, including international students who are studying at a designated learning institution that has a COVID-19 readiness plan; those travelling with a parent, step-parent, tutor or guardian who is either fully vaccinated, or a Canadian citizen, permanent resident of Canada or person registered under the Indian Act; and those travelling to reunite with immediate or extended Canadian family members in Canada; and
- national interest exemptions.
Unless exempt, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers eligible to enter Canada will be required to:
- have proof of a negative molecular pre-entry test taken no more than 72 hours before their flight’s initial scheduled departure time or arrival at the land border, or a previous positive COVID-19 molecular test taken within 10 and 180 days before arrival;
- complete arrival (day 1) and post-arrival (day 8) testing;
- quarantine for 14 days in a suitable place; and
- submit all of the information above in ArriveCAN via the free mobile app or website.
Travel for Children Under 12
Unvaccinated children under the age of 12 who are travelling with fully vaccinated adults do not need to quarantine but must follow public measures:
- For 14 days after arrival the child MUST NOT:
- Attend school, camp or day care.
- Attend a setting where they may have contact with vulnerable people (e.g., long term care facility), including people who are immunocompromised, regardless of that person’s vaccination status or public health measures.
- Travel on crowded public transportation that does not ensure physical distancing and masking.
- Attend large crowded settings, indoors or outdoors, such as an amusement park or sporting event.
- In addition, the child must take COVID-19 molecular tests as instructed, unless their parent, step-parent, tutor or guardian has evidence that the child had a positive COVID-19 test taken 10 to 180 days prior to arrival in Canada or the child is under 5 years of age.
Don't have your Canadian vaccination passport yet?
British Columbians looking to travel now have the option to download the new federal proof of vaccination — but there are a few things to consider before you book a flight.
On Oct. 29, Canada's vaccine card was made available to B.C. residents looking to travel in Canada and internationally.
Find out how you can get your federal proof of vaccination.
COVID-19 self-testing kits for travel over 72 hours
There are several clinics in the Lower Mainland you can visit to obtain the negative coronavirus test result needed for travel.
COVID-19 testing for travel may cost upwards of $150 CAD per person, although prices vary. Find out more information about the process and some local companies that provide the tests.
For testing from the comfort of your home, a Canadian company sells portable self-administered COVID-19 molecular and antigen test kits to avoid the hassle of visiting clinics. Find out more information about the company and its self-testing process.