OTTAWA/TORONTO — Starting Nov. 8, the United States will be opening its land and sea border to non-essential fully vaccinated Canadian travelers for the first time since March 2020.
While the Public Health Agency of Canada is still advising against non-essential international travel, the border reopening means that Canadians can drive into the U.S. to visit family or take a day trip, something Canada has allowed fully vaccinated Americans to do since Aug. 9.
Here’s what we know so far.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED “FULLY VACCINATED”?
Travelers are considered fully vaccinated if they have had both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose regimen at least two weeks before the travel date.
U.S. REQUIREMENTS FOR LAND ENTRY?
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has told CTV News that he expects the U.S. policy to be “harmonized” with Canada’s approach. Still, there are differences between what Canada is asking travelers to show before entry and what the Americans are expected to require.
While Canada requires any eligible American traveler who visits to show a negative test result at the border, the U.S. isn’t expected to ask Canadian citizens to show proof of a negative test before crossing land or seaport of entry.
This is different from the U.S. air travel rules, which require proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.
Of course, all primary travel documents, such as a passport, remain requirements to cross the border.
WILL MIXED DOSES BE ACCEPTED?
The U.S. is expected to recognize travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any vaccine approved or recognized for emergency use by the World Health Organization or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance issued earlier this week for air travel. This would include AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite it not being approved for use in the U.S. A White House official told The Canadian Press that similar guidelines were anticipated for the land border.
The CDC also said late on Friday that six will accept mixed-dose COVID-19 vaccines from international travelers as well. While Canada and some other countries permitted mixing doses for first and second shots, the United States has not.
CANADA’S RULES UNCHANGED
For now, the Government of Canada’s travel rules and restrictions remain unchanged for Canadians entering back into the country from the U.S.
That means that to get back into Canada—whether hours or days after entering the U.S.—travelers will need to negative PCR test within 72 hours of a planned entry into Canada.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked in Washington on Thursday whether Canada might remove the testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers entering Canada and seemed firm that the requirement is not changing.
“Canadians do need a valid PCR test to go back to Canada,” she said.
“I really believe that when it comes to finishing the fight against COVID, the Canadian approach – which has been to follow science, to follow the recommendations of public health authorities, and to err on the side of caution – has served us well.”
For trips to the U.S. of less than 72 hours, travelers are allowed to conduct their pre-entry test in Canada before they leave the country.
If fully vaccinated, travelers will not have to quarantine upon arrival into Canada, provided they have a negative test and are not symptomatic.
FLYING INTO THE U.S.?
While the U.S. land border does not require a negative COVID-19 test, flying into the U.S. is a different story.
The U.S. air travel rules require proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before the flight or proof that the traveler has recovered from a COVID-19 infection in the past three months.
Proof of a COVID-19 recovery would include documentation of a positive viral test and a letter from either a healthcare provider or a public health official stating that the passenger has been cleared from isolation and can therefore travel, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
This documentation must be presented to the airline before boarding a flight to the U.S., and exemptions are only granted on “extremely limited” situations, such as an emergency evacuation or someone in serious danger.
Of course, all basic travel documents, such as a passport, remain requirements to cross the border.
SOON VACCINES WILL BE REQUIRED FOR NEARLY ALL TRAVEL
As of Oct. 30, Canada requires passengers and staff of the federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors to be fully vaccinated.
There will be a grace period until the end of November, during which proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be accepted.