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If you’re Australian and you had plans to travel to Canada, whether for tourism, work, or studies, the pandemic has likely thrown a wrench in your plans. COVID-19 is causing extraordinary changes to Canadian immigration. We are here to break down what this means for Australians who want to move to Canada.

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COVID-19: Travel restrictions for Australians moving to Canada

It’s now been nearly one year since most Australians were banned from entering Canada due to travel restrictions imposed to combat the spread of coronavirus. This ban, of course, has impacted all foreign nationals, not just Australians.

As per initial announcements, Canadian citizens and permanent residents will have the ability to cross into Canada, whether by aircraft or by the land border with the U.S. However, several exceptions were confirmed through IRCC’s announcement.

The following groups can cross the border into Canada whether by air or by land:

  • Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents;
  • immediate family members* of Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents who are travelling to Canada for non-discretionary reasons;
  • extended family members** and long-term partners** of Canadian citizens and permanent residents (or their partners) who apply for written authorization from IRCC;
  • immediate family members* of temporary residents in Canada who receive written authorization from IRCC;
  • temporary workers who hold a valid work permit or who are approved for a work permit but have not yet been issued the work permit (please note that flagpoling is not permitted at this time, refer below for more details);
  • IEC participants who have not yet activated their work permits must have a valid job offer in order to enter, this job offer does not need to be in an essential sector (Source: IRCC);
  • IEC participants who have already activated their work permits and were outside the country temporarily do not require a valid job offer in order to re-enter (Source: IRCC; note that anecdotal reports suggest airline staff and border officers may still deny entry without proof of a connection to Canada like employment, housing, or family);
  • international students attending a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) that is on the approved list (schools which have a COVID-19 readiness plan) and have either a valid study permit or a letter of introduction showing that they’ve been approved for a study permit (Source: IRCC);
  • COPR-holders with a valid COPR who are residing in any country other than the United States and were approved for their COPR before 12pm EDT on March 18, 2020, and who are travelling to Canada to settle permanently (Source: IRCC);
  • COPR-holders with a valid COPR who are residing in the United States and were approved on any date (even after March 18, 2020) and who are travelling to Canada to settle permanently (Source: IRCC);
  • those granted special permission to enter for compassionate reasons.

There are a handful of other exceptional exemptions listed here.

This means that if you’re Australian and you don’t fall into one of those groups, you will not be able to enter Canada.

It’s unclear how long this travel ban will remain in effect. The length of the ban will be responsive to the progression of the public health crisis. For the most recent updates regarding the travel ban, please refer to our COVID-19 newsfeed.

If you do choose to travel to Canada at this time, there are strict requirements for entry. First, ensure that you are allowed to enter Canada (refer to the section above on who can and cannot enter at this time). If you meet an exemption to the travel restrictions, you will need the following in order to enter:

  1. Entering by air — Pre-departure negative COVID-19 test: All travellers over five years of age arriving in Canada by air must show negative COVID-19 test results obtained no more than 72 hours prior to boarding their flight (or a positive COVID-19 test result from 14 to 90 days prior to boarding). Obtaining test results is the responsibility of the traveller. (Source: Government of Canada)
  2. Entering by air — COVID-19 testing and mandatory hotel stay upon arrival: As of February 22, 2021, all air passengers arriving in Canada will be required to take a COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival. Then, while travellers wait for test results, they must quarantine in a government-mandated hotel for up to three days at their own expense. Travellers must reserve their hotel stay at a government-approved hotel prior to boarding their flight. This is expected to cost more than CAD$2,000 (Source: Government of Canada)
  3. Entering by land at the U.S. border — COVID-19 testing requirements: As of Monday, February 15, Canada requires all non-essential travellers crossing the land border into Canada from the United States to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken in the United States within 72 hours of crossing the border (or a positive test taken 14 to 90 days prior to arrival). As of February 22, travellers entering Canada at the land border will be required to take a COVID-19 upon arrival, as well as an additional COVID-19 test near the end of their 14-day quarantine period. (Source: Government of Canada)
  4. All travellers — mandatory 14-day quarantine: Anyone entering Canada will be forced to enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine. You must prepare an isolation plan in advance of arrival in Canada detailing where and how you will complete your quarantine. This quarantine is being enforced and those breaking quarantine may be subject to fines and jail time. Certain exemptions will be made for essential workers and in certain compassionate situations (Source: IRCC). Select locations in Canada are trialing a new format for mandatory quarantine with reduced mandatory isolation combined with testing.
  5. All travellers — ArriveCAN app: All those travelling to Canada by air must use the ArriveCAN app to submit information regarding their travel/contact info, quarantine plan, and COVID-19 self-assessment. As of February 22, 2021, travellers entering via the land border with the U.S. will also be required to use the ArriveCAN app (Source: Government of Canada).

There are no special measures in place to exempt individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 from any of the Canadian travel restrictions and requirements. Please be advised that only four airports in Canada are currently accepting international arrivals.

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