When will Canada open its borders?
Canada’s borders open to fully vaccinated travellers from all countries as of September 7, 2021
Fully vaccinated non-essential travellers from all countries are able to enter Canada as of September 7, 2021. Fully vaccinated travellers from the United States, which includes U.S. citizens and permanent residents who currently reside in the U.S., have been eligible to enter Canada since August 9, 2021.
Certain changes to Canada’s COVID-19 border measures accompany these new travel requirements:
- Pre-arrival COVID-19 test: All travellers still require a pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test (note: antigen tests, often called “rapid tests,” are not accepted). For travellers arriving at the land border with the U.S., this test must be taken within 72 hours of arriving at the Canadian border. For air travellers, this test must be taken within 72 hours of flight departure.
- On-arrival COVID-19 test (Day One test): A new randomized testing system is being used for fully vaccinated travellers. Only fully vaccinated travellers who are randomly selected will have to complete an on-arrival COVID-19 test. All unvaccinated/partially vaccinated travellers will still have to take an on-arrival test.
- End of mandatory hotel stay for air travellers: Air travellers no longer have to stay in a government-authorized hotel while awaiting their on-arrival COVID-19 test results. This applies to all travellers from all countries. Unvaccinated/partially vaccinated air travellers may proceed directly to their quarantine location. Fully vaccinated air travellers will be exempt from quarantine.
- Children under the age of 12: Children under the age of 12 travelling with fully vaccinated parents/guardians can enter Canada and are exempt from quarantine requirements, but will have to follow certain special measures, like avoiding schools, camps, and daycares. Refer here for details about requirements for children under the age of 12.
Canada has also announced that the ban on commercial and passenger flights from India will be extended until at least September 21, 2021. Canada has also banned flights from Morocco until at least September 29, 2021.
Your questions about Canada’s border re-opening: Answered.
Who is considered ‘fully vaccinated’?
Under current definitions (and these could change in the future), in order to be considered a fully vaccinated traveller, you must have received the full series of a Health Canada approved COVID-19 vaccine or a combination of accepted vaccines. You must have received your last dose at least 14 days prior to travelling. Canada currently accepts four vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, Johnson & Johnson. If you have been vaccinated using a different vaccine, Canada does not consider you fully vaccinated at this time.
Will fully vaccinated travellers have to do anything special to travel to Canada?
Pre-arrival COVID-19 test: All travellers still require a pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test (note: antigen tests, often called “rapid tests,” are not accepted). For travellers arriving at the land border with the U.S., this test must be taken within 72 hours of arriving at the Canadian border. For air travellers, this test must be taken within 72 hours of flight departure.
On-arrival COVID-19 test (Day One test): A new randomized testing system is being used for fully vaccinated travellers. Only fully vaccinated travellers who are randomly selected will have to complete an on-arrival COVID-19 test. All unvaccinated/partially vaccinated travellers will still have to take an on-arrival test.
Proof of vaccination and other required documents must be uploaded to the ArriveCAN app at least 72 hours prior to arrival in Canada.
Which U.S. residents are able to travel as of August 9, 2021?
Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible for the exemption.
Which foreign nationals are able to travel as of September 7, 2021?
Foreign nationals from all countries are eligible to travel to Canada as of September 7, as long as they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (see above for definition of ‘fully vaccinated’).
What about children under the age of 12?
Children under the age of 12 travelling with fully vaccinated parents/guardians can enter Canada and are exempt from quarantine requirements, but will have to follow certain special measures, like avoiding schools, camps, and daycares. Refer here for details about requirements for children under the age of 12.
In this guide, we bring you all the latest information influencing Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, as well as signs that may influence when the borders may reopen.
- What do we mean by “open borders”?
- Will getting vaccinated allow a person to travel?
- Is Canada going to create a COVID-19 vaccine passport?
- Could the COVID-19 variants derail Canada’s re-opening?
What do we mean by “open borders”?
Before we get into the question of when Canada’s borders will open, it’s important to define what we mean by Canada’s borders being “open.” Canada’s borders are never fully “open” or fully “closed” — the purpose of a border is to regulate who can and cannot enter a country. Before COVID-19, more people met the requirements to cross into Canada, but the borders still restricted some people from entering the country.
Instead of thinking of Canada’s borders in a binary fashion — either being “open” or “closed” — it’s more useful to think of Canada’s borders like a water tap or faucet — the flow of water will increase or decrease depending on how much you turn the handle. Throughout the pandemic, Canada’s borders have never been truly “closed,” but the flow has been decreased — the tap is just barely dripping.
As the pandemic begins to resolve, we can expect the flow to increase, but it will not all happen at one moment. Canada’s borders will not go from “closed” to “open” in one day. Instead, Canada is slowly increasing the number of permissible reasons for crossing the border. In June, Canada finally lifted restrictions on approved permanent residence applicants (thousands of whom have been waiting for the green light to move to Canada since March 2020). In July, Canada began rolling back travel restrictions for individuals who have proof of full vaccination.
Plus, when the pandemic is over, Canada’s borders might look different than they did before COVID-19. We might never return to the pre-COVID “normal,” instead Canada might create a new normal based on lessons learned during the pandemic.
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How will COVID-19 vaccines impact Canada’s border closures?
Vaccines are viewed as one of the most important tools in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and returning to a semblance of normalcy. Although Canada’s vaccine campaign was criticized in its early days for failing to keep up with the pace set by other countries around the world, the pace of inoculations is accelerating with political leaders around making some very optimistic promises about timelines.
Throughout August and September, daily vaccine doses administered have slowed considerably, although efforts are being made to persuade the vaccine-hesitant to get their shots. As of September 6, Canada has fully vaccinated more than 77 percent of the eligible population, with more than 84 percent having received at least one dose of vaccine. However, as the more infectious delta variant takes hold in Canada, even these exceptional vaccination numbers have failed to keep infections from rising and public health officials are predicting a delta-driven fourth wave of infection.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has stressed that the decision to relax public health restrictions restrictions is “less data-oriented and more disease-activity oriented.” Although Canada’s rate of vaccination gives reason for optimism, the unpredictability of the delta variant has put a damper on Canada’s re-opening plans. Despite the spread of the delta variant, the Canadian government has been opening borders to fully vaccinated travellers throughout August and September.
As of September, 2021, Canada has approved four COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Johnson&Johnson. As of September 6, Canada has received more than 63 million doses of vaccine and has administered more than 53 million doses.
Vaccination within Canada is only one piece of the puzzle, especially for those outside Canada hoping to cross the border and come into the country. While reaching population immunity domestically may ease restrictions, another important conversation is emerging around the world: the use of COVID-19 vaccination passports — proof of vaccination — as a means of facilitating international travel.