ArriveCAN App Is Likely Here to Stay, Despite Technical Glitches

The ArriveCAN app – first introduced as a temporary COVID-19 measure – is likely sticking around despite technical glitches and its contribution to delays at Canadian border crossings.

ArriveCAN was initially launched in April 2020 to screen travellers to Canada for COVID-19. It has since expanded to collect travel, health, and vaccines information on travellers to Canada. The app has faced criticism for causing unnecessary delays – and, more recently, for instructing users to quarantine even though they are fully vaccinated, show no symptoms of the virus, and are not actually required to quarantine or isolate.

Multiple media outlets have reported the app incorrectly instructed vaccinated, asymptomatic travellers to quarantine – or face a potential $5,000 fine for noncompliance. The federal government says the glitch affected less than 3% of Apple devices and has now been resolved.

That may come as little solace to those eager to bid adieu to the beleaguered app. At a June press conference, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said ArriveCAN is here to stay and will be used for customs declarations in the future – an option already available at airports in Vancouver and Toronto.

The continued use of ArriveCAN could prove problematic for the many senior citizens and other travellers who do not have smartphones, although at this time there is no indication the app will replace other forms of customs declarations.

Delays at Border Crossings Continue

ArriveCAN continues to contribute to delays at border crossings, according to the union representing border officers with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). A union spokesperson estimates approximately 30 – 40% of travellers arriving in Canada haven not completed the ArriveCAN app. This comes amid a severe staffing shortage that has led the CBSA to implement mandatory overtime for border officers, cancel vacations, and bring back retired officers on contract. The union estimates 2,000 additional officers are needed to meet the current demand.

What are the Consequences of Not Completing ArriveCan before travel?

The implementation of the ArriveCan app came with consequences for failing to properly submit an ArriveCan report prior to travel. If you do not submit your information through ArriveCAN you may be denied entry to Canada all together.

If you are a Canadian Citizen, Permanent Resident or otherwise eligible for entry, you may still face other consequences such as:

  • Not being eligible for the vaccinated traveller exemption from quarantine even if you are fully vaccinated and being required to quarantine and complete post-arrival testing
  • Experiencing delays at the border for public health questioning
  • Being subject to fines or enforcement action

Travellers have reported a wide array of consequences when they attempt to travel without completing their ArriveCan report. Some airlines have denied passengers from boarding, while other travellers have been required to quarantine and undergo Day 8 testing even though they had evidence of vaccination status upon arrival at the port of entry.  Fines for failing to submit your ArriveCan report are generally $3,500+.

One of the most frequently questions asked is, “What if the ArriveCan app or website is not working on the day I need to travel?” Unfortunately, neither the airlines nor the CBSA officers have given much leniency to technical glitches and still enforce penalties for incomplete ArriveCan reports even if it is clear that the inability to submit is due to technical issues.

What Does This Mean for Travellers to Canada?

During a travel season that has seen Canada’s largest airport declared the worst in the world for delayed flights, glitches with the ArriveCAN app and staffing issues at the border have made a challenging situation all the more frustrating for many travellers to Canada. Notwithstanding these issues, all travellers to Canada should become familiar with the app and its required use as there is no reasonable end site to its existence.

MLT Aikins will continue to monitor the situation at the border and the potential implications of extending the use of the ArriveCAN app. Now more than ever, it is essential that people travelling to Canada have their documentation in order before arriving at the border – and pack their patience. If you require assistance bringing workers or employees to Canada, contact our Immigration team.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.