Canada Eases COVID-19 Pre-Arrival Testing Requirements

As COVID-19 cases decline, the Government of Canada is easing some of its more restrictive travel requirements. Changes to the federal government’s COVID-19 testing requirements for all fully vaccinated travellers take effect on February 28, 2022 at 12:01 a.m. EST. A summary of the current rules can be found in our previous blog.

Fully vaccinated travellers arriving to Canada will now have the option of using a quicker and cheaper COVID-19 rapid antigen test to meet pre-arrival testing requirements. Fully vaccinated travellers may still use a molecular test result (“PCR”) but it is no longer mandatory. Fully vaccinated travellers may still be randomly selected for post-arrival testing but will not have to quarantine while awaiting their test result. More restrictive rules still apply to all unvaccinated travellers.

In addition to these pre-arrival and post-arrival testing changes, international flights will be allowed to land at all Canadian airports as of February 28, 2022. This will return further normalcy to air travel.

Pre-Arrival Testing Is Now Easier

Fully vaccinated travellers will have the option of using a COVID-19 rapid antigen test (taken the day before their scheduled flight or arrival at the land border or marine port of entry) or a PCR test (taken no more than 72 hours before their scheduled flight or arrival at the land border or marine port of entry) to meet pre-entry requirements. At-home rapid antigen tests do not meet the pre-entry requirement—the test must be authorized by the country in which it was purchased and must be administered by a laboratory, healthcare entity or telehealth service.

The ability to now take a rapid antigen test the day before travel will make it much easier for fully vaccinated travellers to obtain proper testing prior to their return travel. Rapid antigen tests cost significantly less than PCR tests and results are generally available within a few hours.

On-Arrival Testing

Canada is easing the on-arrival testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from any country. Travellers qualifying as fully vaccinated will be randomly selected for arrival testing and those selected will no longer be required to quarantine while awaiting their test results. Children under 12 years old, travelling with fully vaccinated adults, continue to be exempt from quarantine and will have no limitations on activities (e.g., they do not need to quarantine for 14 days before attending school or daycare). Unvaccinated travellers will continue to be required to test on arrival, Day 8 and quarantine for 14 days. Unvaccinated foreign nationals will not be permitted to enter the county unless they meet certain limited exemptions.

Unvaccinated Travellers Still Face Heavy Restrictions

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated will still be subject to more restrictive travel rules.  Unvaccinated travellers are still unable to board a flight departing from a Canadian airport and   will also have issues with boarding return flights to Canada. Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take a PCR pre-arrival test. Foreign nationals who are unvaccinated are not eligible to board a flight to Canada. Any unvaccinated traveller who manages to arrive at a Canadian port of entry will be required to quarantine for 14 days and take post-arrival testing.

Adjusted Travel Health Notice and International Flight Openings

The Government of Canada is adjusting its Travel Health Notice from a Level 3 to a Level 2 (i.e., the Government will no longer recommend that Canadians avoid non-essential travel). Further, Transport Canada’s Notice to Airmen that restricts where international passenger flights can arrive in Canada is expiring on February 28, 2022. As such, all passenger-carrying international flights will be permitted to land at Canadian airports that are designated by the Canada Border Services Agency to receive international passenger flights.

We will continue to monitor the border measures as they are adjusted by the Government of Canada.

The immigration group at MLT Aikins can provide guidance and assistance in ensuring that all prospective travellers are fully aware of their ability to travel and whether any exemptions apply.

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.