New Quarantine and Testing Measures for Non-Essential Air and Land Travel

On February 12, 2021, Prime Minister Trudeau and the Government of Canada announced further developments on the travel restrictions being implemented to curb the spread of new COVID-19 variants.

The Government of Canada previously reported that there would be “multi-layered” measures implemented in the near future. The announcement reiterated that non-essential travellers arriving in Canada by land and by air will be subject to COVID-19 testing upon arriving  in Canada (After Arrival Testing). Non-essential travellers arriving by air will also be subject to up to three days of isolation at a government-approved hotel while awaiting test results (Hotel Isolation). After their Hotel Isolation, non-essential travellers arriving by air can then continue to their home to complete what remains of their 14 days of isolation. These requirements are in addition to the testing and quarantine measures already in place.

These new requirements are slated to take effect February 22, 2021.

Air Travel Hotel Isolation and After Arrival Testing

On February 22, 2021, rules regarding Hotel Isolation and After Arrival Testing will go into effect.

Non-essential air travellers will be obligated to take an After Arrival Test for COVID-19. While awaiting After Arrival Test results, non-essential travellers will be required to isolate at a Government approved hotel for a maximum of three nights. The Government estimates travellers will pay up to $2,000 for Hotel Isolation.

Travellers subject to the new rules will have to reserve a three night stay at a Government approved hotel before boarding their flight to Canada. The isolation hotel will be near the airport in one of the four cities authorized to receive international flights (Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, or Toronto). A Government website setting out the approved hotels in each arrival city will be available by February 18, 2021. Travellers will not be able to take connecting flights to their home destination until the After Arrival Test results come back negative.

If negative test results are received at any time within the three days, the traveller will be allowed to continue their travel to their “home” location to complete the remaining 14 days of isolation. Costs at the hotel may be reduced if the stay time is less than the full three days at the discretion of the hotel. If the After Arrival Test results come back positive for COVID-19, the traveller will be taken to a secondary Government run isolation facility to finish their isolation period. This secondary Government isolation will be at no cost to the traveller.

Once the traveller has returned home, they will be required to take another COVID-19 test near the end of their 14 day isolation period. Travellers must contact their local public health agency to arrange for this additional test. 

The Government continues to state that these new rules will apply to those returning to Canada by air from “non-essential” travel purposes and/or those arriving to Canada for “non-essential” purposes. The Government has not provided full details of who will be exempt. We will update this blog as new details are provided regarding “essential” travel exemptions.

In addition to these new rules, air travellers are still required secure a COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to boarding their flight. If travellers are unable to produce negative COVID-19 tests taken within the specified time period, they could be denied boarding their flight.

Land Travel – Pre-Arrival Testing and After Arrival Testing

As noted above, Hotel Isolation will only apply to non-essential air travel.  Those arriving by land will not be required to isolate at a hotel.

Effective February 15, 2021, travellers entering Canada by land must obtain a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of entry. Foreign nationals who arrive without proper testing will be denied entry to Canada. Canadians and Permanent Residents of Canada cannot be denied entry to Canada, however, if they arrive without proper testing negative sanctions including fines of up to $3,000 and/or criminal prosecution may apply. Further, the Government may require a Canadian or Permanent Resident of Canada who arrives without proper testing to undergo mandatory isolation at a Government facility.

Effective February 22, 2021, non-essential travellers entering Canada at a land port of entry will be required to take a rapid COVID-19 test after entry. The traveller will be allowed to continue on to their “home” location to complete their 14-day isolation period and await test results. The traveller will then need to take another test near the end of their 14 days isolation. Travellers must contact their local public health agency to arrange for this additional test.

Along with the new testing rules, effective February 22, 2021, it will be mandatory for land based travellers to use the ArriveCAN App, which previously only applied to individuals arriving by air.

Current Impacts on Travel to Canada

Since no formal guidance has been released by the Government of Canada, essential personnel can still travel and in some cases are exempt from the requirements to self-isolate upon entry. Once the new rules are in effect, there is an expectation that exemptions will continue to apply to certain “essential” travellers. 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.

We will continue to monitor the restrictions and the exemptions as they are provided by the Federal Government. To stay up-to-date with all current immigration and COVID-19 updates, visit the MLT Aikins COVID-19 Resource Centre.