Significant Updates to Canada’s COVID-19 Travel Rules

On November 19, 2021 the Government of Canada announced significant updates to its travel rules and border measures.

Effective January 15, 2022, specific groups of foreign nationals will not be allowed to enter Canada unless they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines on an approved list. The list of accepted vaccines will be updated on November 30, 2021. Further, the pre-arrival COVID-19 test will be eliminated for some short trips starting November 30, 2021.

Foreign National Travelers Previously Exempt Will Need To Be Fully Vaccinated

Under current travel rules, various categories of foreign national travellers are eligible to travel to Canada without being fully vaccinated. These unvaccinated individuals are subject to quarantine rules on arrival to Canada but are not prevented from travel.

Beginning on January 15, 2021 the following groups of foreign nationals will need to be fully vaccinated for travel to Canada:

  • Individuals with a valid work permit, including temporary foreign workers, outside of agricultural and food processing;
  • Most essential service providers (including truck drivers, emergency service providers and marine researchers);
  • Individuals travelling to reunite with family (unless they are under 18 years of age if travelling to reunite with an immediate or extended family member who is either fully vaccinated or a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person registered under the Indian Act.);
  • International students (18 years of age and over); and
  • Professional athletes and their support staff, and amateur athletes.

After January 15, 2022, all non-exempt unvaccinated or partially vaccinated foreign nationals will be prohibited from entering Canada. This will eliminate many of the vaccine exemptions foreign nationals could employ.

Canada Expands List of Accepted COVID-19 Vaccines

Requiring certain foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated for travel to Canada raises some concerns due to the inability to access Canada-approved vaccines in many foreign countries. Critical industry workers, essential services workers, students, and family members who were previously exempt from vaccination requirements could find it difficult to travel to Canada in the future, even when vaccinated with vaccines not on the Canada-approved list.

To alleviate this concern, the Government of Canada will expand the approved list of accepted COVID-19 vaccines effective November 30, 2021. This new list will match the World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing, and will now include Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN.

Pre-Arrival COVID-19 Tests Will Be Eliminated For Short Trips

Further to the above noted changes, effective November 30, 2021, fully vaccinated Canadians and Permanent Residents travelling out of Canada for less than 72 hours will no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test to return to Canada.

This exemption applies to:

  • Trips originating in Canada by fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents or individuals registered under the Indian Act;
  • Fully vaccinated travellers who depart and re-enter Canada by land or air; and
  • Who can demonstrate that they have been away from Canada for less than 72 hours.

Unvaccinated children under 12 who are accompanying their parent, step-parent, guardian or tutor will also be exempt. The accompanying adult must be fully vaccinated and have right of entry into Canada. Unvaccinated children using the exemption will not be permitted to attend school, daycare, or any public crowd for 14 days after returning to Canada.

As we previously reported, starting November 30, 2021, full vaccination will be required for all air travel within Canada and departing Canada. A valid COVID-19 molecular test will no longer be accepted as an alternative to vaccination unless travellers are eligible for one of the very limited exemptions.

We will continue to monitor the restrictions and the exemptions as they are provided 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.