The Return of Post-Arrival Testing and Quarantine

Authors: Katie Newman, Scott Bell

This blog was published on December 1, 2021 and has been updated to reflect recent developments.


As of December 18, 2021, the Federal Government has lifted its 10-country travel ban. The government has also reimposed its requirement for travellers taking short international trips lasting for less than 72 hours to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before returning to Canada.

On December 15, 2021, the Government of Canada issued a Level 3 travel health notice recommending Canadians avoid all non-essential travel internationally, regardless of vaccination status.

In the advisory, the Public Health Agency of Canada noted that many foreign governments are starting to implement travel restrictions, and as a result, Canadians may have difficulties returning to Canada. As the Omicron variant spreads, international transportation options may be reduced, and sudden measures could strand Canadians for indefinite periods.

As seen previously throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, sudden lockdowns or border restrictions are possible, and coupled with the reduced international transportation options, may pose issues for Canadians trying to return home over the holiday season.

The advisory and its recommendations are not mandatory requirements. At this time the Government of Canada did not go ahead with more serious mandatory travel restrictions, which were contemplated in response to the latest COVID-19 variant. Although that is the case, it is still possible that new restrictions could be implemented at any time, thus the advisory not to travel.  Should additional rules be implemented, we will provide further updates.

On November 30, 2021, the Government of Canada announced additional border measures and new prohibitions to address the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

All travellers arriving to Canada from any country, except the United States, will be subject to COVID-19 testing immediately upon arrival to Canada. This applies to subject travellers regardless of vaccination status. This requirement also applies to Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning to Canada from countries other than the United States.

Fully vaccinated travellers who are subject to post-arrival testing must self-isolate while they await results of their arrival test. The Government has not specified quarantine times, but it appears that travellers can expect to quarantine for two to four days while awaiting test results. Unless travelling from a country with entry prohibitions as listed below, travellers will likely be able to quarantine at home or other locations of their choice.

The Government has not officially announced an implementation date for these new testing measures, but Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said that the new requirements will go into effect, “as quickly and as much as possible over the next few days.”

The Federal Government has reported at least six confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia to date. Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health officer has described the enhanced border measures as a temporary tool to help the Government adapt.

Reminder of requirements for fully vaccinated travellers

As we previously outlined in our recent blog, Significant Updates to Canada’s COVID-19 Travel Rules, beginning November 30, 2021, fully vaccinated Canadians who re-enter Canada within 72 hours of are no longer required to provide a pre-entry molecular test result.

All other fully vaccinated travellers, regardless if they are Canadian citizens, must comply with the following:

  • Show a pre-entry molecular test
  • Use the ArriveCan app to upload proof of vaccination
  • Take an arrival test if selected and applicable

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.