The U.S. Breaks with Canada in Response to COVID-19 and Cross-Border Travel Restrictions
Since March 2020, the United States and Canada have agreed upon mutually reciprocal COVID-19 related travel restrictions. U.S. and Canadian officials mutually determined that “non-essential” travel between the U.S. and Canada “poses additional risk of transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 and places the populace of both nations at increased risk of contracting the virus associated with COVID-19.” As a result, both countries temporarily restricted non-essential travel across the border via land ports of entry (though both countries have allowed travel via air and sea to continue). Since March 2020, both countries have continued to mutually extend the temporary ban on non-essential travel via land ports of entry. However, this week the two countries decided to go their own ways.
On July 19, Canada announced that it plans to ease its restrictions on travel to the country for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Effective August 9, Canada will permit “discretionary (non-essential)” travel for fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents. To be eligible, travelers must:
- Have received the full series of a qualifying vaccine at least 14 days prior to seeking entry to Canada. Currently, only those vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) qualify.
- Provide COVID-19 related information, including proof of vaccination, electronically through an official app or web portal.
- Test negative and be asymptomatic for COVID-19 upon arrival.
- Be able to provide a copy of original vaccination record at the port of entry at the time of arrival.
Previously, Canada required a 14-day quarantine for all arriving non-Canadian travelers but recently also announced an easing of that requirement. Effective July 5, fully vaccinated and otherwise qualified travelers may enter Canada and be exempt from the 14-day post-arrival quarantine requirement.
While Canada is easing some restrictions for qualified travelers, the U.S. announced today that it will unilaterally continue to ban non-essential travel to the U.S. from Canada via its land border crossings until at least August 21, 2021. The temporary ban also continues to apply to travelers from Mexico and applies to all border crossings, passenger rail, ferry travel and pleasure boat travel from either country. Only essential travelers may utilize those ports of entry. Essential travel continues to include:
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
- Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
- Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
- Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada in furtherance of such work);
- Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
- Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada);
- Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
- Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.
Individuals seeking to enter the U.S. for tourism (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events) are explicitly prohibited from utilizing border crossings, though non-essential travel to the U.S. is still permitted via commercial airline.
We will continue to monitor U.S. travel restrictions and update this page as new information becomes available.
This article summarizes aspects of the law; it does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice for your situation, you should contact an attorney.