What to Know as Canada Reopens its Border to US Travelers

For the first time in 16 months, Canada will open its border to non-essential travelers from the United States, starting August 9, 2021. The move is a huge sign of progress for two countries that have long shared economic, political, and geographic ties, but have struggled publicly with finding a way forward for resuming tourism and business travel.

While the news is positive and adds Canada to the growing list of countries that have recently eased border restrictions, travelers need to be aware of the requirements for entry and the changes they will encounter along the way. Below we’ve mapped out everything U.S. travelers need to know in order to safely visit Canada again.

Vaccination is Key to Entry

At this time, Canada is only welcoming back U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travelers can enter solely for essential travel purposes, subject to testing and quarantine requirements.

Additionally, Canada accepts only four of the nearly a dozen vaccines being distributed globally: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), and AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD. This shouldn’t pose a problem for most U.S. travelers, as the FDA has only authorized limited vaccines for emergency use, all of which are accepted in Canada.

You Still Have to Test Negative

All travelers—regardless of vaccination status—will still be required to submit a negative, COVID-19 molecular test (PCR) result within 72 hours prior to entry. Similarly, in order to reenter the United States, you will need to provide a negative test result before returning.

It’s important to note that while the U.S. accepts antigen tests for travelers returning home, such tests are not accepted as a valid form of entry for Canada. While slightly more accurate than antigen tests, PCR tests tend to be more expensive and take longer to deliver results. This is one reason why your business should consider integrating COVID-19 testing into your corporate travel program, which can minimize expenses and ensure a more streamlined international travel experience.

Another important caveat to keep in mind: Once you’ve arrived in Canada, post-arrival testing is not required, but you may be expected to submit to a test if randomly selected per Canadian Government guidelines.

Changes to Traveler Quarantine

In addition to reopening the border, the Canadian Government is eliminating one of its most controversial policies, the mandatory three-night quarantine in an approved hotel. This change applies to all travelers, including vaccinated U.S. travelers and unvaccinated essential workers. The latter will still be expected to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine and submit to periodic testing, but without the hotel stay requirement.

While mandatory quarantine has been eliminated in its entirety for vaccinated travelers, you still need to have a suitable quarantine plan in place. This is because if you test positive upon arrival in a random test, begin to display COVID-19 symptoms while in Canada, or fail to provide the proper information, a previously unexpected quarantine measure may be required of you.

Using ArriveCAN

Managing your proof of vaccination, test results, and quarantine plan is made easier with ArriveCAN—the official Government of Canada platform required for entering the country.

All travelers must use the ArriveCAN mobile app or website portal to submit their travel information, which air carriers will verify prior to passengers being permitted to board. Currently, ArriveCAN users can upload a photo of their vaccine certificate, with a new, more robust verification tool expected to round out the platform later this year. Along with their ArriveCAN receipt, travelers should also carry a copy of their vaccine certificates to present to government officials upon request.

Regional Differences

The new changes at the border may mark the unofficial “reopening” of Canada, but visitors should expect local and regional differences. For instance, some provinces and First Nations within Canada require visitors to apply for a permit before entering, including Prince Edward Island and Nunavut.

Additionally, some areas have been quicker to reopen than others. Mask mandates, in-person event restrictions, and indoor dining availability may all vary depending on the city or region.

The Future Outlook

While both Americans and Canadians are welcoming these new changes, there are still important details to resolve before business travel can fully resume. Most notably, the U.S. Government has not yet announced an exemption for Canadians on its ban of non-essential travel. Current U.S. border restrictions have been extended through August 21.

To stay up-to-date as this information changes, we recommend visiting our Traveler Intelligence hub. Use our Sherpa-powered tool to access real-time requirements regarding traveler quarantine, mask mandates, COVID testing, and proof of vaccination, all of which you can share with your team.


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