Canada has very strict Covid-19 regulations for visitors to the country and violating those regulations can result in severe penalties or even jail time. Two Americans were recently fined $16,000 each for submitting false vaccination records. That fine could have been even higher – as much as $750,000 and six months in jail. They will also most likely be banned from ever entering Canada again.
Canada has opened the border for fully vaccinated Americans and other international travelers. If you are not fully vaccinated, there are no changes to Canada’s current border measures and you must be traveling for an essential purpose to enter the country.
The rules and restrictions on entering Canada can be complex, confusing, and quickly changing. See our Canadian Covid Travel Checklist for a step-by-step list of how to prepare to enter Canada. It is also important that you review the Canadian government websites we list at the end of this post. There you will find the latest information and even more details on Canada’s Covid-19 rules.
We have a separate post which details the U.S. Covid-19 travel restrictions. Note that all of the rules described here apply to boaters as well.
Updates to this post are highlighted in RED.
Canadian Covid-19 Border Reopening Plans
Canada has lifted the “essential travel” requirements and will allow American and other international travelers to enter the country for any reason so long as they meet the strict vaccination requirements we list below and complete the steps we list on the Canadian Covid Travel Checklist.
- As of July 5, 2021 fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents are no longer subject to the federal requirement to quarantine for 14 days or take a COVID-19 test on day-8. In addition, fully vaccinated travelers arriving by air will not be required to stay at a government-authorized hotel.
- As of August 9th, fully vaccinated American citizens are allowed to enter the country for any reason.
- As of September 7th, all fully vaccinated foreign visitors are able to enter Canada without having to quarantine.
- By the middle of October, air, train, and cruise ship passengers entering Canada will be required to present evidence of full vaccination for COVID-19.
Canadian Vaccination Requirements to Enter the Country
- To be considered fully vaccinated, you must have received the full series of a vaccine – or combination of vaccines accepted by the Government of Canada – at least 14 days prior to entering Canada.
- The following are the currently accepted vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
- You can get your vaccine in any country, but you must provide proof of vaccination documentation in English, French or with a certified translation (along with the original). You must bring a digital or paper copy of your proof of vaccination with you.
- Fully vaccinated travelers must still meet all of the other mandatory quarantine requirements we explain below, including undergoing both the pre-arrival PCR test and another test when you arrive.
- Unvaccinated children under 12 years of age, or unvaccinated dependent children (due to a mental or physical condition), who are accompanying a fully vaccinated parent, step-parent, guardian or tutor will be allowed to enter so long as the parent / guardian is legally allowed to enter the country.
Proof of Vaccination – Canada
Proving that you received a vaccination can be tricky so make sure you are prepared. GO OLD-SCHOOL AND BRING PAPER DOCUMENTATION WITH YOU. Do not rely on your cellphone as your only source of documentation. A dead battery or other problem could mean rejection of your vaccination status. Health Canada recommends you upload the following information and then also bring it with you to the border:
Additional Reopening Covid-19 Requirements to Enter Canada
- Fully vaccinated travelers will not need a post-arrival test unless they are randomly selected to complete a Day 1 COVID-19 molecular test.
- You will still need to isolate for up to 3 days on arrival while you wait for your PCR test results. If the test comes back negative, you will be free to head home where you can then complete the 2 week quarantine.
- In addition to being fully vaccinated you must have no Covid-19 symptoms, have a paper or digital copy of your vaccination documentation, and provide COVID-19-related information electronically through ArriveCAN or online at the Canada.ca website 72 hours prior to arrival in Canada. You must still present a suitable quarantine plan.
- ArriveCAN has both Apple or Android app versions or you can find it online at the government website. You must use the latest version of the app, which will be updated as regulations change. It can be difficult to enter the information needed on a cellphone so make sure you begin the process early enough to deal with problems.
- Once you are allowed to enter the country under this quarantine exemption, you will still be required to follow all other Covid-19 health measures such as wearing a mask when in public.
- You should be prepared to undergo the full quarantine if border officials decide that you do not meet all of the conditions in this new exemption. As always, they can make their own decision as to whether you have met all the requirements or are hiding the truth.
- If you are caught submitting false information on your vaccination status you could be liable to a fine of up to $750,000 – or six months imprisonment – or both.
Unvaccinated children under 18 can head home with their vaccinated parents. But they must quarantine — even though their parents can leave the house.
Documentation of Your Vaccination
Up to 72 hours before your travel, you must provide enter the following information into ArriveCan:
- the details of your first dose (date, country and vaccine you received)
- the details of your second dose if one was required (i.e., for Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines)
- a photo or PDF file of the record of each dose of your vaccination, such as receipts, cards, or confirmations:
- if you received two doses and they are both recorded on a single card or PDF, upload that same image or file for dose 1 and again for dose 2
- file formats accepted: PDF, PNG, JPEG or JPG
- maximum file size for upload: each image upload has a 2 MB size limit
- preferred file format: if you received a PDF file of your vaccination record, upload the PDF rather than an image, since the PDF is clearer and easier to read
- these must be in English, French, or a certified translation into English or French
- Vaccine cards with data on magnetic strips or QR codes are NOT acceptable because border officials do not have scanners to read them. Bring paper or pdf documents.
- Once you are done inputting your information into ArriveCan, you will be emailed a receipt to show a Canadian border officer when you reach the port of entry.
Pre-Arrival Covid-19 PCR Test Required at All Ports
Canada requires all non-essential travelers entering the country to show a Covid-19 test that was taken within the past 72 hours. This applies when you enter the country by any method including air, land, or water. This applies to Canadian citizens as well as foreign travelers. If you are a Canadian citizen and you show up without a test, you will be allowed to enter the country and begin quarantine, but you can be fined $3,000. Foreign travelers will be turned away at the border by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Essential workers such as truckers and emergency service providers are exempt from this testing requirement as it is meant for non-exempted travelers.
- You must be tested by a lab accredited by “an external organization” like a local government or a professional lab in the country you are departing from.
- You must arrange for the test on your own and pay for the test unless your medical insurance covers the test costs. You should absolutely obtain travel insurance and make sure it will cover Covid-19 related expenses.
- At this time, proof that a traveller has been vaccinated against the coronavirus will NOT replace proof of a negative test.
- Children under five years of age, emergency service providers, airline crew members and people travelling on refueling flights are exempt from this requirement.
- There are exemptions to pre-entry testing for essential medical. To qualify for this exemption, the patient must have written medical evidence from a licensed health-care practitioner in Canada indicating the services are essential and written evidence from a licensed health-care practitioner in the foreign country indicating the services were received. One person can accompany the patient and also be exempt from the testing requirement.
- Canadian citizens and permanent residents travelling to the U.S. for less than 72 hours may do their pre-entry test in Canada.
- If you have recovered from COVID-19, but continue to test positive, you may present a positive COVID-19 molecular test result on a specimen taken 14 to 180 days prior to arrival in Canada as part of the pre-arrival test requirements.
Covid-19 Arrival Testing at a Canadian Port of Entry
In addition to presenting a Pre-Arrival test, you will also need to take a rapid Covid-19 test when you arrive at a Canadian port of entry if you are not vaccinated. If you are unvaccinated and flying into Canada, you will be required to take a Covid-19 test before leaving the airport. You will also be provided with a COVID-19 At Home Specimen Collection Kit to use for your test on day 10 of your mandatory quarantine. Following the arrival test, you will need to go to your reserved hotel to await test results.
Canadian border agents are also randomly selecting vaccinated travelers for on-the-spot COVID-19 testing, so be prepared to submit to a test before being allowed in.
Canadian COVID-19 Quarantine Rules
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has mandated that if you are allowed to enter Canada you are required to quarantine for 14 days. This isn’t a hint or suggestion; it’s a public health order and has teeth with huge fines and jail time penalties for violations. Only certain exempt individuals are not required to quarantine. Under the border reopening plan, vaccinated travelers are not be required to quarantine upon entering Canada as described below.
The definition of quarantine is strict. You must have a place where you can obtain the “necessities of life” without leaving your confinement. You cannot shop at grocery stores. You cannot run out to pick up a take-out meal. You cannot use any shared common spaces like the gym, lobby or courtyard of a condominium. About the only reason you can leave your confinement would be due to a medical emergency.
You should not be staying with high-risk individuals or in communal settings like student dorms, a shared small apartment, or a household with many family members living together. If you are sharing a house with family or friends who were not part of your quarantine, you must have a separate bedroom and bathroom. No guests are allowed to visit you – even if it is to be outside and two metres apart.
When you enter Canada you must provide your personal information such as name, date of birth, quarantine or isolation address, and telephone number information. This applies whether you are arriving by any method – air, land or water. This information is then used to enforce the 14-day quarantine or isolation requirement. Canada has set up websites and a new ArriveCAN app to help make the process easier. To use ArriveCan, you must enter your information 48 hours before arriving at a Canadian port of entry. Using the app will speed up the process for entering the country and it can also then be used to update your quarantine information. The app can be downloaded from the iOS, or Android app stores, or you can access it on the web. The data that is collected is sent to provinces and territories so they help ensure you are following your quarantine plan.
While in quarantine, visitors must submit a daily COVID-19 symptom self-assessment. You may cut your stay short and leave the country before the full 14 day quarantine period is over. However, that means you are in full quarantine for the entire time you are in Canada. If you are denied permission to fly out of the country because you show Covid symptoms, you will need to stay in quarantine.
You may ask for approval for a limited release from mandatory quarantine. These are granted for specific situations where respecting the 14‑day mandatory quarantine period is not feasible, such as visiting a loved one who is critically ill.
ALL travellers entering Canada must wear a non-medical mask or face covering when crossing the border.
Penalties for Violating Canadian Covid-19 Regulations
You should think long and hard before trying to deceive a Canadian border official about why you are entering Canada, what you intend to do, or what your quarantine plans are. If you are caught violating Canadian Covid-19 rules you can be hit with up to a $750,000 fine and/or six months jail time. If your actions are considered to have endangered a Canadian’s life, penalties can increase to a $1 million fine and three years in prison. In addition, your deception is likely to go into your border crossing record and it is likely you will have a hard time ever entering Canada again.
These penalties are not idle threats. The Canadian Government has set up a large call center which makes live and automated calls daily to confirm you are complying with the quarantine order. If you cannot be reached, or if you are suspected of not complying with quarantine requirements, you will receive a visit from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or provincial police officers. These officers have full authority to issue fines of up to $1,000 and may ticket an individual again in the presence of repeated instances of non-compliance, resulting in multiple fines. If you still fail to comply with the regulations you can then face fines of up to $750,000 and up to 6 months in prison. Willfully or recklessly contravening the Quarantine Act can also result in fines of up to $1 million and 3 years’ imprisonment.
Canadians who suspect a visitor is violating the coronavirus restrictions have been encouraged to call the CBSA Border Watch Line at 1-888-502-9060 to report violators.
We have seen reports of people lying to CBSA officers about their intent to go to Alaska, but instead they simply head to resort areas. Some may in fact be going to Alaska but decide to do some sightseeing along the way. DON’T. In addition to the fines and possible jail time, your next attempt to enter Canada may result in an full secondary inspection and potentially a lifetime ban from Canada. What violators are forgetting is that border officers can see your entry and exit records.
Before flying into Canada you must submit your quarantine plan, contact info, travel details and a COVID-19 symptom self-assessment before boarding your flight. When you arrive, you must provide proof of that you completed the ArriveCAN submission by a receipt which is available online and through a mobile app. If you fail to do this, you may be subject to enforcement action, ranging from warnings to a $1,000 fine.
As described above, travelers arriving in Canada by plane will be required to take a PCR test upon landing – even if they are vaccinated. If you are unvaccinated, you are required to quarantine for up to three days at a hotel designated by the government at your own expense While you are waiting for the test results. If your test is negative for Covid-19, you will then be able to continue your 14 day quarantine. If you test positive for the virus, you will then be immediately quarantined in a designated government facility.
Fully vaccinated travelers do not have to do any type of quarantine and do not need to take a PCR test on day 8. This exemption must be granted by officials at the border.
If you are not an American or Canadian citizen you must be travelling for an essential purpose. Even if you are permitted to board the aircraft, you may be prohibited from entering Canada. Discretionary or optional travel for recreation, or tourism is not allowed. You must apply for a visitor Visa and / or an Electronic Travel Authorization – eTA. All travelers must wear a face mask of some type at all times during your travel. I
PCR Test Required to Board Flight to Canada
- All Persons age 5 or older must take a molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours – three days – before the scheduled departure time of the flight. You should expect that it will take at least a day to get your results so make sure you confirm exactly when you will get your proof of a negative test result.
- You will not be allowed to board the plane if you cannot submit written or electronic proof of a negative test result.
- You must still quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the country and use the ArriveCan application to file your plans.
If you are denied entry to the country because of covid, you will not be able to board a plane for 14 days, or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms that your symptoms are not related to COVID-19. Upon arrival in Canada, a traveler’s health and ability to quarantine will be assessed before they leave the port of entry.
All air passengers are required to wear face masks at screening checkpoints or when physical distancing cannot be properly practiced.
Canadian Province Travel Restrictions
You should also be aware all Canadian provinces have enacted their own Covid rules and border restrictions. You may find province staffed checkpoints at province borders, and provinces may block travel from other provinces. Canadian provinces can assess their own fines and penalties for violating their rules so don’t ignore this step. The rules are changing constantly so make sure you have current information. We have links to Canadian Province Coronavirus websites at the end of this post.
Travelling to Alaska During Covid-19
Anyone who is not a Canadian citizen who wants to travel to Alaska will be subject to very strict travel restrictions and is only allowed to enter the Canada through the following five border crossings:
- Abbotsford-Huntingdon (British Columbia)
- Coutts (Alberta)
- Kingsgate (British Columbia)
- North Portal (Saskatchewan)
- Osoyoos (British Columbia)
You will be allowed a “reasonable period of stay” to make the journey, but you will be limited to following “the most direct route” to Alaska. You must avoid all national parks, leisure sites, and tourism activities along the way, and must report to Canadian border officers when you leave Canada.
If you do not arrive at a border crossing to exit Canada by the date you have been given, your license plate number will be circulated to Canadian police forces and you will be sought out and fined. Failure to comply with the rules could lead to fines of up to $750,000 and six months in jail.
Canadian Coronavirus Websites
Below are some of the Canadian government websites which should display the latest guidance on COVID-19 and any rules and restrictions in place for travelers.
- Government of Canada COVID-19 coronavirus rules and restrictions
- Government of Canada COVID-19 coronavirus information line: 1-833-784-4397
- British Columbia Covid website
- Alberta Covid-19 Website
- Saskatchewan Covid-19 Website
- Manitoba Covid-19 website
- Ontario Covid-19 Website
- Quebec Covid-19 Website
- New Brunswick Covid-19 Website
- Nova Scotia Covid-19 Website
- Newfoundland and Labrador Covid-19 Website
- Prince Edward Island Covid-19 Website
- Northwest Territories Covid-19 Website
- Nunavut Covid-19 Website
- Yukon Covid-19 Website
- Student Information from the Canadian Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Agency.