Traveling to Canada from the U.S. during Covid: All You Need to Know

travel to canada from us covid

Canada lifted its travel ban on Americans crossing the border for leisure on Aug. 9 while the U.S. has maintained all restrictions for their Canadian neighbors. 

The Canadian government shut down its border in March 2020 in an attempt to protect its citizens from the devastations of the pandemic in a moment when the world was not certain if even creating a vaccine against the new virus was possible over the next few years.

Fortunately, a lot has changed since then. Canada has not only fully vaccinated 70.3% of its population but also has signed a grant agreement in the amount of 30.38 million Canadian dollars to provide essential health services to other 10 countries during the COVID-19 pandemic fight.

Armed with a stronger health system and massive vaccination campaigns the country is ready to welcome back its fully vaccinated Southern friends. Here is how.

Crossing the border – Documents needed

Before boarding a flight to Canada there are a number of documents that fully vaccinated Americans and permanent residents need to gather and register to ensure a smooth entry. 

First and foremost, Canada considers a person fully vaccinated when they have received the full series of a government-approved COVID-19 vaccine no less than 14 days before entering Canada.

As of today, approved vaccines are the ones manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Covishield and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). The certificate can be issued in either English or French.

Once travelers have their certifications ready, it’s time to take the COVID-19 test. Make sure you don’t cut it close with that 72-hour timing, otherwise you will need to pay to get retested even if the test is a few hours older than 72.

Having a hard copy of your test is “really, really helpful” since gate agents will want to check it out before giving you a boarding pass, says Daryl Silver, president of Continental Travel Group. 

Also bringing a physical boarding pass is highly recommended to streamline your trip through the airport.

The ArriveCAN app

The arriveCan app is a web-based platform and an app that should be downloaded and used to provide the Canadian government with mandatory travel information before and after entry into Canada.

Travelers must upload photographic proof of their vaccination certificates and negative COVID-19 tests up to 72 hours prior to departure.

This easy-to-use app is also meant to help travelers with useful information about the border crossing process. 

flag of Canada and border

You survived the border crossing process, are you free to go now?

Not just yet. One more thing is needed. Get tested again. 

All arrivals need to either take a free arrival test upon arrival or receive a home test kit to complete that day. 

Travelers opting for the second option will need to also set up a quick video call with a Canadian official to walk them through the process of administering the test and preparing it to be delivered to a lab.

Once the results return negative, visitors will be free to resume their trips.

The government will require them to keep a record of close contacts during the next 14 days in case they have received a false negative. 

Will Canada accept unvaccinated Americans in the near future? 

Those expecting Canada to change its entry vaccination mandate in the near future will need to change their travel plans instead.

Effective October, Canada will require all air, train and cruise passengers to mandatory bring proof of vaccination against COVID-19. 

This new requirement will not only apply for international travel but also for instate trips. 

Unvaccinated travelers crossing by land are allowed for now, but they have to observe a 8-day mandatory quarantine upon entry.