Can Americans travel to Canada during the pandemic?

can americans travel to canada during the pandemic
Photo via Radek Kucharski/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • This story is regularly updated for relevance. Last updated: May 11, 2021

As the coronavirus cases continue to escalate around the globe, not everyone is welcome to travel internationally. As the U.S. COVID-19 numbers remain some of the highest in the world, many countries are limiting incoming travel from the coronavirus hotspot. But what about its neighbor to the north? Can Americans travel to Canada during the pandemic?

The Canadian government’s website lists everyone who can travel to and enter the country until further notice. On the list are Canadian citizens, dual Canadian citizens with valid paperwork, permanent residents of Canada, protected people, and people registered under Canada’s Indian Act. Foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, will only be granted entry “if they’re eligible.” That apparently includes a well-known American comedian and a star NFL quarterback.

To be eligible to travel to Canada, Americans must either be an immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or be traveling for an essential purpose. All travelers into Canada must quarantine for 14 days. If travelers break quarantine, they could face a fine of up to $750,000 and six months of jail time. If someone were to present “a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while willfully or recklessly contravening this act or the regulations,” however, the fine could reach $1 million with up to three years of jail time.

By mid-April 2021, though, Canadian numbers were rising, and the CDC proclaimed that Canada should be avoided by travelers.

There are slightly looser restrictions around foreign nationals not entering from the U.S. The ban on non-essential travel from the U.S. to Canada has been extended until at least May 21, though it seems likely that the ban will last longer than that.

In late December, Canada adjusted its rules for non-North American travelers, requiring a negative coronavirus test before they’re allowed inside the country. In early February, the country proclaimed that no cruise ships can sail into Canada until at least March 2022. That means multiple companies have canceled their Alaskan cruises for the rest of 2021.

Many of Canada’s province require face coverings, so travelers who meet the requirements should keep this in mind. 

Canada also put out a travel advisory, urging citizens to avoid travel around and outside of Canada, and to stay away from cruise ships completely. The page also recommends that Canadians avoid travel to the United States for the foreseeable future. If not, the government said, “Be aware that commercial airspace closures and movement restrictions can occur without warning and could prevent your return to Canada.”

But Canadians can still fly into the U.S., which is confusing to some. “It’s like having your front door locked but your back door wide open,” U.S. immigration lawyer Len Saunders told the CBC. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Canada’s border rules prompted CNN to write, “Pandemic travel restrictions have made Americans prisoners of their country.” Some Canadians actually feel sorry for Americans. “Personally, it’s like watching the decline of the Roman Empire,” Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley told the New York Times.

As of May 11, Canada has suffered more than 1.29 million coronavirus infections and more than 24,600 deaths. The United States, on the other hand, has passed 32.7 million cases and has surpassed 581,000 deaths.

But by early April, Canada was suffering a surge of rising coronavirus cases, thanks to COVID variants. “Around the world, countries are facing a very serious third wave of this pandemic,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “And right now, so is Canada.”

The country was also struggling with its vaccine distribution, so much so that North Dakota began offering to vaccinate Canadian truck drivers. By mid-May, 40% of Canadians had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Still, for now, it seems that the closest Canadians want most Americans to get to their country is probably on the boat tours at Niagara Falls

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Sources: The Points Guy, Canada.ca, New York Times, Travel

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