COVID-19 Travel Rules Guide for Canadian Snowbirds

Canadian Snowbird's Guide to COVID-19 Travel Rules

LAST UPDATED: January 17, 2022

Looking for up-to-date COVID-19 travel rules for snowbirds? We’ve created this one-stop, COVID travel rules guide to help snowbirds find the latest rules and information for travelling to the U.S. and Mexico, as well as to and from Canada.

The guide will be updated on a regular basis and will be current as of the LAST UPDATED date above.

As COVID travel rules continue to change and evolve, this new approach of centralizing and updating this information in one place will make it faster and easier for snowbirds to find all of the information they need, rather than our previous approach of publishing a new article every time a new rule or change was introduced.

As always, we will endeavour to update this guide as quickly and accurately as possible. However, we also encourage snowbirds to visit official government websites for the latest official COVID travel rules and guidelines, which can be found at the end of each country’s section below.

Canada

Definition of “Fully Vaccinated”

According to the Government of Canada, to qualify as a ”fully vaccinated traveller you must have received, at least 14 full days prior to the day you travel:

  • at least 2 doses of a vaccine accepted by the Government of Canada for the purpose of travel, or
  • a mix of 2 accepted vaccines, or
  • at least 1 dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Travelling From Canada

Vaccination Requirements

All travellers age 12 years and 4 months and older must be fully vaccinated to board a plane, train or marine vessel in Canada, regardless of where you are travelling to.

This requirement applies specifically to:

  • Air passengers flying on domestictransborder or international flights departing from airports in Canada
  • Rail passengers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains
  • Marine passengers on non-essential passenger vessels, such as cruise ships, on voyages of 24 hours or more

You can find more information about vaccination requirements to board flights and trains within Canada here.

Travel Advisory

On December 15th, 2021, the Government of Canada reintroduced its Global Level 3 COVID-19 Travel Advisory for Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to all destinationsregardless of vaccination status, for at least 4 weeks, at which time the travel advisory will be re-evaluated.

The Level 4 Travel Advisory to avoid all cruise travel outside Canada also remains in effect.

You can find current Government of Canada travel advisory levels here.

Returning to Canada

Snowbirds returning to Canada are required to comply with the following COVID-related requirements for travellers entering Canada:

COVID Testing & Quarantine Requirements

Pre-arrival Testing

  • Traveling by Land: Canadians age 5 and older returning to Canada by land are required to present a negative pre-arrival COVID test taken within 72 hours prior to arriving at the border.

    A positive pre-entry test result within 72 hours of your planned entry is not a valid test result for entry to Canada. If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and your pre-entry COVID test is positive, you will not be refused entry, however, you may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 plus additional surcharges or face criminal prosecution and you will be required to quarantine upon your arrival and may be required to quarantine in a designated quarantine facility if you do not have a suitable quarantine plan.

    To avoid being fined $5,000 per traveller (plus surcharges), wait to enter Canada until the 11th day after your positive test result. If you had symptoms without a positive result, wait until the symptoms have ended and you have a valid negative pre-entry test result.
  • Travelling by Air: Canadians age 5 and older returning to Canada by air are required to present a negative pre-arrival COVID test taken within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of your flight to Canada. Airlines may refuse boarding to travellers who are unable to provide a valid negative molecular test result, or, for travellers who have already had COVID-19 and recovered, proof of a previous positive molecular test result taken between 11 and 180 days ago.
  • All Pre-arrival COVID tests must be performed in a country other than Canada.
  • If you have already had COVID and recovered: If you are symptom-free, you can provide proof of a positive COVID-19 molecular test when crossing the border, instead of a negative one.

    The positive test must have been taken at least 11 and no more than 180 days before the initial scheduled departure time of your aircraft if arriving by air, or your scheduled entry into Canada, if arriving by water or land.

    If you meet the criteria outlined above, you should also consider obtaining a physician's letter to accompany your positive COVID test stating that you have recovered and are clear for travel to avoid potential issues with Canadian customs and immigration officers.

You can find the latest official Government of Canada pre-arrival COVID testing requirements for travellers here.

Arrival Testing

All travellers age 5 and older arriving in Canada by land or air may be randomly selected for a mandatory arrival test by a CBSA officer.

If you are randomly selected, you must take the arrival test as directed on the day you enter Canada. The test may be administered at the airport or you may receive a self-swab kit at the airport or land border to complete within 24 hours after entering Canada.

Registering in advance for arrival testing: If you are randomly selected for an arrival test and you are required to get tested before exiting the airport, you will need to register with the test provider for your airport before your test is administered. Accordingly, it is recommended that you register in advance with the testing provider for the airport you will arrive at to speed you through the process. You can find a list of test providers for Canadian airports here.

When you register with the testing provider, be sure to use the same email address you used for your ArriveCAN account.

Exemption if you have already had COVID and recovered: Travellers who provide a positive COVID-19 molecular pre-entry test result, conducted at least 11 and no more than 180 days before their scheduled flight or arrival at the land border crossing, are exempt from arrival testing.

Quarantine

If you have only been within Canada and the U.S. in the 14 days prior to your arrival and you are selected for a random test, you do not need to quarantine while awaiting your arrival test result.

If you have been outside Canada and the U.S. in the 14 days prior to your arrival and you are selected for a random test, you must quarantine while awaiting your arrival test result, and if you are flying, it is strongly encouraged that you pre-register for an on-arrival COVID-19 molecular test at the airport where you are arriving.

You can find the latest official Government of Canada arrival COVID testing and quarantine requirements for travellers here.

Accepted Types of COVID Tests

Currently, Canada only accepts molecular COVID tests and does not accept rapid antigen tests.

The following common molecular tests are considered acceptable:

  • PCR - Polymerase chain reaction
  • NAT - Nucleic acid test or NAATs - Nucleic acid amplification test
  • RT-LAMP - Reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification

These tests use methods such as a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, nose swab, or saliva sample.

Some other less commonly available molecular COVID tests are also acceptable. You can find more information about acceptable COVID tests to enter Canada here.

ArriveCAN Requirements

Regardless of how you enter Canada, all travellers must use ArriveCAN to provide mandatory travel information within 72 hours before your flight departure or your arrival at the land border, depending on your mode of entry into Canada, including your:

  • Contact information and travel details
  • Proof of vaccination information
  • Pre-entry COVID test result information
  • Quarantine plan, in case it is determined that you need to quarantine upon arrival

Once you have submitted your information through ArriveCAN, a receipt will be emailed to you. You may be required to show this to your airline or a Canadian border official.

Some travellers may also be required to submit information through ArriveCAN after they enter Canada as well.

On December 6, 2021, the federal government announced that in some circumstances exceptions may be made for Canadians to provide their information in person at the border when entering Canada if they are unable to use ArriveCAN. However, travellers should still use ArriveCAN whenever possible, as it is unclear under which circumstances CBSA officers will make exceptions.

ArriveCAN is available as an app for iOS and Android as well as online. It is free and is available in English, French and Spanish.

You can find more information about ArriveCAN requirements for returning to Canada here

Official Canadian Government Resources

United States

Vaccination Requirements

  • Canadians age 18 years and older must be fully vaccinated to travel to the U.S. by air, land or sea.
  • Canadians under 18 years of age are exempt from the requirement to be fully vaccinated, but are still subject to pre-arrival COVID testing requirements if travelling by air (see below for more details).

Definition of “Fully Vaccinated”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), travellers are considered “fully vaccinated” 2 weeks (14 days) after receiving:

  • Your dose of an accepted single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or
  • Your second dose of an accepted 2-dose COVID-19 vaccine series, or
  • Your second 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart

You can find a list of accepted COVID-19 vaccines from the CDC here, which includes AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen/J&J and others.

Required Proof of Vaccination

Travellers should use the new standardized proof of vaccination documents available from your province or territory of residence, which are currently available from all provinces and territories

In addition to downloading your vaccine passport to your phone, travellers should print a physical copy of your vaccine passports to take with you in case you experience issues with your mobile device.

You can learn more about the status, availability and how to access standardized proof of vaccination documents in your province on the Government of Canada website.

COVID Testing & Quarantine Requirements

  • Travel by Land or Sea: Canadians travelling to the U.S. by land or sea are  NOT required to take a pre-entry COVID test
  • Travel by Air: Canadians 2 years of age and older travelling to the U.S. by air are required to present a negative CDC approved pre-entry COVID test taken within 1 day prior to their flight departure time.

    If you recently recovered from COVID-19have had a positive viral test on a sample taken no more than 90 days before your flight’s departure from a foreign country and you have met the criteria to end isolation, you may travel instead with your positive viral test result taken during the past 90 days and a signed letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official that states you have been cleared for travel. The positive test result and letter together are referred to as “documentation of recovery.”
  • Quarantine: Canadians travelling to the U.S. are not required to quarantine upon arrival in the United States.

Official U.S. Government Resources

Mexico

Vaccination Requirements

Mexico does not currently require arriving travellers to be vaccinated of show proof of vaccination

COVID Testing & Quarantine Requirements

Mexico does not currently require arriving travellers to take pre-entry or arrival COVID tests and does not require travellers to quarantine upon arrival.

Other Entry Requirements

Mexico requires arriving travellers to fill out a health questionnaire form. The questionnaire can be filled out in electronic or paper form.

The paper form can be found in the international arrivals area at the airport.

For the electronic form, travellers need to create an account on the Vuela Seguro Mexico website a maximum of 12 hours before their flight, keep the QR code from the online form, and present it to immigration on arrival in Mexico. There is no fee to complete this form.

Local Proof of Vaccination Requirements

While not a requirement for entering Mexico, some Mexican states are starting to require individuals to show proof of vaccination to enter public indoor venues like bars, clubs, casinos and stadiums.

Other Destinations

If you are travelling to a destination other than the U.S. or Mexico, please check with your airline in advance of your departure for up-to-date information about your destination’s COVID related entry, testing and quarantine requirements.

Disclaimer: The material provided on the SnowbirdAdvisor.ca website is for informational purposes only and does NOT constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, real estate, medical or other advice, and should not be relied on as such. If you require such advice, you should retain a qualified professional to advise you.

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