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The Canada‑United States Border is Opening – What Does That Mean for Canadians?

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From U.S. travel to the latest quarantine rules, here’s what the border reopening means for Canadians.

The U.S.‑Canada border has been closed to non‑essential travel for a long, long while – since March 21, 2020, in fact – due to the global pandemic. However, this week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the U.S.‑Canada border will open for discretionary travel on August 9 for fully vaccinated Americans and September 7 for the rest of the world. From travelling to the U.S. and abroad to the latest quarantine rules, here’s what the Canada‑U.S. border reopening means for Canadians.

What does discretionary travel mean?

Everyone is throwing the term “discretionary travel” around, but what exactly does it mean? Quite simply: optional or non‑essential travel. After more than a year of only being allowed to board a plane for the purposes of “essential travel” (read: work, school, healthcare), the return of discretionary travel means getting to check the box on the immigration form that says you’re travelling for tourism, recreation and entertainment.

Related: How Canadian Families Can Travel More Safely During a Pandemic

When can Canadians travel to the U.S.?

Is the U.S. border opening to Canadians as well? While Canadians who don’t display symptoms of Covid‑19 are allowed to fly into the U.S. (as long as they haven’t visited certain countries in the past 14 days, like Brazil and the United Kingdom, due to “variants and the continued spread of the disease”), President Joe Biden has yet to announce when the land border will reopen. Politicians from both U.S. parties have been putting pressure on Biden to reopen to Canadians.

July 22, 2021
The interior of Toronto's Pearson airport terminal 1, with a Canadian flag hanging from the curved roof.
   Photo: HW

How to travel during Covid‑19

There are plenty of countries where Canadians can travel right now – from the Caribbean and Europe to the Middle East. No matter where you’re headed, there are several things you can do to travel safely during the pandemic. The CDC recommends you only travel once you’re fully vaccinated and that you continue to follow standard Covid‑19 guidelines, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and self‑monitoring for symptoms. Airport Covid‑19 testing is also available in major Canadian airports to give you some extra peace of mind.

Related: 10 Canadian Restaurants That Opened in 2020 (Yes, During a Pandemic)

Mixed vaccine travel

Canadians who have received two different Covid‑19 vaccines – a mix of AstraZeneca, Pfizer and/or Moderna – may face difficulties when travelling to locations where mixing doses hasn’t been approved. While vaccine mixing is accepted in Canada, there are many places where it is not currently considered sufficient, including Barbados and some cruise lines. Prime Minister Trudeau says he is working with the international community to make sure mixed vaccine travel is not a barrier to Canadians.

Canada travel quarantine rules

If fully vaccinated Americans will be exempt from a hotel quarantine in Canada, will Canadians be as well? Yes – in fact, as of July 5, fully vaccinated Canadians don’t have to quarantine when returning home. (There are some conditions, like a negative Covid‑19 test both before and upon arrival, as well as electronically submitting proof of full vaccination using the ArriveCAN app.)