Canadian officials announced that fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents can enter Canada for what is being called “discretionary travel” beginning August 9.
Those wanting to cross the 8,891-kilometer border by land or air into Canada will have to arrive asymptomatic and provide proof of full vaccination as well as a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.
The required documentation must be uploaded to the ArriveCAN app ahead of the trip, and travelers will need to have the paper version physically available.
Canada’s easing of entry restrictions will extend to travelers from all other countries starting September 7, with identical requirements.
The U.S.-Canada border has been closed to nonessential travel since March of last year. Canadians, however, have been able to fly into the United States with only a negative COVID-19 test.
Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University in Bellingham, is not surprised by Ottawa’s decision.
“I think that is a natural next step to allow Americans coming from the United States to Canada who are fully vaccinated for any trip purpose to be exempt," Trautman said.
"So I'm glad to see there's a date. I'm glad to see there's a plan.”
For Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, the announcement is good for commerce — and people’s outlook on both sides of the border.
“When you think about it, what we have been through as human beings over the last 16-17 months or so is not natural, and what's natural for people is to interact with each other," Hyder said.
"To celebrate events, to mourn events, to, you know, meet our customers, to take vacations — all of these things are part of being a human being. And those are the things that we sacrificed for the last 16-17 months.”
Perrin Beatty, the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, welcomes the reopening, particularly for the tourism sector and other businesses that rely on cross-border travel with the United States.
One concern he has going forward is potential delays at the border for checking health documents.
“And the government is going to need to look for ways of speeding that up," Beatty said. "Otherwise, we'll have massive traffic jams with people trying to cross the border at peak times. And that's why it's so important for us to have digital secure vaccination certification.”
Beatty also said the Canadian government should eliminate the requirement to have a negative COVID-19 test.
In making the announcements at a virtual press conference, Canadian Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair said he talked with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about the changes.
Blair said the current restrictions that expire on the 21st of July are expected to continue for travelers going by land into the United States.
“They are obviously considering additional measures and data," Blair said. "But at the present time, they have not indicated a plan to make any changes in their current border restrictions that are in place.”
Residents of the French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon will also be allowed into Canada for nonessential travel on Aug. 9.
Earlier, the Canadian government shortened the ban on cruise ships docking in the country to Nov. 1, four months earlier than it originally planned.
The Canada Border Services Agency staffs 117 legal crossing points along the Canada-U.S. border and 13 international airports.