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What you need to know if you want to cross the U.S. land border


Starting Nov. 8, the United States will be opening its land and sea border to non-essential fully vaccinated Canadian travellers for the first time since March 2020.

The border reopening means that Canadians can drive into the U.S. to visit family, or take a day trip, something Canada has allowed fully vaccinated Americans to do since Aug. 9.

Here’s what we know so far.


Travellers are considered fully vaccinated if they have had both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose regimen at least two weeks before the travel date. 

Although vaccines such as AstraZeneca are not among those approved for use in the U.S., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that all vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as all vaccines that have an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted for air and land travel. This means Canadians who received AstraZeneca will be able to travel to the U.S.


Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has told CTV News that he expects the U.S. policy to be “harmonized” with Canada’s approach, but there are differences between what Canada is asking travellers to show before entry and what the Americans are expected to require.

While Canada requires any eligible American traveller who visits to show a negative test result at the border, the U.S. isn’t requiring Canadian citizens to show proof of a negative test before crossing at a land or sea port of entry.

The U.S. clarified at the end of October that travellers at a land border or ferry terminal are required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, as well as “verbally attest to their reason for travel and COVID-19 vaccination status.”

This is different than the U.S.’ air travel rules, which do require proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.

What counts as acceptable proof of vaccination can include vaccination certificates with QR codes, digital passes such as the United Kingdom National Health Service COVID Pass, printouts of vaccination records or a printed vaccination certificate, or digital photos of a vaccination card or certificate.

Of course, all basic travel documents, such as a passport, remain requirements to cross the border.


While Canada and some other countries permitted mixing of doses for first and second shots, the United States has not recommended it.

However, travellers to the U.S. who achieved full vaccination by mixing two different brands of COVID-19 vaccines, such as having received AstraZeneca for the first shot and Pfizer for the second, will still be accepted into the country, according to the CDC. This goes for air travel as well as travel by land or sea.

Those who do have mixed doses must have received a combination from two vaccines that have been approved by the FDA and/or have an emergency use listing from the WHO.


For now, the Government of Canada’s travel rules and restrictions remain unchanged for Canadians who are entering back into the country from the U.S.

That means that in order to get back into Canada—whether hours or days after entering the U.S.—travellers will need to present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of a planned entry into Canada.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked in Washington in mid-October whether Canada might remove the testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers entering into Canada and seemed firm that the requirement is not changing.

"Canadians do need a valid PCR test to go back to Canada,” she said.

"I really believe that when it comes to finishing the fight against COVID, the Canadian approach – which has been to follow science, to follow the recommendations of public health authorities, and to err on the side of caution – has served us really, really well.”

While the U.S. is allowing those with vaccines outside of those authorized by the U.S. to still enter the country, those entering Canada must have received one (or more, in the case of mix-and-match) of the four vaccines that have been authorized by the government of Canada. Only Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson have been approved in Canada.

For trips to the U.S. of less than 72 hours, travellers are allowed to conduct their pre-entry test in Canada before they leave the country.

If fully vaccinated, travellers will not have to quarantine upon arrival into Canada, provided they have a negative test and are not symptomatic.


While the U.S. land border does not require a negative COVID-19 test, flying into the U.S. is a different story.

The U.S.’ air travel rules require proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before the flight, or proof of that the traveller has recovered from a COVID-19 infection in the past three months.

Proof of a COVID-19 recovery would include documentation of a positive viral test and a letter from either a health-care provider or a public health official stating that the passenger has been cleared from isolation and can therefore travel, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

This documentation must be presented to the airline before boarding a flight to the U.S. and exemptions are only granted on “extremely limited” situations, such as an emergency evacuation, or someone in serious danger.

Of course, all basic travel documents, such as a passport, remain requirements to cross the border.


As of Oct. 30, Canada is requiring passengers and staff of the federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors to be fully vaccinated.

There will be a grace period until the end of November, during which proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be accepted.

With files from Solarina Ho and Alexandra Mae Jones Top Stories

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