The Canada-US land border has officially reopened, here's what you should know

Nov 8 2021, 2:57 pm

It’s official, the US-Canada land border is now open for non-essential travel, and there are already wait times at some border crossing locations.

The US-Canada land border had been closed to non-essential travellers since COVID-19 began to spread in North America in March 2020. Monday is the first day the land border opens to leisure travel.

If you’re thinking of heading to the US for a day trip, here’s what you need to know:

Proof of vaccination

All travellers aged 18 and up must bring their proof of vaccination with them when travelling to the US. The US Customs and Border Protection will accept the following as acceptable documentation showing proof of immunization:

  • A paper certificate with a QR code
  • Smartphone certificate with a QR code
  • Printout of a COVID-19 vaccine certificate
  • Photos of  a COVID-19 vaccine receipt or card
  • Smartphone with a COVID-19 vaccine certificate without QR code

The only vaccinations accepted in the US are those authorized for emergency use, approved by the FDA, or authorized by the World Health Organization. Acceptable doses include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson&Johsnon, COVISHIELD, Sinopharm and Sinovac.

The US will accept mixed doses for Canadians who received a mix and match dosing of authorized COVID-19 vaccines.

Negative PCR test

In order to return to Canada, you’ll need to present Canada Border Services Agency members with a negative PCR test from the last 72 hours.

If you’re travelling to the US for a day trip, you can use a COVID-19 molecular test taken in Canada prior to departure.

If you’re travelling to the US for more than 72 hours, you’ll need to access the proper molecular tests in order to return to Canada.

Approved tests for returning to Canada are:

  • PCR – Polymerase chain reaction
  • Nucleic acid test (NAT) or Nucleic acid amplification test (NAATs)
  • Reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP)
  • RT-PCR – reverse transcription real-time PCR
  • Quantitative PCR (qPCR)
  • Isothermal amplification
  • Droplet digital PCR or digital droplet PCR (ddPCR)
  • Transcription-mediated amplification (TMA)
  • RNA (Ribonucleic acid)
  • Ct (cycle threshold)
  • Sequencing
  • Next generational sequencing (NGS) or whole-genome sequencing (WGS)
  • Oxford Nanopore sequencing (LamPORE)
  • Detection of the N gene
  • Detection of Orf1a/b
  • Detection of the S gene
  • Detection of the E gene
  • Detection of the RdRp gene

Rapid antigen tests are not accepted for returning to Canada.

Travellers returning to Canada must download the ArriveCAN app and upload their test and vaccination status directly into the app.

Land border crossing wait times

Patience will be an important part of travel as the land border reopens. The US Customs and Border Protection said that longer wait times should be expected for those hoping to cross the land border. With more screening in place than pre-COVID times, waits at the border may take longer than usual.

As of 9:30 am ET on Monday, wait times at the Canada-US border for entrance to the US already had growing wait times. The St-Bernard-de-Lacolle border into New York already has a 180-minute delay. The Thousand Island Bridge into New York has a 45-minute delay.

Wait times in Western provinces are also beginning to creep up, even at such an early hour. The Coutts Crossing in Alberta had a 40-minute delay at 7:30 am local time. The Pacific Highway crossing had a 20-minute wait as early as 6:30 am local time.

You can check out border crossing wait times to the US here. To check border crossing wait times for your return to Canada, click here.

Brooke TaylorBrooke Taylor

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