Travelling while fully vaccinated: Your questions answered about the new rules

Fully vaccinated Canadians are no longer subject to quarantine when they arrive from international travel. But the new policy has left many people with questions.

Eligible travellers to Canada must provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination prior to arrival

People hug outside the Ottawa airport in June. Fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents have been allowed to enter the country without having to quarantine since July 5. But the news still left many people with questions about who would and would not qualify for the eased restrictions. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Canadians eager to start travelling outside of the country again got a dose of hope when the federal government announced a plan to ease border restrictions. But the news still left many people with a lot of questions.

In late June, Ottawa said fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents will be able to enter the country without having to quarantine beginning the night of July 5.

But there are conditions, including that incoming people must obtain negative COVID-19 tests both before and upon arrival, be asymptomatic and have a quarantine plan in the event a test comes up positive.

They also must electronically submit proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 — two doses of a Canadian government-approved vaccine received at least 14 days prior to arrival in the country — to the most recent version of the government's ArriveCAN app.

That last point prompted many people to ask the first of several questions we'll answer below.

What if I don't have a cellphone or smartphone?

If you can't access the ArriveCAN app on your phone, or you don't have a phone or one with data while travelling, there are alternatives for you.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says you can enter your information on the ArriveCAN website within the 72 hours before your planned arrival in Canada and then print or take a screenshot of your receipt and bring it with you.

You can also ask a friend or a relative to enter your information on the website for you, then give you the printout or screenshot. You do not need to be travelling together. The ArriveCAN website is accessible for people with visual disabilities, PHAC said.

So, to be clear, while having a phone with the app is not crucial, if you don't provide the mandatory information on the ArriveCAN website before arriving, you will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and to provide a COVID-19 test result from the day you arrive as well as eight days after. 

WATCH | Public Safety Minister Bill Blair talks about the ArriveCAN app: 

Fully vaccinated Canadians do not need to quarantine starting July 5

1 year ago
Duration 2:48
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said fully vaccinated Canadians do not need to quarantine when re-entering the country starting July 5. They will need to provide proof of vaccination.

Why do I have to submit a quarantine plan if fully vaccinated people are exempt from quarantine? 

This is required in case you're denied the quarantine exemption when you arrive in Canada, either because you have symptoms of COVID-19 or your vaccination status and documentation don't meet the requirements.

"Final determination of whether or not you qualify for the exemption is made by a government representative at the border," according to a government website.

So you'll have to confirm that you have somewhere to stay for at least 14 days where you'll have access to necessities such as food, water and medication, can avoid contact with anyone you didn't travel with and won't have any visitors. There is more information on this government web page, and you can assess your quarantine plan here.

What kind of proof of vaccination do I need to submit?

When providing electronic proof of your vaccination, the Canadian government website says you must load the following documentation into the ArriveCAN app or web portal:

  • The details of your first dose (date, country and vaccine you received).
  • The details of your second dose if one was required (i.e., for Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines).
  • A photo or PDF file of the record of each dose of your vaccination, such as receipts, cards, or confirmations.
  • Accepted file formats are: PDF, PNG, JPEG or JPG.
  • Each image upload has a 2 MB size limit.

If your documents are not in either English or French, a certified translation into English or French is required. You can read the full requirements here.

Workers prepare to greet passengers at the COVID-19 testing centre in the international arrivals area at Pearson International Airport in Toronto in January. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

What if I'm travelling with unvaccinated children?

There is not yet an approved vaccine in Canada for kids under 12. For now, the government says young children travelling with fully vaccinated parents will have to quarantine when they get home.

"Undoubtedly, this will be challenging for families who want to travel," Health Minister Patty Hajdu said during a briefing on June 21.

"The advice from the team — that is scientists and public health experts — is that to protect Canadians from contact with an imported case of COVID-19, children under 12 do need to quarantine for the full 14 days."

There is no need for families with kids to stay at a quarantine hotel when they arrive back in Canada — the kids can go home with their parents to fulfil their quarantine. 

If unvaccinated children have to quarantine, do the parents need to stay home too? Can the kids play outside? 

Parents who are fully vaccinated are not subject to quarantine even if their children are, according to a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

"However, others who do not live in the household (that could include grandparents) would not be permitted to visit during the quarantine period," spokesperson Marc Johnson said in an email to CBC News.

The children under quarantine are OK to play outside if the backyard is private, Dr. Jim Kellner, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist with the University of Calgary, said during a recent interview on CBC's News Network.

Passengers arrive at Toronto's Pearson International Airport in February. Under new rules that came into effect July 5, fully vaccinated Canadians will not have to quarantine upon arrival home, but children under 12 will. (Sam Nar/CBC)

"They do still need to quarantine, and that means staying at a place without other family members and having their own space and staying within the confines of that home, which includes the outdoor yard," the doctor said.

However, he said that children should not be playing outside in shared outdoor spaces, such as shared balconies at apartments or condo buildings.

"With quarantine, you're expected to stay within your own private space."

What if my spouse is not Canadian? Do they have to quarantine?

The easing of the restrictions applies to all fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents and some foreign nationals who are eligible to enter Canada, according to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

"It is the traveller's responsibility to plan ahead, to understand their obligations and to understand if they are eligible,"  he said.

Travellers can find out if they are eligible to enter Canada on the Government of Canada website. PHAC cautions that some provinces and territories have their own entry restrictions in place for travellers coming to Canada from another country, and it is up to each individual to verify and follow any specific requirements

WATCH | Blair explains who is eligible under the new eased restrictions: 

Who can enter Canada under upcoming eased travel restrictions

1 year ago
Duration 0:47
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair outlines who is eligible and what travellers must do before arriving at the Canadian border under the eased restrictions beginning July 5.

Will Canada be issuing a vaccine passport? 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the federal government will work with provinces to ensure there is an "internationally accepted proof of vaccination" for international travel but will leave domestic options up to the provincial governments.

Some provinces have introduced systems similar to a domestic vaccine passport, while others have come out against the idea.

In Prince Edward Island, travellers from other Atlantic provinces can apply for a "P.E.I. Pass" to avoid having to self-isolate. Quebec authorities have also said they'll bring in a passport system to keep people who aren't fully vaccinated out of crowded public spaces should a fourth wave of COVID-19 hit.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has said he believes a vaccine passport system would violate privacy laws. 

What if I can't get a vaccine for health reasons? 

Since people who are unable to receive the vaccine — due to eligibility, allergies or other medical reasons — can be infected by COVID-19, they can also transmit the virus and its variants to others, PHAC pointed out.

"As a result, those who are currently unable to be fully vaccinated will be required to complete the day-8 [COVID-19] test (if they are over five years of age) and full 14-day quarantine," the agency said in an email.

Vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, one of four vaccines approved for use in Canada. (Grant Linton/CBC)

What if I have mixed doses of vaccine? Or doses from different provinces?

In Canada, fully vaccinated is defined as having received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before arrival to Canada. The mixing of Canada's approved vaccines is accepted.

The four approved vaccines in Canada are:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca-Oxford
  • Johnson & Johnson

You may have received two doses of the same vaccine, or a combination of two of them (for example, one dose of Pfizer plus one dose of Moderna, or one dose of AstraZeneca plus one dose of Pfizer or Moderna).

People who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only need one shot.

It is OK if you received your first dose in one province and your second dose in another. You simply need to be able to provide the documentation that proves you are fully vaccinated according to Canadian criteria.

With files from CBC News