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Canada: Fully vaccinated international students eligible for exemption from quarantine

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Beginning 5 July, fully vaccinated international students who meet all requirements at the Canadian border will be exempted from mandatory quarantine and can go straight to their residences
  • They will still need to have a quarantine plan in case border officials determine they haven’t met all requirements
  • Approved vaccines are Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and students will have to have received two doses unless they have received Johnson & Johnson, which is a one-dose vaccine
  • Students will also have to be asymptomatic and will still have to do pre- and on-arrival COVID testing

The Canadian government has announced that beginning 5 July at 11:59 pm ET, fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents – as well as international students – will be able to enter Canada without having to quarantine for 14 days, subject to border officials’ determination that they have met all requirements. They will be able to go straight to their homes/residences without having to stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel and will not have to take a subsequent COVID test eight days after arrival.

Travellers who have not been fully vaccinated will still have to quarantine and follow all other testing rules that have been in place for months in Canada. The new exemption also does not extend to tourists. The government wants to have 75% of Canadians fully vaccinated before it opens the borders to tourists, who also will have to be fully vaccinated.

The decision to exempt fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents, and international students from quarantine was made “because of the successes of the vaccine roll out in Canada and Canadians following public health measures.” As of this writing, more than 75% of eligible Canadians have received at least one dose and more than 20% are fully vaccinated.

The government also announced that it is ending the ban on flights from Pakistan. Direct flights from India are still banned for at least another month given the high COVID infection rates in that country.

A number of requirements must be met

To be eligible for the quarantine exemption, incoming international students will need to have received the full series of a vaccine 14 days before arrival – which is two doses administered weeks apart for Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and a single dose for Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). They can have received their vaccines in any country, and a combination of vaccines (e.g., AstraZeneca plus Pfizer, or any other accepted combination) is permitted. They must still meet all other entry requirements, such as pre- and on-arrival testing.

Children who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated (those under 12 years old) who accompany their fully vaccinated parents to Canada must quarantine for two weeks but this can be at home with their parents.

Incoming travellers eligible for the exemption must provide documentation supporting their vaccination in English, French, or with a certified translation.

In addition, the Canadian government states,

“Fully vaccinated travellers must also be asymptomatic, have a paper or digital copy of their vaccination documentation, and provide COVID-19-related information electronically through ArriveCAN prior to arrival in Canada. They must still present a suitable quarantine plan, and be prepared to quarantine, in case it is determined at the border that they do not meet all of the conditions required to be exempt from quarantine. As with all other exempt travellers, they will be required to follow public health measures in place, such as wearing a mask when in public, keep a copy of their vaccine and test results, as well as a list of close contacts for 14 days after entry to Canada.”

A government representative will meet travellers upon their entry to Canada to make a “final determination regarding exemptions … based on the information presented at the time of entry into Canada, which is why a quarantine plan is still required.”

The official Canadian government page with detailed information for international students is here.

A cautious approach is still in place

Along with waiting to allow tourists into Canada, the government is also waiting until at least 21 July to lift existing restrictions at the Canada-US border, and it is still advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told CBC (Canada’s national broadcaster) that,

“Although the future is looking brighter than it has for a long time, with COVID-19 cases on a downward trend and vaccination efforts going well across the country, we can’t let our guard down.”

Tourism sector disappointed

As much as Canada’s international educators will welcome the news of international students being exempted from quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and meet all other requirements, the tourism sector as a whole is still waiting for border restrictions to ease further in order to spur a recovery. Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada,

“A transparent plan with clear benchmarks to reopen travel would be a powerful tool for encouraging Canadians to get fully vaccinated. The Council is disappointed that the government hasn’t seen fit to tell Canadians what they can look forward to as the vaccination campaign rolls on. I’m disappointed, too, that the light at the end of the tunnel is still a long ways off for Canada’s battered travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.”

Languages Canada: “a small step in the right direction”

In response to the news of the exemption, Languages Canada issued this statement:

“While Languages Canada welcomes this change as a small step in the right direction, we will continue to advocate for the full and immediate elimination of the mandatory three-day government hotel quarantine and the easing of Canada’s quarantine requirements for travellers based on vaccination status, as per the science-based recommendations of the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, which was commissioned by Minister of Health Patty Hajdu.”

For additional background, please see:

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