COVID-19 pre-departure testing and Transport Canada’s Interim Order

Effective midnight on January 7, 2021 (00:00 EST or 05:00 UCT), proof of a negative COVID-19 laboratory test result must be presented to the airline prior to boarding a flight to Canada.

Tests must be performed using a COVID-19 molecular test, such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) test. The test must be taken within 72 hours of the traveller’s scheduled departure to Canada. Other types of tests, such as antigen tests, will not be accepted.

These requirements are set out in the Interim Order Respecting Certain Requirements for Civil Aviation Due to COVID-19, No. 18, which supports COVID health requirements made by the Minister of Health under the Quarantine Act.

All travellers coming to Canada, regardless of citizenship, will be required to have this proof in hand at the time of boarding, Failure to do so will mean an automatic denial of boarding by the air carrier operating the flight to Canada.

A negative laboratory test (paper or electronic proof of result) must be presented by the traveller to the airline or private operator prior to coming to Canada. Travellers must ensure that the negative laboratory test result includes the following data elements:

  • Traveller name and date of birth
  • Name and civic address of the laboratory/clinic/facility that administered the test
  • The date on which the test was conducted
  • The method of test conducted (e.g. PCR or LAMP)
  • The test result (such as “negative” or “not detected”)

Travellers are strongly encouraged to have their test performed at a reputable laboratory or testing facility (e.g., one recognized by the local government or accredited by a third party, such as a professional organization or international standards organization). Using a questionable or fraudulent document could result in the traveller being denied boarding, and subject to fines of up to $5,000 under the Aeronautics Act. This could also result in additional actions being levied against the traveller by a Public Health Quarantine officer upon arrival in Canada.

Information is available on Travel.gc.ca about reputable local COVID-19 testing facilities for certain destinations.

If travellers are considering using a government funded test or facility, they should confirm that the test results may be used for international travel. Some governments do not permit publicly funded tests to be used for travel.

The Government of Canada will notify travellers should it become mandatory to obtain COVID-19 tests from specific accredited laboratories or facilities.

The Government of Canada provides consular service to Canadians abroad. Information about Canada’s Consular services is available on travel.gc.ca: About Consular Services. Canadian government offices abroad do not provide medical attention (including administering COVID-19 testing) or cover medical expenses for Canadian citizens abroad. However, they may be able to direct travellers to local resources for obtaining COVID-19 tests required to travel to Canada.

Passengers are also encouraged to contact the air carrier and/or tour service providers in the event they have concerns about their ability to obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to their flight, and adjust their departure dates for flights to Canada accordingly.

Canadians travelling abroad are also encouraged to sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad if they have not done so already. This service enables Canadians to receive important safety updates from the Government of Canada.

There are only a limited number of exceptions where an individual is not required to show proof of a negative test. These are:

  • children who are four years of age or younger (i.e., children who are five on the day of their travel must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test);
  • air crew members or a person who seeks to enter Canada only to become such a crew member;
  • transiting passengers (not entering Canada through a border port);
  • emergency, law enforcement or border personnel;
  • specific individuals or groups identified by Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer or the Minister of Health; and
  • Individuals or a group of individuals that have been granted an extra-ordinary exemption from Transport Canada.

The Interim Order contains two lists of countries/territories for which these new requirements have exceptions:

Schedule 1 of the Interim Order identifies countries for which there is no requirement to demonstrate or validate the PCR or LAMP test at boarding, due to the absence or near absence of testing in those locations. The small number of travellers arriving in Canada without a negative PCR test will be subject to additional measures from federal Quarantine Officers. They will typically have a choice between taking a PCR test upon arrival or being directed to a federal quarantine facility at the point of arrival.

Schedule 2 lists countries/territories where testing capacity is scarce and for which the 72-hour window is not feasible. For these locations, and only until January 14, additional flexibilities have been incorporated to give travellers an additional 24 hours (up to 96 hours) for the test validity period prior to departure of their flight to Canada.

Exceptionally, and in order to deal with the unexpected challenges of a COVID-19 molecular testing supply shortage, from January 10 until January 18, 2021, travellers departing from Jamaica who were not able to obtain a COVID-19 test may be allowed to board their flight, if they consent in advance to take a COVID-19 test (PDF, 400 KB) at the Toronto Pearson International airport immediately upon their arrival in Canada.

This temporary exemption for passengers is restricted to flights destined to Toronto Pearson International Airport, and is subject to daily volume limits. Travellers making use of this exemption will also be subject to other measures as deemed suitable by a Public Health Quarantine Officer.

Also on an exceptional basis, from January 14 to 21, 2021, travellers departing from Barbados, Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, will have an additional 24 hours (up to 96 hours) for the test validity period prior to departure of their flight to Canada.

Anyone who receives a negative test result and is authorized to enter Canada must still complete the full, mandatory 14-day quarantine, unless exempted under the Quarantine Act.

All travellers will have their quarantine plans reviewed by a government official and, if the plan is not suitable, the traveller will be required to quarantine in a federally designated quarantine facility. Travellers to Canada must use the ArriveCAN app or website and provide accurate contact information and their mandatory 14-day quarantine plan on or before entry.

Violating any instructions provided when you enter Canada is an offence under the Quarantine Act and could lead to up to six months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines. Making a false declaration under the Interim Order carries the potential for a fine of up to $5,000 for individuals. If an air carrier suspects that a traveller has provided false or misleading information related to their PCR or LAMP test results, they are required to notify Transport Canada.

Air carriers failing to comply with the requirements of the Interim Order or other regulatory requirements under the Aeronautics Act could be subject to a fine of up to $25,000.

The Government of Canada strongly advises Canadians against non-essential international travel. Canadians who are planning to travel abroad should consider how they will meet these requirements before departure.

Frequently asked questions

Will all air passengers travelling to Canada be required to have a negative COVID-19 test result?

Starting January 7, 2021, anyone, who is 5 years of age or older, flying to Canada from another country (and regardless of citizenship) will be required to provide written or electronic documentation showing they received a negative result from a COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours prior to their scheduled boarding. Failure to do so will mean an automatic denial of boarding by the air carrier operating the flight to Canada.

Tests must be performed using a COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 molecular test, such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP). Without a negative COVID-19 test, travellers will be denied boarding onto their flight.

There are only a limited number of exceptions where an individual is not required to show proof of a negative test. These are:

  • a person onboard an aircraft that enters through Canadian airspace, but does not land in Canada, while transiting to a destination outside Canada;
  • a person who arrives at a Canadian airport aboard an aircraft in order to transit to a country other than Canada and remain in a sterile transit area, as defined in section 2 of the Immigration and Refugees Protection Regulations, until they leave Canada;
  • a person who is on board an aircraft for a flight to Canada at the time that this Order comes into force;
  • air crews and marine crews;
  • certain persons/groups deemed by the Chief Public Health Officer to be providing essential services;
  • persons whose presence in Canada is determined by the Minister of Health to be in the national interest;
  • emergency service providers, including firefighters, peace officers, or paramedics; and,
  • officials who are escorting individuals for legal processes such as deportation, or who are providing evidence in support of legal processes.

In addition, there are groups of individuals who have been granted a temporary extraordinary exemption by Transport Canada due to the absence or near absence of testing in those locations (e.g., Haiti).

Is the 72 hours starting at the beginning of the trip or the scheduled time arriving in Canada? Is the time related to the time of the test, or when the results are provided?

A COVID-19 molecular test, such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or a Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) test, must have been conducted within 72 hours prior to the initial scheduled departure of a flight to Canada. In other words, the test should be administered within three days prior to the flight, with the expectation that the results will come in the intervening period.

This timing recognizes that it may take a few days for passengers to receive their test results.

Can the airline refuse boarding if a traveller doesn’t have / can’t get a test?

Yes. Unless otherwise exempt, presentation of a valid negative test to the airline will be a condition of boarding a flight to Canada and therefore, an airline will be required to refuse boarding to travellers that are unable to demonstrate this.

What will happen if travellers can’t get a COVID-19 test in the country they are in? Can they still board a flight and get tested in Canada? Is there another option in Canada when they land if they are not able to get a COVID-19 test abroad?

Pre-departure testing is now a part of the Government of Canada’s multi-layered strategy to protect Canadians from COVID-19. All international travellers must present a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding and then quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

There are very limited exemptions to this testing requirement. One example is a temporary exception for people coming from Haiti (from January 21, 2021), as it does not yet have molecular testing for COVID-19 generally available.

The small number of travellers arriving in Canada without a negative COVID-19 test result may be subject to additional measures from federal Public Health Quarantine Officers. They will (typically) have a choice between taking a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival or being directed to a federal quarantine facility at the point of arrival.

Which COVID-19 tests are official/acceptable?

Only written or electronic proof of a negative test result from a COVID-19 molecular test such as PCR or LAMP taken at a laboratory no more than 72-hours (3 days) before the aircraft’s initial scheduled departure time, unless another period is provided for under the Aeronautics Act, will be accepted. Proof of a test must include the following data elements:

  • Traveller name and date of birth
  • Name and civic address of the laboratory/clinic/facility that administered the test
  • The date on which the test was conducted
  • The method of test conducted (PCR or LAMP)
  • The test result

At this time, travellers are encouraged to make best efforts to have their test performed at a reputable laboratory or testing facility (i.e., one recognized by the local government or accredited by a third party, such as a professional organization or international standards organization).

More information about laboratories will be available on travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories in the coming days. In the meantime, information about local COVID-19 testing facilities is available in the Health tab on many destination pages on travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories.

The government will notify travellers should it become mandatory to obtain COVID-19 tests from specific accredited laboratories or facilities.

More information on test requirements is available on travel.gc.ca.

Will passengers still require temperature checks with this new requirement in place?

Yes. All existing health requirements, including health check questions, temperature screening and the wearing of masks on board flights to Canada remain in place.

Would a proof of the vaccine replace the test?

At this time, proof of having a vaccine does not replace a negative test result. While a vaccine protects an individual from illness, further evidence is required to understand if a vaccinated person can still transmit the virus.

Why won’t the pre-boarding testing reduce quarantine measures?

Pre-boarding testing is another measure adding to our layers of protection but it can still miss some COVID-19 infections. The 14-day quarantine is the most effective measure we know for limiting the spread of COVID-19.

What extra measures has the Canada Borders Services Agency (CBSA) put in place?

The Canada Borders Services Agency (CBSA) enhanced its presence at airports to observe travellers and any physical indication that they may be ill. Additionally, border services officers (BSOs) apply greater scrutiny and confirm that a traveller’s quarantine plan aligns with information provided via ArriveCAN. BSOs will also ask specific questions to determine whether the traveller will be in contact with vulnerable persons.

Where questions arise, the person is referred to a Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) official on-site at the airport.

The CBSA, along with its partners, continues to monitor the global environment and takes the steps required to keep Canada and Canadians safe.

For questions about quarantine requirements and enforcement, contact PHAC.

Who will pay for the cost of a COVID-19 test abroad?

Travellers are expected to cover any cost related to being tested and obtaining the proof of their test result.

It is unlikely that your travel or health insurance contains coverage for the COVID-19 test as travel insurance is meant to pay benefits for emergencies and urgent medical care. If you have group (employer-sponsored) coverage, you may have a ‘health care spending account’ that could provide reimbursement.

For travellers who do not have travel insurance, we strongly recommend they get insurance immediately and make sure that it covers for COVID-19-related medical expenses, other non-COVID-19 emergency-related expenses, as well as trip interruption. They should read the fine prints and verify the terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and requirements of their insurance policy.

What consular services are available if a traveller cannot board a flight back to Canada?

We continue to provide consular service to Canadians abroad. Information about Canada’s Consular services is available on travel.gc.ca: About Consular Services. Canadian government offices abroad do not provide medical attention (including administering COVID-19 testing) or cover medical expenses for Canadian citizens abroad. However, the offices may be able to direct travelers to local resources.

Canadians should sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad if they have not done so already. This service enables Canadians to receive important safety updates from the Government of Canada.

If someone has to reschedule their return trip for a COVID-19 test, would accommodations, rebooking fees and fees for tests be eligible under the Emergency Loan Program?

Canadian citizens affected by COVID-19 outside of Canada must demonstrate they had existing plans to return to Canada prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and that they do not have another source of funds.

Most Canadians abroad would no longer be eligible for a COVID-19 loan (as per current eligibility criteria) given that they would have had plenty of time and opportunity to return to Canada since the pandemic reached a critical point in March/April 2020.

Are Canadians who travelled after the Government of Canada advised against non-essential travel outside of Canada due to the COVID-19 outbreak eligible to the loan?

Canadians who travelled abroad after the Government of Canada advised to avoid non-essential travel (March 13, 2020) due the COVID-19 outbreak are unlikely to be eligible for a loan given that they would have had plenty of time and opportunity to return to Canada since the pandemic reached a critical point in March/April 2020.

Can the loan be used to cover limited costs (transportation, food, etc.) AFTER repatriation to Canada?

COVID-19 Emergency Loans may not be used to cover costs related to mandatory quarantine or self-isolation in Canada.

Schedule 1

Countries/territories for which no COVID test will be required due to lack of testing capacity or availability.

State/Territory Proposed Expiration

Haiti

Until 00:01 EST on January 21, 2021

Saint Pierre et Miquelon

Until 00:01 EST on January 14, 2021

Schedule 2

Countries/Territories for which a PCR or LAMP testing result will be accepted within 96 hours (instead of 72 hours) from the scheduled time of departure, until 00:01 EST on January 14, 2021.

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bonaire, Saint Eustatius & Saba
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Curacao
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Martinique
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • St. Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and Grenadines
  • Saint Maarten
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turks and Caicos Islands