Canada introduces pre-departure COVID testing requirement for air travellers

04 January 2021

Effective January 7, 2021, all passengers five years of age or older will be required to provide a negative COVID test prior to being able to travel by air to Canada. This applies to Canadians, permanent residents and foreign nationals. This requirement was announced on December 31, 2020.



Air travellers must take a COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test from an accredited lab within 72 hours prior to boarding a flight to Canada.  A passenger will not be allowed to board without a negative PCR test result, and the test itself must have done within the 72 hours prior to boarding the flight to Canada.

There are very few exceptions to the COVID test requirement.  One exemption is for an "emergency service provider", who is defined as someone providing services "aimed at preserving life and property" in times of emergency.  It is not clear how travellers are supposed to prove to the airline that they are under that exemption.

Travellers will still be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada, unless their circumstances are covered by an exemption to the quarantine requirement.

Transport Canada has provided information at this website: Transport Canada Background and FAQ re Pre-Departure COVID Testing.

The negative COVID-19 PCR test result requirement is in addition to the requirement for all air travellers to download and utilize the ArriveCAN App before they board a flight to Canada.

Foreign nationals and temporary foreign workers seeking to travel by air to Canada must also ensure that they have an exemption from the travel restrictions.  There are different travel restrictions for those travelling from the United States versus those trying to travel to Canada from countries other than the United States. The Orders in Council relating to travel restrictions are here: COVID-19 Emergency OICs Regarding Travel.

The travel and quarantine rules and exemptions are complex. If you require assistance regarding these rules, please contact a member of Gowling WLG's Immigration Group.


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