Pre-departure COVID-19 testing and negative results for air travellers coming to Canada
The Government of Canada continues to take unprecedented action to protect the health and safety of Canadians by introducing a new measure to help prevent further introduction and transmission of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus into Canada.
On December 31, 2020, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau, under the authority of the Aeronautics Act, is requiring effective January 7, all passengers five years of age or older, be required to test negative for COVID-19 before travelling by air from another country to Canada.
Documentation of a negative laboratory test result must be presented to the airline prior to coming to Canada. The test must be performed using a COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction (or PCR) test within 72 hours prior to boarding a flight to Canada.
All travellers will have their quarantine plans reviewed by a government official and, if not suitable, will be asked to quarantine in a federal quarantine facility.
Travellers to Canada must use ArriveCAN and provide accurate contact information and their mandatory 14-day quarantine plan on or before entry.
The government has taken action to increase surveillance and enforcement of these mandatory quarantine restrictions.
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.
Canadians who are currently travelling and returning to Canada soon should start immediately arranging for a COVID-19 test, to avoid a delay in their return to Canada. Canadians who are planning to travel abroad should consider how they will meet these requirements before departure.
Questions and answers
Q. Will all air passengers travelling to Canada be required to have a negative COVID-19 test result?
A. Starting January 7, 2021, anyone flying to Canada from another country, unless exempted, 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.
The test must be performed using a COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Without a negative COVID-19 test, travellers will be denied boarding onto their flight.
Q. 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. A COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test must have been conducted within 72 hours prior to boarding a flight to Canada. In other words, the specimen should be 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 results following a PCR test. In addition, flights may be delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, outside the air carrier’s control.
Q. 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?
A. Persons who are travelling from a country where PCR testing is unavailable will be required to report to a designated Public Health Agency of Canada quarantine facility for the duration of their mandatory 14-day quarantine. Delays in obtaining test results does not apply.
Q. Which COVID-19 tests are official/acceptable?
A. The test result must be from a lab accredited by an external organization (e.g., a government, a professional association or ISO accreditation). Only written or electronic proof of a negative lab test result (PCR test) conducted within 72 hours prior to boarding a flight to Canada will be accepted.
Q. Will passengers still require temperature checks with this new requirement in place?
A. At this time, yes. All existing health requirements, including health check questions, temperature screening and the wearing of masks on board flights to Canada remain in place.
Q. Can the airline refuse boarding if a traveller doesn’t have / can’t get a test?
A. 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.
Q. Who is exempted from this requirement?
A. Those exempted from this requirement include children who are not five years of age or older.
Other exemptions include:
a) a crew member or a person who seeks to enter Canada only to become such a crew member
b) Emergency service providers
c) Technical stops – flights refueling
Q. Would a proof of the vaccine replace the test?
A. At this time, proof of having a vaccine will 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 shed virus.
Q. Why won’t the pre-boarding testing reduce quarantine measures?
A. 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.
Q. What extra measures has the Canada Borders Services Agency (CBSA) put in place?
A. The 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.
Q. Who will pay for the cost of a PCR test abroad?
A. Travellers should contact their travel insurance provider (whether they have a group, an individual or a credit-card type of insurance) to find out what their COVID-19 related medical expenses coverage include.
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 cancellation and interruption. Read the fine prints and verify the terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and requirements of your insurance policy.
Otherwise, travellers are expected to cover any cost related to being tested and obtaining the proof of their test result.
Q. What consular services are available if a traveller cannot board a flight back to Canada?
A. We continue to provide consular service to Canadians abroad. Information about Canada’s Consular services is available on travel.gc.ca:
Canadians should sign up with the
Q. If someone has to reschedule their return trip for a PCR test, would accommodations, rebooking fees and fees for tests be eligible under the Emergency Loan Program?
A. 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 CV19 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.
It is no longer enough for clients to indicate that they are attempting to book travel back to Canada now and are unable to do so because of COVID-19, or because of the new PCR test requirement.
Q. 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?
A. 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.
Q. Can the loan be used to cover limited costs (transportation, food, etc.) AFTER repatriation to Canada?
A. COVID-19 Emergency Loans may not be used to cover costs related to mandatory quarantine or self-isolation in Canada.
This information can be found on the Transport Canada website at