72-Hour No Testing Requirement by Land Crossing Rule?

By | December 9, 2021


I have been asked a question in person quite a few times since November 8, 2021, when the United States opened its borders to more Canadians. So I thought it would make a post out of it.

The question is: “Can we travel from Canada to the United States by land, return to Canada within 72 hours, and not have to provide a negative Covid-19 test in either direction?

Entering the United States

To answer the question, we need first need to take a look at the rules on the United States Homeland Security website when entering the United States. Here are two question and answers to get the ball rolling on the:

  • On November 8, the United States lifted travel restrictions for non-U.S. persons who are fully vaccinated. What changed?
    • Title 19 restrictions are still in place. But effective November 8, 2021, non-U.S. persons who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation can seek to enter the United States from Canada and Mexico at land POEs or arrive in the United States by passenger ferry for non-essential reasons, such as to visit friends or family or for tourism. These travelers are required to be prepared to attest to vaccination status and present proof of being fully vaccinated to a CBP officer upon request. Starting in January, both essential and non-essential travelers will be required to be fully vaccinated.
  • Do individuals need proof of a negative COVID-19 test like you do to travel by plane?
    • No. There is not a COVID-19 testing requirement for travelers at land POEs.

Conclusion, there is no negative test results required when crossing from Canada to the United States by land.

Returning to Canada

Now we turn to the Canadian government website. Let’s first establish what the 72-hour rule is.

  • The 72 hour (land) rule begins and ends from:
    • … the time you entered the United States at a land border to the time of your official re-entry into Canada

This rule is very straightforward. Basically once the border agents scans your passport at the land border crossing, they will see a time stamp to see whether you are eligible within the 72-hours. Be careful when factoring in the wait times at the border.

For example, when entering the United States, any wait till means that your 72-hour clock did not start yet. The U.S. agent needs to scan your passport first. However, when returning to Canada, be sure to give yourself some buffer time at the border, because if you are waiting in line, the clock does not stop till you pull up to the Canadian agent to scan your passport.

Now let’s move on to testing. Let’s head back to the website:

  • Who doesn’t need a pre-entry test?
    • Children under 5 years of age
    • Canadians who qualify as fully vaccinated travellers who depart and re-enter Canada by land or air within 72 hours of leaving.
    • Canadians include: Canadian citizens, permanent residents, those registered under the Indian Act
    • unvaccinated children under 12 who are accompanying their fully vaccinated (or those with a medical inability to be vaccinated) parent, step-parent, guardian or tutor
    • unvaccinated children must still follow specific requirements when you return to or enter Canada
    • people with a medical inability to be vaccinated

Again, there is no need for a negative test result when returning to Canada if you meet the 72-hour rule.

Reminder that you do still need to complete your ArriveCAN profile. Note that you do have to answer “no” when asked if you have proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Conclusion

So there you have it, you can enter the United States and come back to Canada within 72-hours and not have to worry about a providing a negative Covid-test (assuming you meet the exemption requirements mentioned above).

Do keep in mind that things are in a constant state of flux. When you are reading this post, be sure to check the date stamp to ensure that this information is still accurate.

This post is not intended to suggest that you make a trip to the United States immediately. But we are suggesting that you are very clear on the rules so that you do not have issues at the border in either direction. Safe travels everyone!


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