Canadians Abroad and Returning Travelers

Request emergency assistance

Global Affairs Canada information for Canadians abroad in need of emergency consular assistance.


All returning travelers must self-isolate for 14 days. This is now the law under the Quarantine Act. There are significant penalties if you do not comply. Visit Returning to Canada for information pertaining to returning travellers and quarantine restrictions.


Effective February 22, for travellers arriving by air: In addition to the PCR test taken at the point of origin 72 hours prior to boarding the aircraft, travellers will receive a PCR test upon arrival and must quarantine for up to three days in an approved hotel while awaiting results. Assuming a negative test, the traveller may then proceed home (or to a connecting flight within Canada) to finish self-quarantine according to an approved plan filed on the ArriveCan app. See here for full details and list of approved hotels. Vaccinated people are not exempt.


Effective February 15, non-essential travellers crossing at land borders must show a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours, and must take another (at the land crossing if they are available, which is expected to be the 16 busiest crossings, or later if necessary with the requirement to report the results).  Non-essential land travellers must quarantine for 14 days, but there is no requirement for a hotel stay while waiting for the PCR test results. 93% of persons crossing at a land border are considered essential, typically truckers and other supply chain workers, or persons living on one side of the border but needing to cross for essential work or supplies. However, in cases that don't fit neatly into a definition, border crossing officials have considerable discretion in deciding what is essential.


Effective January 7 arriving travellers must have a negative PCR test (not a Rapid Test) taken in the country they are visiting, the sample taken no longer than 3 days prior to boarding the aircraft. This requirement does not apply to persons crossing the border by land/sea. There are few details available, especially for questions about how Canadians can access a PCR test in countries where access is not readily available, the circumstances in which airline employees abroad will be expected to refuse boarding to passengers lacking appropriate documentation, and what documentation will acceptable, especially from countries where such documentation does not meet Canadian standards or is not available in English or French. The policy indicates that laboratories conducting the test must be government approved, but does not offer a list of such laboratories abroad nor instructions about what to do if such a laboratory cannot be located. The phrasing of the information suggests that the test must be performed 72 hours prior to the scheduled departure time, which implies that a delayed departure (or delays en route) will not cause the test to expire, but the wording is not completely clear.

Information released by the government can be found here. 

If a Canadian returns home without documentary evidence of a negative test within 72 hours, the traveler will be required to spend 14 days in a government quarantine facility. 

This new requirement does not negate any other requirements currently in place, including the requirement for a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period, even if you have the negative PCR test in hand. The government says that the inability to obtain a timely PCR test will not qualify the traveller for Government of Canada loans to travelers or consular financial assistance; nor can Canadian Embassies/Consulates assist in obtaining the PCR test.

The government has still not released a list of approved labs in other countries. For the US, this link takes you to government public health websites for each state. You may have to dig to find it, but most state sites list facilities offering COVID testing.


Travel from UK and South Africa

Alberta is asking any traveller who has arrived from (or recently been in) the UK, Brazil or South Africa since December 7 - whether or not they have symptoms - to be immediately tested for COVID-19 and quarantine for 14 days regardless of whether they receive a negative result.

November 23:
The Minister of International Affairs made clear that Canada will not be repatriating Canadians who are stranded abroad, and reiterated that Canadians should not be travelling internationally, and if they must do so, should arrange adequate travel and health insurance, and consider the state of affairs in the destination country. Canada will not do another round of repatriation flights.


Ban on non-essential visitors to Canada

The ban on foreign non-essential travelers continues. This applies to nationals of all countries - no countries are exempted. See below the provisions for family reunification of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.


Canada-U.S. Border 

  • Access across the Canada-US border is restricted to necessary travel only, such as that required to move goods across the border.
  • Persons entering Canada from the US at a land border must have a negative PCR test taken in the US within 72 hours of their crossing; and will be given a second kit to self-test and report the results on ArriveCan. They must also file an appropriate self-quarantine plan on ArriveCan and be prepared for monitored and checking in provisions.
  • The government has loosened restrictions on first year U.S. students planning to come to Canada to study. An update posted July 24 says a student coming from the US may no longer need a study permit that was issued on or before March 18 (the day border restrictions were announced). As well, Citizenship, Refugees and Immigration Canada now says border officers will accept a "port of entry letter of introduction''that shows the student was approved for a study permit, in lieu of a permit approved before March 18.


Family Reunification

  • A survey suggests that decisions at borders are being made in a highly arbitrary manner at the discretion of the border officials, with insufficient guidance on how to make the determination. Conservatives have called on the government to provide clear and predictable guidance to border officials so that citizens know what to expect and whether they will be allowed to cross the border. On June 8, 2020, the government provided some of that guidance as it pertains to family reunification. 
  • June 8, 2020: Prime Minister said that effective midnight June 9, they are prepared to make an exemption for the immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents to come to Canada from the U.S.
  • “Immediate family members” is defined as spouses, common-law partners, dependent children and their children, parents and legal guardians. Note that some common law partners who are not citizens of Canada have reported trouble at the border. Bring documentation showing, for example, co-habitation (same address on documents for both persons).
  • Persons arriving in Canada remain subject to a 14-day quarantine and must attest they intend to remain in Canada at least 15 days. Those arriving in Alberta will be subject to Alberta's screening process.
  • Not eligible are relatives of temporary residents of Canada, such as those on student or work visas.
  • The measure is intended to reunite families that were caught by the border closing on March 20. It is not intended to facilitate social gatherings or attendance at personal events; it is not to allow people to "come and go" between the countries.
  • Persons requiring them must still present the appropriate visa or electronic travel authorization.
  • September 18, 2020: Conservatives have asked the government to extend compassionate measures for people who have been separated for a long period of time but do not fall within the narrow definition of "family", such as the not-yet-married (fiances), LGBTQ partners, families in process of adopting children, and common law couples (the rules have not been consistent). 
  • October 2, 2020: The government announced some loosening of the definition of "family" to allow for more members of a family to reunite, and compassionate visits to relatives who are seriously ill or at risk of dying; and for overseas university students in some situations. These changes are expected to take effect October 8. For more information click here.


Calgary International Airport

  • June 17, 2020: Masks for passengers and employees are now mandatory at the airport and on all flights.
  • January 19, 2021: Access to the Calgary International Airport is now restricted to only passengers and employees. Some exemptions are in place for people requiring an aide to assist their mobility, minors travelling alone who must be accompanied by an adult, and persons staying in the adjacent hotel. All persons who are greeting arriving passengers, or dropping off departing passengers, must do so from outside the building.


Passport Services

  • If you have proof of travel within 30 days and require a passport, you may now request an in-person interview at Service Canada to expedite your passport.
  • For valid reasons to travel urgently and how to apply, go to COVID-19 passport services