Ready, set, go: after being closed to most leisure trip vehicle traffic for nearly 20 months, the Canada-U.S. land border will open for fully vaccinated travellers on Nov. 8 and that has snowbirds excited.
Canadians getting set to spend the winter in the United States have been preparing to migrate south.
Some have packed up their motorhomes and trailers and are spending the weekend in towns along the border, ready to cross bright and early Monday.
Calgarians Andre and Donna Call have been camped out since Oct. 20, waiting for the border to open so they can seek out the weather they’ve been missing.
“The sun, the warmth, and we’ve made some friends down there,” Andre said. “We’ve established some good relationships, some new friends — some Americans, some Canadians.
“I like the idea of where we are: we can buy fresh vegetables and fruit dirt cheap… so you can eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit all winter long. It’s amazing.”
Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson Lisa White said the first few days of the reopening will most likely see more southbound than northbound traffic as eager snowbirds flee to warmer climates — but next weekend could be a different story.
“There might be a little bit of a pick up in local traffic down at Coutts and Carway, but I think looking towards the weekend is when we can expect to see higher volumes as a result of the of the opening,” she said while speaking to Global News from the Calgary International Airport.
Remembrance Day falls on a Thursday this year, and White said stats like that traditionally corresponded with an increase in border traffic as people take the Friday off to have a long weekend.
“Looking at pre-COVID numbers, it’s always been a popular weekend, that in and of itself could be a reason for folks to to head south now,” she said.
“There’s also a lot of family reunification that’s probably going to happen this weekend as well, right? So we can expect to see some some numbers pick up Canada-bound next weekend.”
The United States said non-essential travellers crossing land borders from Canada will be asked about their vaccination status, and only those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed through.
Proof of vaccination will be required if selected for random screening. COVID-19 testing will not be required to enter the U.S., provided visitors meet vaccination requirements, officials said.
However, the rules to return to Canada are different. Anyone crossing the border into Canada must show their proof of vaccination, must have a valid PCR test from within the past 72 hours, and must have the Government of Canada’s ArriveCAN travel application downloaded and filled out.
Those without a smartphone can also fill out the information online.
“You have to plan for your return to Canada as much as you should be planning for your trip south,” White said. “You have to make sure that you have your ArriveCAN completed — whether that’s using a computer or using a smartphone.”
White recommended drivers plan to avoid the peak busy periods — late afternoon or early evening — because crossing will take longer during the pandemic.
“Our CBSA officers will ask a lot of questions. With that added layer of the health screening questions that are now being posed, that takes extra time,” White said.
“We’re also doing PCR verification, vaccine verification, ArriveCAN verification — so all that combined, it’s taking a little bit longer than usual.”
People shouldn’t just have online access to digital forms of their documents — they should take screenshots or better yet White said, print everything off to have hard copies in case your phone dies or loses reception.
“Have paper copies of your vaccine records, have paper copies of your PCR test. Have all of that ready as a Plan B. So really, planning will make your travel, your return a lot smoother.”
White also noted that Canadians have a legal right to enter their home country — even if they catch COVID-19 while in the United States.
Anyone who arrives at the border with a positive PCR test, or is selected for random testing while trying to cross back home, will be referred to the Public Health Agency of Canada to determine next steps.
That’s why, White said, it’s critical is for all returning Canadians to have a quarantine plan — even if they don’t think they caught COVID-19 during their travels.
“Some questions that we get is, ‘Why do we have provided quarantine plan?’ Because we’re still doing testing at the border. It’s random, but it’s mandatory.
“So should you test positive upon arrival at the border, you need to have that quarantine plan to fall back on.”
One last reminder for Canadian travellers: all other border crossing rules still apply.
“So you’re entitled to $200 of goods duty and tax free after an absence of 24 hours and after an absence of 48 hours, you’re entitled to $800 duty and tax free upon return to Canada.”