Entry to Canada
The Canadian authorities are barring entry to Canada, including at its border with the US, to most foreign nationals, including British nationals. This exclusion does not apply to temporary foreign workers, most international students, Canadian citizens and permanent residents or their immediate and extended families provided they remain in Canada for 15 days or more. Anyone arriving in Canada must self-quarantine for 14 days, and have a credible self-isolation plan. Immediate and extended family members planning to stay for less than 15 days must be travelling for an essential purpose. Further details are available on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website or call the Canada Border Service Agency helpline: 1 800 461 9999.
The Canadian government requires all passengers aged five and above 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 test within 72 hours of boarding a flight to Canada. Passengers without a negative test will be denied boarding. If you are travelling from a country where molecular testing is unavailable you will be required to report to a designated Public Health Agency of Canada quarantine facility for the duration of your mandatory 14-day quarantine. Delays in obtaining test results does not apply. Further details are available on Transport Canada’s website.
From 15 February, travellers arriving by land, with some exceptions, will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken in the United States within 72 hours of arrival, or a positive test taken 14 to 90 days prior to arrival. Further details are available on Public Health Canada’s website
At point of departure, air operators must complete a basic health assessment of every passenger. No passengers (regardless of citizenship) who are showing symptoms of coronavirus will be allowed to board. Non-medical face masks or face coverings are required for all flights to and from Canadian airports, and within airport terminals. Anyone who cannot wear a face mask for medical reasons must be in possession of a medical certificate.
Air travellers whose final destination is Canada are required to submit their information digitally through Canada’s ArriveCAN app before they board their flight. From 22 February, this will also apply to travellers arriving by land. This includes travel and contact information, quarantine plan and COVID-19 symptom self-assessment. You must be ready to show your ArriveCAN receipt when seeking entry into Canada, as well as evidence that you have submitted your details digitally. Further information is available on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website and on Transport Canada’s website.
If you have any questions, contact the nearest Canadian High Commission, Embassy or Consulate.
Only Toronto Pearson (YYZ), Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau (YUL), Calgary International Airport (YYC) and Vancouver International Airport (YVR) are operating international flights. From 31 January to 30 April 2021, Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing have suspended all flights to the Caribbean. Further details are available on Transport Canada’s website.
You should check with your airline before you travel for the most up to date information:
- British Airways (1 800 247 9297)
- Air Canada (1 888 246 2262)
- Air Transat (1 877 872 6728)
- WestJet (1 888 937 8538)
Cruise ships with overnight accommodation allowed to carry more than 100 passengers are prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until 28 February 2021. Further information on COVID-19 measures for cruise ships and other passenger vessels is available on Transport Canada’s website.
If you are already in Canada and your visa has expired, or is about to expire, see the guidance on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website.
If you’re planning to transit via Canada to reach the UK, you should be aware that exceptions apply. A person ‘in transit’ means that they:
- arrive and depart from the same airport within a reasonable time frame (the Canadian authorities advise this means as short as possible, and certainly less than 24 hours)
- remain on the air side or sterile area of the airport
- do not have to go through Customs and formally enter Canada and pick up their bags so they can take their next flight
- do not move between terminals at an airport, unless they can do so without going through Customs and formally entering Canada
- do not take a domestic flight to get to another airport so they can catch their next international flight
Canadian authorities require passengers to wear a face covering on flights to and from Canada, and within airport terminals in Canada. Passengers arriving at or departing from Canadian airports must demonstrate that they have the necessary face mask or face covering during the boarding process, otherwise they will be stopped from continuing their journey. Anyone who cannot wear a face mask for medical reasons must be in possession of a medical certificate. Further information is available on Transport Canada’s website.
The Canadian authorities require visitors transiting through Canada to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) see Entry requirements, unless you are otherwise exempted (for example, if you have a valid Canadian visa or a permanent resident card).
If you have any further questions, you should contact your airline, Transport Canada, or your nearest Canadian high commission, embassy or consulate.
Testing / screening on arrival
All air passengers must wear a non-medical mask or face covering during travel, within airport terminals and to their place of self-isolation.
People displaying symptoms of coronavirus when they arrive in Canada may not use public transportation to travel to their place of isolation. They also may not isolate in a place where they will be in contact with vulnerable people, such as elderly people and those with underlying health conditions.
In addition to the mandatory pre-departure tests, from 22 February, all travellers arriving in Canada by land and air, with some exceptions, will be required to take an additional test on arrival, and another toward the end of the 14 day self-isolation period. International travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson airport are already required to take an additional COVID-19 test on arrival. Further details are available on the Government of Ontario’s website
You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities.
For questions about travel during the coronavirus pandemic, check the Health Canada website.
Everyone arriving in Canada is legally required to self-isolate for 14 days. Heavy penalties apply if you fail to comply. You must also produce a credible self-isolation plan. An inadequate plan would include scenarios such as planning to stay with elderly family members or failing to have a set destination. Travellers who are unable to produce a credible plan will be placed in a quarantine location, such as a hotel, for a 2-week period.
Authorities in Alberta are piloting a voluntary testing scheme for travellers arriving in Canada at Calgary airport or via the Coutts land border crossing from the US, to shorten time spent in self-isolation. Further details are available on the Government of Alberta’s website. The scheme will be suspended upon introduction of mandatory testing on arrival from 22 February.
With limited exceptions, air travellers arriving from 22 February will be required to reserve, prior to departure to Canada, a 3 night stay in a government-authorised hotel at their own expense. Travellers will be able to book their government-authorised stay starting 18 February 2021. Further details are available on Public Health Canada’s website and on Transport Canada’s website
Regular entry requirements
British Citizens don’t usually need a visa to visit Canada for short periods, but you’ll need to get an Electronic Travel Authorisation before you travel (see below).
If you have a different type of British nationality or intend to travel for a longer period, such as for work or study, check entry requirements with the Canadian High Commission. Effective from 31 July 2018, you may need to give your fingerprints and photos (biometrics) at a visa application centre when applying for a study or work permit, or permanent residence. When you arrive in Canada, you will need to be able to show that you have enough funds available to support yourself during your stay, even if you’re staying with family and friends.
If you have any doubts about whether you’re eligible to enter Canada (eg if you have a criminal record or have been arrested even if it did not result in a conviction), or about visa matters generally, contact the Canadian High Commission before you travel.
Some unauthorised websites charge for submitting visa applications. These websites are not endorsed by or associated with the Canadian government. Be wary of such sites and businesses, particularly those that seek additional fees.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA)
Visitors travelling to Canada by air are now expected to get an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) to enter Canada.
If you’re visiting Canada you’ll need an eTA to board your flight unless you’re otherwise exempted (for example, if you have a valid Canadian visa or a permanent resident card). If you have British-Canadian dual nationality you won’t be able to apply for an eTA and you’ll need to present a valid Canadian passport to board your flight to Canada.
If you’re travelling by land or sea, you won’t need an eTA when you enter Canada. However, you must travel with acceptable travel documents and identification.
For more information about the eTA system, and to apply online, visit the official Canadian government website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Canada. You can apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation using an ETD.
Travelling with children
If you’re travelling with children and only one parent is present, you should carry a letter of consent from the non-travelling parent. Immigration officers have the right to question children using simple and appropriate language to establish whether there are any concerns about child abduction. A letter of consent may help to dispel potential concerns.
Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from petty crime. Don’t leave your handbag or luggage unattended. Thieves often target tourist hotels. Keep valuables including your passport in a hotel safe. Leave copies of important documents with family and friends in the UK. Carry a photocopy of your passport for ID. Keep luggage out of sight in cars.
If you need the police, call 911 or 0 and ask the operator to connect you. There is no charge for emergency calls placed from a public pay phone. If you lose your passport, contact the British High Commission or Consulate immediately.
Each province and territory has the authority to establish its own traffic and safety laws.
Seat belts are compulsory. Right turns on red lights are generally allowed, but at some junctions in towns and cities, you can only turn right on a green light. In some parts of Quebec, right turns on red lights are not allowed.
You can drive a car in Canada using a full UK driving licence. However, some individual car hire companies may require you to have an International Driving Permit – you’re advised to check your car hire company’s requirements before you travel. Carry your licence with you at all times.
Take out full insurance cover if you hire a vehicle.
Obey speed limits and take extra care when travelling on country roads. Watch out for wild animals.
Winter driving conditions can be extreme. Monitor local news and weather broadcasts and take advice before driving in winter. Snow tyres are required in some provinces.
For detailed information on road conditions throughout Canada and safety tips, see the Government of Canada, the Canadian Automobile Association, and the Travel Canada websites.
Check with your airline and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority for information on screening procedures and prohibited/restricted items on board an aircraft.
If you are hiking or camping, be considerate and cautious of local wildlife. Take all rubbish with you, and treat any food items with great care to avoid attracting animals to your site. Animals with nearby young or nests will be particularly aggressive when protecting their territory. Research the region and learn how best to deal with the local wildlife you might encounter. Take particular care if you’re touring an area where bears have been sighted. Keep a safe and legal distance from any wildlife including marine animals and birds and closely follow park regulations.