Canada’s COVID-19 requirements for the US/Canada border are unrealistic & unwelcoming for international students

The Canadian government’s requirements for crossing the border are unrealistic: the strict and unforgiving limitations, including the time crunch for negative COVID-19 tests and the ArriveCAN app upload, create an unwelcoming environment for international students attempting to enter the country.

While the Canadian government must prioritize the health and safety of residents, flexible and accommodating regulations would create a more welcoming and realistic passage for fully-vaccinated travellers.

As of Aug. 9, American citizens—provided they demonstrate proof of a full vaccination, a negative molecular PCR test, a quarantine plan, as well as identification and travel documents—may enter Canada. These requirements, along with the date, time, and location of entry, must be uploaded to the ArriveCAN app prior to crossing the border.

Restrictions like these are necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19 from the United States into Canada. However, they present unrealistic challenges for those who wish to cross the border safely, particularly international students with in-person school deadlines rapidly approaching.

Canada only accepts negative PCR tests processed within 72 hours prior to crossing the border. Although these tests typically take 24-72 hours to process, the waiting time can extend to a week or more‒especially if testing sites are overwhelmed and resort to shipping the tests to an alternate processing location.

Clearly the border’s allocated validation time window wasn’t implemented with the PCR test’s processing time in mind.

At this rate, American or Canadian travellers must hope their tests aren’t the ones sent across the country for a week of processing. Moreover, PCR test results are dragged out and testing locations are clogged as the Delta variant becomes more prevalent in the United States.

Despite being a double-vaccinated dual citizen of both Canada and the United States, I had to jump through hoops navigating these restrictions to access my
education and home.

After taking a PCR test in preparation for my entry, I waited five days for my results, by which time the border’s 72-hour testing time had long since expired.

All international students have a responsibility to comply with reasonable requirements and protect the community they’re entering. However, students paying for tuition, utilities, groceries, rent, and travel expenses shouldn’t have to consider the financial and mental strain of being turned around at the border if they are safe to enter.

The Canadian government must encourage and mobilize all citizens and visitors to comply with COVID-19 regulations. However, to create a more considerate and accessible approach for international students, Canada should consider accepting rapid antigen tests as a valid indication of COVID-19 status for vaccinated students and granting a 24-hour extension on the testing deadline.

If Canada hopes to re-establish a sense of normalcy in its post-secondary educational institutions, it must first allow international students to cross the border safely and accessibly.

Madeleine is a third-year English student and The Journal’s Assistant Lifestyle Editor.

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