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U.S.-Canada Border Reopened: A Comprehensive Guide for the Post-COVID Traveler

The Go-To Checklist for Travelers from Buffalo Airport to Niagara: Taxi Transfers Made Easy!

Man in car providing passport and identification at customs at Buffalo Niagara Falls Canada border checkpoint

After a lengthy closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gates between the U.S. and Canada are once again welcoming travelers. Those keen on exploring the scenic beauty of Canada are often curious about the border crossing procedures and essential guidelines to follow.

Dreaming of a trip to Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, or Calgary? Here’s a guide to navigating the U.S.-Canada border by land, air, or sea.

Travel and identification documents for entering Canada

Who’s Eligible for U.S. to Canada Travel? 

Canada’s borders are currently accessible to U.S. citizens, with entry criteria differing based on one’s vaccination status. Fully vaccinated people are exempt from producing a negative COVID test result. However, using the ArriveCAN platform to upload necessary details, such as vaccination proof, at least 72 hours before entering Canada or embarking on a cruise to Canada is vital.

For those without complete vaccination, non-essential or recreational travel is off-limits. If you need to journey to Canada for non-leisure reasons without complete vaccination, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory. Furthermore, taking a molecular COVID test and arranging for a test upon reaching Canada is essential – the latter can be planned for convenience.

Over 100 land border crossings exist between the U.S. and Canada, with wait times varying considerably. 

The wait duration often hinges on the specific time and day of your crossing. While some points witness negligible delays during non-peak hours, others, such as the one at Buffalo, New York, can experience wait periods of about 40 minutes. To gauge potential waiting times, consult the official Canadian government website, which refreshes its data every hour.

U.S.-Canada Border Crossing Checklist: 

If you’re a fully vaccinated individual journeying to Canada via any mode of transportation, there are protocols to adhere to. To satisfy entry criteria, ensure the following:

  • No COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Completion of all COVID-19 vaccine doses at least 14 days before entering.
  • Using ArriveCAN to store and share your vaccination evidence.
  • Having all necessary travel documents.
  • Note: As of April 1, 2022, vaccinated travelers do not require negative test proof. Those not fulfilling the fully vaccinated criteria are mandated a 14-day quarantine on arrival. Random testing upon entry might also be conducted at specific airports and border points. This could be onsite, at specialized testing locations, or through kits to be submitted after reaching your destination.

Alaska Resident Exceptions: 

At times, Alaska residents require transiting through Canada to access parts of their state. If unvaccinated and traveling for non-recreational reasons, such travelers can traverse Canada without prior and post-entry COVID tests. They should, however, stay in their vehicles during this commute. Additionally, they may receive a test kit while entering Canada via land.

Specific permissions might be available for Alaskans heading to or returning from the lower forty-eight states. Yet, a negative COVID molecular test is a prerequisite for unvaccinated individuals. Residency proof in Alaska (if heading north) or residence or job documentation for the lower forty-eight (if going south) is also required.

Acceptable documents to cross buffalo Niagara Falls Canada border

Keys to a Smooth U.S.-Canada Border Experience: 

To ensure a hassle-free crossing into Canada, preparation is vital. Please familiarize yourself with the necessary documents and upload them to ArriveCAN before travel. Patience is a virtue at border checkpoints. Prioritize safety and enjoy your trip!

All international travellers must carry acceptable identification and a valid visa to cross Buffalo Niagara Falls Canada border

Here are five vital reminders:

  1. Documentation Ready: Ensure you have all necessary travel documents, including a valid passport, any required visas, and, if applicable, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result.
  2. Check Entry Requirements: Stay updated on Canada’s latest entry requirements, especially COVID-19. This may include downloading and filling in details on the ArriveCAN app.
  3. Expect Wait Times: The Buffalo border crossing, especially during peak times, can experience wait times. Plan your journey to account for potential delays.
  4. Know the Goods and Items Restrictions: Familiarize yourself with items that are prohibited or restricted for entry into Canada, including certain food items, plants, or other goods.
  5. Currency and Fees: Consider having Canadian currency on hand for immediate expenses. Also, be aware of any border crossing fees or tolls.

Always double-check the specifics before your trip, as border crossing protocols can change based on current international relations, health concerns, or other factors. Safe travels!

Please refer this official website for compete up-to-date information.

Essential Travel Document Guidelines for Entry into Canada

All individuals crossing into Canada from another country should ensure they possess the right identification and any needed visas. A passport remains the most recommended choice because of its global acceptance as a trustworthy travel and identification instrument for international trips.

Airlines and other international transport entities must confirm that passengers are equipped with the correct and up-to-date travel papers. Inadequate documentation might lead to disruptions or even denial of entry into Canada. Your required documents vary based on your origin, mode of travel, and the documents you possess. Review the specific entry prerequisites per country.

Upon arriving in Canada, a border official will ask for your passport and a valid visa if your origin country mandates one. More details about the necessary travel papers are obtainable on the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada site.

U.S. citizens enrolled in the NEXUS program can use their membership card as an ID and evidence of citizenship for arrivals by air (from the U.S.), land, or sea.

For those U.S. citizens under the FAST program, their cards can serve as IDs for land and sea entries.

U.S. permanent residents in either NEXUS or FAST schemes should always carry their passports and evidence of permanent residency. Border officials might request these documents during border checks.

For details about entering or transiting back through the U.S., all visitors are encouraged to check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection site, specifically for the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

About Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

Individuals from countries exempt from visas require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for air travel to or through Canada, with exceptions:

  • U.S. citizens
  • U.S. Permanent Residents
  • Those with a valid visa for Canada
  • Other specific exceptions

Canadian nationals, including those with dual citizenship and Canadian permanent residents, don’t need an eTA.

Certain foreign nationals from visa-required nations can also use an eTA for air travel to or through Canada if they qualify.

Applying for an eTA before reserving a flight to Canada is wise. Though most eTA applications get processed within minutes, some might take a few days.

A Cautionary Note

Travelers seeking an eTA should exercise caution when engaging with third-party companies claiming to assist in obtaining eTAs. They don’t represent the Canadian government, and several have set up websites that charge fees for eTA-related services.

For official eTA applications, always use the official Government of Canada website.

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