Travelers from the United States who are used to taking quick jaunts abroad to their closest neighbors are facing severe difficulties this year. The country’s borders with both Mexico and Canada have been closed to most people since March 18, 2020, and every month the restrictions are extended with no end in sight.

While it’s currently possible for US travelers to vacation in Mexico, traveling north of the border to Canada to ski in British Columbia or to check out the amazing fauna of Newfoundland and Labrador is much more complicated. Here’s the low-down for Americans wanting to travel to Canada for leisure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can US citizens enter Canada?

US citizens can enter Canada if:

  • They have dual US-Canada citizenship and own a valid passport or are in possession of a special authorization
  • They are a permanent resident of Canada
  • They are registered under Canada’s Indian Act
  • They are an immediate or extended family member of a Canadian citizen and are staying for 15 days or more
  • While no testing is required before departure or on arrival in Canada, US citizens who fit the criteria and wish to travel to Canada will need to undergo a strict and mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival on Canadian soil.

    Is there a way for US travelers to visit Canada?

    When the land border between Canada and the US closed in March, some frustrated American travelers thought they could exploit “the Alaska loophole.” By saying they were transiting through Canada from the lower 48 to reach Alaska by road, they were able to enjoy an unauthorized vacation.

    The practice puts people’s health at risk, involves lying to border agents, and is illegal. US travelers who abuse this excuse face serious consequences under the Quarantine Act (fines of up to $574,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months).

    While US citizens are allowed to transit Canada between the continental US and Alaska, they are supposed to use the most direct route to their destination, stop only for essentials such as gas and food, and are not authorized to visit national parks or other tourist attractions. At the border crossing, they are given tags featuring their entering and exiting dates, which they must keep on their mirrors during the drive.

    Canadians keep their eyes peeled for US license plates and have had no qualms about denouncing potential law-breakers to the authorities. In June, the Canadian Mounted Police fined several US visitors $1,200 for hiking in Banff while they were supposed to be making their way to the Last Frontier state. In September, an American family that pretended to drive to Alaska but was actually having a good time in Vancouver was kicked out of British Columbia and given a $1,500 fine.