pandemic border crossing
June 27, 2020 6:12 PM   Subscribe

Have you crossed a land border from the US into Canada recently? How'd it go, and what did you need to show them as far as a self-isolation plan?

(YANMImmigration consultant, etc.)

Partner (American, waiting on PR) and myself (Canadian) are moving to Canada. It seems increasingly likely that the pandemic and attendant border closures will still be in place when that happens.

We'll be crossing into Ontario from the US in our personal vehicle. We don't have permanent housing yet, so our plan is to either find a short-term rental apartment or a Residence Inn-type place near the border to wait out the 14-day self-isolation period. We won't know anyone in town (we want to self-isolate near the border to avoid having to stop for any reason after crossing; this isn't really negotiable for us).

If you've done this crossing recently, or know someone who has: is this enough? Can we just show them our apartment reservation and a list of grocery stores that deliver (/some canned/dried food to get us started)? ? How detailed does our self-isolation plan need to be?

Also, I know the new guidance allows the immediate family of citizens to join them in Canada, but are they likely to give my spouse a hard time? We'll be traveling together.

Anecdata appreciated.
posted by robot inside a grid to Travel & Transportation around Ontario (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This recent CBC story describes the journey of a pair of sisters who came up to spend time with their dying father and quarantined by camping in their parent's yard:
From there, she travelled to pick up Carmen in Boston. Then the duo set out for the border crossing at St. Stephen. They arrived at 2 a.m. on June 13, and were the only ones in line.

The sisters had to give an oath they would follow public health guidelines. If not, they were told, they could be fined up to $1 million and possibly face jail time.

The process took a total of 12 minutes.
Throughout their camping experience, they were also checked on by police to make sure they were following the rules.
FYI, in addition to there being a dying parent, one of the sisters is literally a professor of epidemiology at Harvard.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:16 PM on June 27, 2020

Best answer: Friend repatriated to BC last month. A few bonus COVID questions but otherwise a routine crossing. He basically was required to go straight to his quarantine location (no shopping/Tims/drug store on the way) and remain there for the 14 days. No one checked on him but he is Canadian and staying at a property he owns. Probably depends on work loads and how accessible your location is.

The potential penalties are harsh but Americans who have lied about transiting BC to Alaska and instead went sight seeing are only getting $1200 fines (plus I'm guessing it's going to be hard for them to enter Canada for a while).

Delivery spots have at times been hard to get. You probably want at least a couple days food with you as a hedge against delivery (or you could set up delivery before you leave).
posted by Mitheral at 8:43 PM on June 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

There was some confusion at first, then a policy was put in place, then last week they added a clearer provision for immediate family doing essential travel.

If you have the AoR (Acknowledgement of Receipt) for the PR application, you should be golden. Make sure to have that on hand as well as a printout of the receipt you got when you paid the PR application fees online.

If you're importing the car, look up RIV/ACE procedures. It needs to be announced to the US side of the border 72 hours before travel.
posted by dum spiro spero at 9:16 PM on June 27, 2020

Best answer: I did this in April.

I crossed at the Blue Water Bridge from Port Huron, MI to Sarnia, ON. It was a little eerie rolling up to the border with zero traffic around at 11am, there was only 1 lane open at the customs plaza. They asked if I was aware of the 14-day self-isolation requirement, I told them I was and that I had a short term rental booked and a bunch of groceries in the car. They asked for my contact details (address I would be self-isolating at, phone number, possibly email) and advised that there might be followup from Health Canada during my isolation period (in my case there was not). They didn't request additional documentation; I was prepared to show them my Airbnb reservation, and I had family that was going to be able to provide some support if needed (dropping off supplies, etc), but they didn't ask and I didn't volunteer.

PM me and I'll be happy to share more details.
posted by kanuck at 9:33 PM on June 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A friend (Canadian) did this in May, driving into BC. She was required to sign an agreement with (I think?) the RCMP at the border saying that she'd be isolating at her home in Vancouver. She was permitted to be inside the house or in the back yard only. The RCMP came by randomly at least once to check her adherence.
posted by lulu68 at 11:00 PM on June 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, I'm an American spouse of a Canadian citizen, also pending PR here in Canada. I haven't been to the border since mid March, when all of this started (prior to that I was crossing the border daily to go to my job in Buffalo, NY, so I do have a lot of general experience with border patrol procedures). I was told at the border that day in March that if I left and came back, there was no guarantee they would readmit me (at the time I had just a visitor record and had not yet submitted PR) but that even if they did readmit me, I would be subject to the 14 day isolation. As you can see from comments above about experiences in April and May, that much hasn't changed.

Now, to the specifics of your question, I do believe your spouse will ultimately be okay because of the rule excepting family members of Canadian citizens, although "okay" can depend on variables like ethnicity/race and/or belonging to any other marginalized communities (I don't know what your situation is there and don't want to assume). My husband is a POC, whereas I am a white woman, and we thankfully haven't had any issues together at the border to date, but please take that with a grain of salt.

Whenever we do go to the border together, we ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS make sure we have a copy of our marriage certificate (and just for overkill, copies of the marriage license, copies of the letters of support from our loved ones, copies of my birth certificate, etc) to prove our marriage. You never want to be in a situation where you can't prove that you are family members.

We have an immigration attorney so in addition to proof of our marriage, we also get an updated letter from our attorney stating that we are married, when our PR was submitted/type. If you don't have an attorney, I still think you will be okay, but I have noticed that the letter helps to illustrate our situation.

If you *do* have an immigration attorney, this is a good question for them. They probably have a lot of knowledge about how this is currently playing out at the border for their other clients.
posted by nightrecordings at 6:08 AM on June 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

It seems like a good idea to get a covid test so you can show the results as well as having a clear plan to quarantine for 14 days. My state is requiring visitors to either show a negative test or self-quarantine.
posted by theora55 at 10:03 AM on June 28, 2020

Best answer: I’ll be doing a similar thing soon, returning to Canada from the US in August with my husband and child (I have dual US/Can citizenship, they have only US and visitor records with PR applications in the works). I called Canada border patrol back in June to ask about the spouse-admission rules, and they were very clear and helpful in parsing out the details with me. So I recommend you call them and see what they say. (When I talked with them the admission of spouses thing hadn’t gone into effect, so I can’t tell you what they’d say about that now, though as you mention, the rules sound clearly in favor of allowing spouses in.)

One caveat about calling: in my experiences crossing during non-Covid times with my visitor-record-holding spouse, different border agents interpret immigrant spouse rules with a surprising level of (subtle yet sometimes significant) variation. So if you call, you might want to think of it as taking the temperature if the situation rather than as an absolute statement of exactly what would happen at the border.

Lastly, my dual citizen brother has crossed into Canada twice during the border closure rules - each time they wanted an address, told him about the quarantine rules, and made him ensure that he was prepared to follow them, and that was that. So I expect that with an address and a clear plan that part should be fine.
posted by marlys at 1:27 PM on June 28, 2020

Best answer: My sister-in-law visited this month. She is a Canadian who lives in New York. She drove here, to Toronto, to visit her father who is not well. She says the actual border crossing was pretty quick and uneventful, but she did have to show the address of the place where she would be quarantined for two weeks. She says she was checked up on numerous times by officials who wanted to make sure she was where she said she’d be. She received phone calls, texts, and an actual visit from the police.
posted by Badmichelle at 6:57 PM on June 28, 2020

« Older Switching real estate agents while buying a home?   |   Name this pop philosophy! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.