Our southern neighbor is statistically the most popular destination for Canadians (by far), pandemic or not. And many are asking us many questions about how Canadians can travel to the United States. So we’ll help you out—especially since it’s honestly pretty simple now. Very simple… for most Canadians.
While you wait for Flytrippers’ useful FAQ with answers to 60+ questions as part of our upcoming ultimate guide to traveling during the pandemic that is coming soon as part of our mission to help you travel more for less, here is a complete guide on how to travel to the USA.
COVID-19 travel rules are sometimes complicated… but NOT for Canada and the USA. They are extremely simple in Canada and the USA… and they really don’t change that often either compared to everywhere else.
(By the way, Flytrippers always spots cheap flight deals to the USA on its main page and there are currently record-breaking Aeroplan offers, including one that gives you 5 roundtrip reward flights to the USA as a welcome bonus, the highest currently available in Canada and it’s still the best card overall.)
So let’s get to the point and look specifically at how Canadians can travel to the United States (you can use this table of contents to go the sections you want to read, as always).
Overview of how to travel to the United States
I can personally confirm that it’s very simple to travel to the USA as a Canadian: I went myself 9 times already (in April 2021, in May, in November, in December, in January 2022, in February, and 3 times in April).
First, here is the summary before I give you the details.
And here is the infographic about their entry rules specifically.
So here are all the elements I will detail for you below:
- The definition of “vaccinated” in the USA and in Canada (and proof required)
- The entry rules based on your vaccination status
- The special rules for children
- The fact that sterile international transits do not exist in the USA
- The absence of requirements for domestic flights in the USA (just like in almost all countries)
- The fact US territories may have additional rules
- The potential end date for the remaining requirements
- How to get COVID-19 tests for free in the USA (for unvaccinated Canadians)
- What it’s like to travel to the USA during the pandemic
Definition of “vaccinated” for travel to the USA
The definition of “vaccinated” is the same for Canada and the USA (which is obviously not necessarily the case for every other country):
- 2 doses of the WHO-approved vaccines (or 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson)
- Received at least 14 full days prior to entry
No booster dose is required and there’s no maximum time limit for your doses’ validity.
Proof of vaccination for travel to the USA
The proof required is not exactly the same in the USA though, as they require the proof of vaccination to be in English (while Canada also accepts French or a certified translation).
Your “Canadian” vaccine passport for travel works fine. In practice, they usually accept any proof (like your provincial vaccine passport). If they even check…
But it’s so simple and easy to get the right one specifically designed for travel with the name of an actual country on it, so why don’t you just take 5 minutes to get it.
Rules to travel to the USA based on vaccination status
As a reminder if you haven’t read how to travel during the pandemic, there are always the same 2 simple sets of rules for any trip and any destination:
- To enter the countries where you are going to
- To enter Canada for your return
We’ll give you the detailed rules based on your vaccination status.
Fully vaccinated adult travelers: Rules to travel to the USA
Here is how fully vaccinated Canadians can currently travel to the USA based on those 2 sets of rules you always have to look at.
Set of rules #1
- Rules to enter the USA (by air or by land)
- You do not need anything at all to enter the USA, just your proof of vaccination
Set of rules #2
- Rules to enter Canada (by land, air, water, etc.):
- You also always need to fill in the ArriveCAN app (easy and free)
- You could be tested randomly on arrival *SUSPENDED UNTIL AT LEAST JUNE 30TH*
- You do NOT need to isolate while awaiting results if you’re selected
freefinanced by taxpayers
Basically, it’s very simple if you’re vaccinated: Enter the USA by land or by air with no requirement (you can then fly anywhere in the country test-free AND mask-free of course).
Unvaccinated adult travelers: Rules to travel to the USA
It’s simple: Unvaccinated Canadians theoretically cannot enter the United States at all since November 8, 2021 (adults at least; minors are entirely exempt, see next section).
Entering the USA by land while unvaccinated
Since many of you keep asking: yes, some unvaccinated Canadians go by land because most customs agents only ask if you are vaccinated without asking for proof, apparently. But lying to customs agents is not something Flytrippers can recommend since, as the reference for travel, we’ve been saying to follow all the rules since the beginning.
You can read more details about all that in our section about how to travel without being vaccinated.
If you happened to go to the USA (test-free by land), here’s what you’d need to enter Canada upon your return:
If you do that, at least get a free test in the USA in any state (ideally a NAAT in 45 states); please stop paying $200 without checking, like so many people sadly did for months.
So in short, there are 160+ countries where unvaccinated Canadians can travel but the USA is not one of them, based on their official rules.
Entering the USA by air while unvaccinated
As you probably know, Canada recently lifted the mandatory vaccination requirement to fly from a Canadian airport.
But the US requires vaccination by air too. And the airlines do check for sure, unlike the land border agents.
Since the polls about support for most restrictions are pretty terrible in the USA, maybe their vaccination requirement will end in the lead-up to the midterm elections. “The Science™“ is unpredictable, especially political science that pretty much dictates the travel rules on both sides of the imaginary line!
Children: Rules to travel to the USA
Yes, there is one exemption to enter the USA without being vaccinated: Minors (under 18).
To explain the travel rules for children, I’ll come back to the 2 simple sets of rules for all trips:
- Rules to enter the USA
- All minors (under 18) are exempt from the vaccination requirement
- Nobody needs a test so kids don’t either
- Rules to enter Canada
- Kids under the age of 5 are exempt from the pre-entry test requirement
- Unvaccinated kids from 5 to 12 must do the test
- Unless they are accompanied by a vaccinated parent
- Unvaccinated kids over 12 must do the test and quarantine for 14 days
- Unvaccinated kids from 5 to 12 traveling without a vaccinated parent too
You can read our ultimate guide of travel rules for children.
Rules for transits in the United States
The rules are exactly the same if you are just connecting in a US airport on your way to one of the many countries open to Canadian travelers.
The United States is one of the few countries in the world where sterile international transits simply do not exist. In other words, you always need to follow all the same entry rules even if you just have a layover in the USA (which is far from being the case for connections in other countries).
You can read the detailed article about the transits in the United States during COVID-19.
Rules for domestic flights in the United States
There are absolutely no requirements for domestic flights in the United States or any flights departing from a US airport per se (it’s been this way since the beginning of the pandemic).
This is the case for almost every country in the world too, by the way: tests are almost always only required as part of a country’s ENTRY requirements.
Just yesterday, 2 million passengers were screened by the TSA in the US. Americans wouldn’t tolerate any testing or vaccination requirements there (let’s call that cultural differences…) so that’s not going to change.
They even were among the first to get the mask requirement eliminated in mid-April (now many other countries have followed the science and have done the same, including most European countries).
So to be very clear, since many ask us if a test is required to fly from Buffalo to Miami:
- Do you need a test to enter the USA? No!
- Do you need a test to fly from a US airport? No!
That means you can fly anywhere in the USA without having to do a test by simply leaving via an airport on the other side of the border.
Special travel rules for Hawaii and the territories
Hawaii is a destination that should be avoided at this time if you care even slightly about traveling for less.
If not, Hawaii was the only one of the 50 States that had its own entry rules that were stricter than in the rest of the US up until very recently, but now that is over (even their special Hawaii Safe Travels form).
The above US entry rules obviously always apply. Hawaii’s special rules, when they were in effect, were in addition to the US rules.
US territories can also have their own additional rules (for example, Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands). So double-check that.
Potential end date for the remaining requirements
While World Health Organization experts have been recommending since January that ALL restrictions be eliminated for ALL travelers, about 60 countries around the world have followed the experts’ advice and ended 100% of the requirements.
Others have removed testing and quarantines for their own citizens regardless of vaccination status (like the US) while others persist in requiring useless forms even for the vaccinated (Canada).
By the way, the US has just lifted its requirement for masks on planes (April 18th) and its test requirement (June 12th), so their vaccination requirement (to enter by plane and by land, in theory) could be next soon. But there’s no guarantee anything will change. There is no pressure from within, given that Americans are exempt from the only remaining measure. To be continued.
Canada is one of the few countries that still requires quarantine for the unvaccinated, which is extremist by definition. It will be lifted as soon as it becomes more politically rewarding for the government to eliminate it than to keep it, not a second before. It’s as simple as that.
Doing the pre-entry test required by Canada while in the USA (for unvaccinated travelers)
I’ll say it once more: It’s very easy to get a COVID-19 test for free in the US.
I did it 7 times myself, as recently as May 2022 (and all the way back in April 2021 too; this is not new). As a Canadian. Without a residence in the United States. Without insurance. Without paying. Easily.
Dozens of our readers have too (or probably hundreds at this point, since I appeared on CBC and many other outlets to share this easy tip).
We have a detailed article on free COVID-19 tests in the USA.
You can also read our ultimate guide to Canada’s pre-entry test requirement for a lot more details about that part of the trip planning.
Since February 28, Canada now accepts negative rapid antigen tests but in the USA, I strongly recommend continuing to do the free NAAT at Walgreens. I’ll explain why in a post very soon, sign up for our free newsletter to get it first.
What it’s like to travel in the USA during the pandemic
In many states, the reality is that the pandemic has been over for a while (it varies greatly from state to state though).
If you’re not comfortable with that (and with the complete absence of masks inside hotels or businesses for example), carefully check the situation in your desired destination before booking a trip.
I spent a week in Miami in December and it was like being on a completely different planet compared to Canada. I did not wear a mask once outside of the airport and buses (2 federally-regulated places where masks were mandatory at that time).
Not in restaurants, not in grocery stores, not at indoor art shows, not in hotels, not in hostels… not anywhere.
And it’s not new. For the first of my 6 USA trips during the pandemic back in April 2021, while Québec was under extreme lockdown, in Dallas the baseball stadium was at full capacity. A 500-team amateur volleyball national tournament was taking place.
Some states, like Louisiana where I was in February, have a vaccination rate under 50% (Florida is at 63%). And everyone has always been allowed inside restaurants; most states have never had discriminatory vaccine passports.
Given how many Canadians seem to be so happy that the government is banning the unvaccinated from airplanes (where the air quality is factually better than in any building on the ground thanks to the HEPA filters and other features), some might not be happy to learn that in the USA you can be seated next to unvaccinated people in many places with worse air quality than planes (with no masks).
So take that into account when choosing a destination. Whether you are not comfortable with this… or whether you want somewhere where life is almost back to normal.
Every traveler is different.
You can download our free pandemic travel checklist to help you out (it will be updated soon; if you download it you’ll receive the update first automatically).
And in all cases, if you have specific questions about traveling to the USA that hasn’t been answered in this guide, ask them in the comments below.
Want to get all the coronavirus updates for Canadian travelers?
It’s really quite simple to understand the rules that determine how Canadians can travel to the United States. You just need to know how to read — and take the time to do it.
What do you want to know about traveling to the United States? Tell us in the comments below.
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