Focus On

An update on U.S. immigration

Tuesday, December 15, 2020 @ 1:26 PM | By Rosanna Berardi

Rosanna Berardi %>
Rosanna Berardi
We’ve almost reached the end of 2020, and the U.S. seems to be right back to where we were in March with the pandemic. As COVID numbers continue to rise, the U.S./Canadian border remains closed and is evaluated in 30-day increments. It’s the longest closure in the history of both nations. While there are exceptions — new processes are in place for international students, reuniting extended family members or allowing people to enter for compassionate reasons — traffic across the border is down 92 per cent.

While it has been a blow to the travel industry on both sides, the eight border closure extensions have come as no surprise, as the vast majority of Canadians do not want the border to reopen. Prime Minister Trudeau commented on the closures to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. saying, “Until the virus is significantly more under control everywhere around the world, we’re not going to be releasing the restrictions at the border,” which many took to indicate the closure would last well into 2021.

The good news

A U.S./Canadian Border Task Force has been formed for former politicians to talk to stakeholders and provide recommendations in March of 2021. Made up of equal representations from both countries, including both a Republican and Democrat on the U.S. side, the group will create a practical plan for how border travel can be safely permitted as early as this coming spring.

Canadians can still fly to the U.S. as lots of snowbirds are doing this year. Canadian citizens are being permitted into the country and do not have to quarantine for 14 days, although it is recommended. Those that have travelled to Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the U.K. or 26 European countries in the Schengen Area 14 days prior are required to quarantine upon entry.

And of course, the best news of all? Vaccines are on their way to being approved in the U.S.

Pilot program

Starting Nov. 2, 2020, travellers entering Alberta at select border crossings can take part in the Alberta COVID-19 Border Testing Pilot Program. The program is a partnership between the government of Canada and the government of Alberta and is intended to safely explore reduced quarantine periods before officially changing public health measures. It aims to reduce the length of mandatory quarantine for travellers entering Canada from international destinations.

The program will also ensure Albertans stay protected from COVID-19 transmission. Travellers arriving to Alberta from Canadian destinations are not eligible, only those who are travelling from other international destinations. All travellers must arrive through the Coutts land border or the Calgary International Airport. The travellers will be required to apply for the program at customs upon arriving and will take a COVID-19 test if accepted.

They then must quarantine for 48 hours or until they receive results. If they are positive, they must continue quarantining following all the mandatory restrictions. However, if they test negative, they may leave quarantine as long as they check in daily and take a second test 6-7 days after arriving in the country. After 14 days all participants may leave Alberta and no longer need to check in daily.

New York quarantine rules

On the U.S. side, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York changed the quarantine rules with no notice. Starting Nov. 4, travellers who had taken a COVID-19 test and tested negative 72 hours before travelling to the state and could provide proof, could opt into a shorter three-day quarantine time period vs. the longer 14-day mandatory quarantine. On the fourth day, they are required to take another test. If they are still negative, they no longer need to quarantine.

Whether or not this policy stays or is modified again as case numbers rise across the U.S., it’s becoming clear that rapid tests are going to be increasingly important as we continue to navigate travel during the pandemic in 2021. Testing is becoming a mandatory part of travelling just about everywhere and with states still reporting an average turnaround time of two to three days, rapid testing is needed.

The World Health Organization issued requirements in August for “point of care tests” that include results within 40 minutes, administration outside a clinical environment with 70 per cent accuracy for true positivity and 97 per cent accuracy for true negativity, and the costs should not exceed $20. And while in the U.S., the Department of Health and Human Services released 150 million rapid tests to communities in September, the lines are long, appointments are far off, and results aren’t as accurate. We can only hope that the next few months will bring more breakthroughs in testing and availability. Only then can the borders truly reopen.

Rosanna Berardi is the managing partner of Berardi Immigration Law and the CEO of High Wire Woman, where she helps working women create a blueprint to live their lives in a simpler way and take back their most precious commodity: their time.

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