The Canada-US border could be closed for months. Here’s what you need to know now

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Gone are the days when Canadians and Americans could freely cross their shared border to shop or visit family and friends.Today, the once wide open Canada-U.S. Land border is closed to non-essential travel, affecting the lives of many on both sides.

Here’s what you need to know about Canada-U.S. Border rules, and why our neighbors to the south may not be visiting for a while.

When will the Canada-US border reopen?

Many people were not surprised when the federal government announced last month that the Canada-U.S. Land border – which was closed on March 21 to non-essential traffic – would remain closed until at least August 21.

Canadians can still fly to the United States., but this rule is not reciprocal: Canada prohibits American visitors from entering by all modes of transport.

Canada and the United States review their border closure agreement every 30 days. Several experts in different fields told CBC News that they expect the border will not reopen until next year.

The main reason: COVID-19 cases are still booming in several US states.

“It doesn’t seem to be getting any better in the United States,” said US immigration attorney Len Saunders, whose office is located near the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington. He believes the border could remain closed for another six months.

“There really is no reason for the Canadian government at this point to want to open it up and subject Canadians to an increased rate of COVID infections.

Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer in Blaine, Wash., Predicts the Canada-U.S. Border could remain closed for another six months. (Gabriel Osorio / CBC)

Many Canadians have also made it clear that they want the border to remain closed for now.

When Marketing Doctor Asked 1,500 Canadians last month if they thought the Canada-U.S. border should reopen at the end of July, 86 percent of respondents said they were against the idea.

In early July, 29 members of the US Congress sent a joint letter US Homeland Security and the Canadian Government. In it, they demanded that the two countries start working on a gradual reopening of the border.

A congressman posted the letter on Twitter and was bombarded with angry comments from Canadians demanding the border be closed. Some have even suggested that Canada build a wall.

Given public opinion, economist Moshe Lander said it would be “political suicide” for Canadian politicians to consider reopening the border now.

“Until Canadians feel safe, then why force this border open when there is no strong political logic to do so?” Said Lander, professor at Concordia University in Montreal.

He predicts a possible reopening of the border in mid to late 2021 – if there is enough confidence at this point for the virus to be under control.

What about separated families?

The federal government recently eased its travel restrictions to allow Americans to visit close family in Canada, including dependent children, spouses and common-law partners.

To be considered a de facto spouse, couples must have lived together for at least one year and prove it with Documentation showing a shared address.

Some separated couples who do not meet the criteria have chosen to marry.

Couples separated by a closed border can still meet – and get married – in a park at the Peace Arch border crossing between British Columbia and Washington State. (Submitted by Len Saunders)

Attorney Saunders said at least two dozen of his clients – who are in cross-border relationships – have speeded up their wedding plans so they can reunite in Canada now.

Canadians can travel to the United States to get married, or both partners can travel to the Peace Arch border crossing between British Columbia and Washington State.

This border crossing includes a neutral zone – a shared Canada-US park. The Canadian section of the park is closed. however, Canadians can still enter the American section of the park for the day to visit with their American partner – or even get married.

Saunders said he has advised many cross-border couples seeking marriage in the park, on condition that they obtain a Washington state marriage license and are married off by a Washington celebrant.

“It’s absolutely legal to get married on the American side,” Saunders said. “A lot of people are taking advantage of it. ”

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has said that when Canadians return from a visit to the US side of the park, they must self-quarantine for 14 days. We don’t know if people are actually complying.

American crackdown on the way to Alaska

Americans are allowed to cross Canada into Alaska for essential reasons, such as work or returning home. However, they should not make unnecessary stops along the way.

In June, the Alberta RCMP imposed 10 fines of $ 1,200 on US residents who traveled to Alaska and stopped in Banff National Park to see the sights.

On July 10, the BC RCMP fined an American boat operator $ 1,000 for entering Canadian waters on vacation.

“It was clear that those on board this ship had misstated their intention to go to Alaska and entered Canada for tourism,” RCMP said. in a report.

This is the top part of the label issued by the Canada Border Services Agency that Americans traveling through Canada in Alaska must hang on their car’s rear-view mirror. (submitted by the Canada Border Services Agency)

To try to curb the problem, the CBSA introduced stricter rules Friday for Americans traveling to Alaska.

They must enter Canada through one of the five designated border crossings and hang a CBSA-issued tag in the rear-view mirror of their car indicating the purpose and rules of their trip.

Before leaving Canada for Alaska, drivers must re-register with the CBSA.

Even before the new rules came into effect, it seems Americans got the message. Alberta RCMP said no fines were imposed on rebel U.S. drivers in July.

“It’s encouraging,” said Alberta RCMP spokesperson Fraser Logan. “It’s just important that… you follow the rules. ”

WATCH | Why cross-border couples can still meet at the Peace Arch border post:

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