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Coronavirus: Can I cross the U.S.-Canada border to inspect my boat?

Last Updated Jun 26, 2020 at 10:57 am PDT

Boats get launched at Kawartha Lakes Marina in Bobcaygeon, Ont. on Saturday, May 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Thornhill
Summary

Some cross-border travel situations are up to the discretion of individual border agents: U.S. border patrol

'Backdoor' in border closure allows Canadians to fly south

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Question:

Mark asked: “I have been informed by the harbourmaster that I need to inspect my boat that is at a marina in the U.S. Is this considered essential travel?”

Answer:

Some scenarios have been clearly identified as considered either essential or non-essential cross border travel by both the U.S. and Canada.

A casual shopping trip in Bellingham? Non-essential.

Going to assist the U.S. government response to COVID-19? Essential.

But Mark’s case seems to fall into a bit of a grey area.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Border Patrol, Jason Givens, said Mark can go to a land border crossing and make his case for why he should be allowed to cross.

It will be up to the individual border agent to decide whether he can enter the U.S.

“Every case is unique and it will be determined at the time of the inspection, taking into account the totality of the traveler’s circumstances,” Givens said.

Mark could also try flying to the U.S.

The restriction on non-essential travel to the U.S. applies only to the land border.

The exemption to air travel has been described by some as a loophole.

“It would be like having the front door of your house locked, but the back door wide open,” said Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer based in Blaine, Washington.

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