Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, travel restrictions have been introduced by governments around the world and the countries that make up the European Union (EU) are no exception. Some of the EU travel restrictions affect Canadian nationals.
The EU has issued coronavirus travel advice to its member states, including a “green list” of countries whose residents should be allowed to enter the European bloc.
However, each member of the EU is free to make its own rules and decide which foreign nationals to allow in. Many have drawn up their own lists based on the EU recommendations and their own governments’ judgment.
With the situation constantly changing, travel restrictions and green lists are frequently updated. Canadian citizens and residents of Canada planning to travel to Europe should regularly check the rules for entry in the time leading up to their trip.
What are the EU’s travel restrictions?
Europe has a number of international travel restrictions in place, which vary country by country. Some of these may affect Canadians who wish to travel to certain EU member states. These include:
- Entry bans for passengers arriving from certain countries
- Requirements to self-isolate upon arrival
- Health declaration forms
- An obligation to submit to health screening
- Installing track and trace and/or health monitoring apps on mobile devices
- A requirement to present a certificate proving the traveller has tested negative for COVID-19
Not all EU countries have all of these restrictions in place. Additionally, some restrictions only apply to travellers arriving from certain countries or who have been in high-risk countries within the last 14 days.
The EU itself does not decide the policy of each of its member states, but does provide advice for allowing in passengers from certain countries of origin.
Current travel restrictions do not affect the EU’s visa policy with regards to Canadians (i.e. visa-exempt). However, starting in 2022, Canadian passport-holders will need to register with the new ETIAS visa waiver system. This involves completing a simple online form and will permit applicants to continue to enter EU countries visa-free.
The EU safe list for travel
The European Union’s safe list (also referred to as the “green list”) is a group of countries for which the EU Commission recommends that its member states lift travel restrictions.
The list is updated every 2 weeks and is subject to change. Countries may be added to it if the number of coronavirus cases falls. Conversely, if the rate of transmission in a “safe” country rises, it may be removed from the list.
It is not obligatory for EU member countries to adhere to the safe list when deciding their own coronavirus travel restrictions. However, most EU countries have included most, if not all of the EU’s recommended countries on their own green lists.
The EU safe list is currently as follows:
- China (depending on whether China reciprocates for EU nationals)
- New Zealand
- South Korea
In addition, the 4 EFTA countries, which are part of the Schengen Area along with most of the EU, the UK, and European microstates are automatically considered “safe”. These are:
As citizens of a “safe” country, Canadians living in Canada or any of the above countries can theoretically travel to the EU at present, providing they have not been in a high-risk country within the last 14 days.
However, some EU members have added a number of the recommended “safe” countries to their red lists.
Which EU countries can Canadians travel to?
Each EU member state is responsible for their own travel restrictions. While most have followed the advice laid out by the EU’s green list (above), some countries within the bloc have made the decision to place travel restrictions on travellers from some of the recommended “safe countries”, including Canada.
Currently, residents of Canada can enter the following EU countries with no conditions other than filling out a health declaration form:
Travellers from Canada may also enter the following countries, which are not part of the EU, but are part of the Schengen Area and can be visited with ETIAS from 2022:
Canadian residents may travel to the following EU and Schengen countries with certain conditions, such as self-isolation or testing:
- Bulgaria (14-day quarantine)
- Croatia (14-day quarantine or PCR test result from within 48 hours of travelling)
- Iceland (either 4-5 days of quarantine with 2 tests or 14-day quarantine)
- Malta (the traveller must have been in a low-risk country for at least 14 days beforehand)
- Slovakia (10-day quarantine; the visitor must also register online or by phone with the regional health office and submit to health monitoring)
- Slovenia (14-day quarantine)
- Spain (if arriving from Canada)
Travellers from Canada are prohibited from entering the following EU and Schengen member states at present:
Exceptions to EU coronavirus travel restrictions
Throughout the pandemic, certain groups of people have been exempt from travel restrictions to EU countries. Canadian citizens who fall into the following categories may be able to enter countries that otherwise prohibit Canadians from visiting:
- Healthcare workers
- Scientists conducting research on COVID-19
- Commuters who cross a European border for work
- Canadians who hold dual citizenship with an EU member country
- Airline crew
- Drivers of goods vehicles transporting cargo into the EU
- Military personnel
The future of travel to Europe for Canadians
It is unclear how COVID-19 will affect travel in the long term. Many European countries initially imposed total travel bans early in the pandemic or limited inbound travel to EU nationals. However, most have loosened travel restrictions during summer 2020 to boost tourism and stimulate their economies.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, it is important for Canadians travelling to Europe to check the current entry restrictions for the EU countries they plan to visit.
Starting in 2022, Canadian nationals will need to complete an ETIAS application form online prior to travelling in order to enter the EU.
In order to obtain this travel authorisation, the applicant must meet the ETIAS requirements for Canadians. The online form will be quick and easy to complete and can be done from anywhere with an internet connection. This makes it much simpler than going to an embassy to apply for a visa.
ETIAS is expected to improve security for both European citizens and international visitors.