COVID-19 Related Travel Restrictions in Canada: The Impact on Foreign Nationals Entering Canada

March 31, 2020

Throughout these uncertain times, it is important for foreign nationals currently living in Canada or planning to travel to Canada to remain vigilant with respect to the changing government regulations regarding entry to Canada. To limit the spread of COVID-19, Canada’s government has determined that all non-essential travel is not permitted. In addition, Canada has implemented significant restrictions on who is permitted to enter the country. For foreign nationals, these restrictions have resulted in questions about their ability to enter or re-enter Canada.

The Canadian government has restricted travel to Canada to Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents and immediate family members of Canadians. Exemptions, however, have been put in place so that only travel deemed “essential” is permitted. Subject to the stipulations outlined below, temporary foreign workers as well as certain study permit holders and permanent residents who have not yet landed are now permitted to enter Canada.

As of March 27, 2020, the following restrictions for entry into Canada via land or air have been put in place. The restrictions relating to entry to Canada from the United States are currently in place until April 21, 2020, and the restrictions relating to entry to Canada from any country other than the United States are in place until June 30, 2020.


Air & Land Travel Restrictions

Only Canadian citizens and permanent residents can enter Canada, subject to the exemptions outlined below. Foreign nationals travelling from the United States who have been in the United States for at least 14 days prior to entering Canada and who show no symptoms of COVID-19 will be permitted entry if they seek to enter Canada for a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose and qualify under one of the exemptions listed below.

All travellers to Canada, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents, are prohibited from boarding a flight to Canada if they exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

  1. a fever and cough; or
  2. a fever and breathing difficulties.

International flights arriving in Canada have been restricted to arriving at one of the following four Canadian airports:

  • Toronto Pearson International Airport;
  • Vancouver International Airport;
  • Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport; and
  • Calgary International Airport.


Air & Land Travel Exemptions

Temporary Foreign Workers, Study Permit Holders & Approved Permanent Residents

As noted above, exemptions to these travel restrictions have been put into place. These exemptions apply to all foreign nationals who have committed to working, studying or making Canada their home. The following persons are now allowed to enter Canada:

  • all those holding valid Canadian work permits or Canadian study permits;
  • a person whose application for a work permit was approved under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”) and who has received written notice of the approval, but who has not yet been issued the permit;
  • a person whose application for a study permit was approved under IRPA, and who received written notice of the approval before noon, Eastern Daylight Time on March 18, 2020, but who has not yet been issued the permit; and
  • a person whose application for permanent residence was approved under IRPA, and who received written notice of the approval before noon, Eastern Daylight Time on March 18, 2020, but who has not yet become a permanent resident under that Act.
Additional Exemptions

These exemptions are in addition to the exemptions noted above and include:

  • an immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • a person who is authorized, in writing, by an officer designated under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or by a consular officer of the Government of Canada, to enter Canada for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members;
    air crew members;
  • a member of a crew as defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations or a person who seeks to enter Canada only to become such a member of a crew;
  • a diplomat and their immediate family members;
  • a person who seeks to enter Canada at the invitation of the Minister of Health for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response;
  • a person who arrives by any means of a conveyance operated by the Canadian Forces or the Department of National Defence;
  • a member of the Canadian Forces or a visiting force, as defined in the Visiting Forces Act, and the immediate family members of that member;
  • a French citizen who resides in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and has been only in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, the United States or Canada during the period of 14 days before the day on which they arrived in Canada;
  • a person or any person in a class of persons who, in the opinion of the Chief Public Health Officer
    • does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health, or
    • will provide an essential service while in Canada;
  • a person whose presence in Canada, in the opinion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration or the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is in the national interest;
  • a person who arrives by means of a vessel as defined in the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, if the vessel departed before 00:00:01 am Eastern Daylight Time on March 21, 2020 and had a scheduled destination of Canada upon its departure;
  • a person permitted to work in Canada as a student in a health field under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations;
  • a person permitted to work in Canada as a provider of emergency services under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
  • a licensed health care professional with proof of employment in Canada;
  • a person who seeks to enter Canada for the purpose of delivering, maintaining, or repairing medically-necessary equipment or devices;
  • a person who seeks to enter Canada for the purpose of making medical deliveries of cells, blood and blood products, tissues, organs or other body parts, that are required for patient care in Canada; or
  • a worker in the marine transportation sector who is essential for the movement of goods by vessel, as defined in the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and who seeks to enter Canada for the purpose of performing their duties in that sector.

In this context, “immediate family members” have been defined as:

  1. the spouse or common-law partner of the person;
  2. a dependent child of the person or the person’s spouse or common-law partner;
  3. a dependent child of a dependent child referred to in bullet 2.;
  4. the parent or step-parent of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner; or
  5. the guardian or tutor of the person.

A foreign national who seeks to enter Canada from any country for tourism, recreation or entertainment purposes is prohibited from entering Canada.

Though certain exemptions apply, foreign nationals with a valid visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA) but no study or work permit are not able to travel to Canada at this time.

Remaining in Canada

Those temporary residents who are already legally in Canada are permitted to remain in Canada as long as they maintain legal status.

Foreign Nationals in Canada with Expiring Status

Those temporary residents who are in Canada and need to extend their status (and are eligible to do so) may apply online. While the extension application is in process, the temporary resident is permitted to stay in Canada while waiting for a decision on their application as they are deemed to have “implied status.” Individuals in Canada with expiring status should not travel to a port of entry (“POE”) to apply.

Upon Entry to Canada

All persons entering Canada from abroad (including Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals arriving from the United States) will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival to Canada. For those entering Nova Scotia from another province, they are also required to self-isolate for 14 days. All travelers should be aware that Nova Scotia has restricted entry to the province to only travel deemed “essential.” Any foreign national travelling to Canada should ensure they carry proof of their approved status or for their immediate family members, proof of their relationship to the permit holder (as described above).

Conclusion

As COVID-19 continues to progress and impact the lives of those residing in Canada, we can expect the government’s reaction to adapt to the changing circumstances. Therefore, all incoming foreign nationals should actively monitor the Canadian government’s news releases regarding travel, border restrictions and COVID-19. Whenever possible, foreign nationals planning to enter Canada should consult a Canadian immigration lawyer prior to travelling.

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Cox & Palmer publications are intended to provide information of a general nature only and not legal advice. The information presented is current to the date of publication and may be subject to change following the publication date.