On March 18th, in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic (aka Coronavirus), the Canadian Government began implementing travel restrictions.  These restrictions have been updated and extended multiple times, with no apparent end date yet.

This rapidly evolving response has been difficult to navigate for those affected.  This article attempts to provide an accessible explanation of the current rules, along with information of where to watch for the most relevant updates.

 

What are the Rules to Enter Canada based on my Canadian Status?

When and how you can enter Canada depends on your Canadian status, country of departure, and health and travel considerations.  Most citizens, permanent residents, registered First Nation Band members, and people conferred refugee status in Canada can return to Canada immediately (details below).  Foreign nationals are restricted from entering Canada, unless they fall under an exemption and are traveling for an essential purpose (details below).

  1. Self-isolation period

Regardless of status, people entering or returning to or entering Canada from abroad have been ordered to self-isolate for 14 days.  This means staying in a suitable living space with access to necessities, and away from vulnerable persons unless those vulnerable persons are consenting adults or your parent or child.  A vulnerable person is someone with a relevant underlying medical condition or compromised immune system, but also includes people 65 years of age or older.

When entering Canada, immigration and border enforcement officers will ask about your self-isolation plan, and can deny entry if they are not satisfied you would be able to meet the requirements.  This plan must include where you will be staying, and how you will be getting groceries and other essentials.  The self-isolation plan must also not conflict with the purpose of your travel; e.g. if you are visiting Canada for two weeks or less for on-site work, you would be unable to meet the self-isolation requirement.

  1. Air travel restrictions

Airlines operating flights to Canada are being required to conduct health checks before allowing passengers to board.  The health check involves asking if you have been exhibiting symptoms of Coronavirus (fever and cough, or fever and breathing difficulties) or have been denied boarding on any other flight in the last 14 days, and the airline making its own determination about whether you are exhibiting symptoms.

If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, refuse to answer, or if the airline believes you are exhibiting symptoms, you will be denied boarding.  You may still be allowed to board, if you can provide a medical certificate certifying that your symptoms are not related to Coronavirus.  If you’ve been turned away by an airline, you can either get a medical certificate, or wait 14 days before attempting to board another flight.  If you disobey the 14 day wait period, you may be fined up to $5,000.

 

Citizens and Permanent Residents

Canadian citizens and permanent residents have been encouraged to return to Canada as soon as possible.  This includes people registered as Indians under the Indian Act, whether or not they hold Canadian citizenship.

  1. Canadians in need of Financial Support

Some Canadians may have trouble traveling due to flight disruptions and increased prices, being denied boarding for health reasons, or not having access to funds.  Canadian citizens, or permanent residents traveling with a family member who is a citizen, can apply for an emergency loan, to cover their basic needs and help them return to Canada.

To apply, you can contact your nearest Government of Canada office, call the Global Affairs Canada 24/7 line at +1 613-996-8885, or email CAN.finances.CV19@internatinal.gc.ca.  You will be required to fill out a COVID-19 Emergency Loan Request Form.  Details of the loan will apparently be determined upon application, based on need.

  1. Entering by the U.S. Land Border

The above restrictions only apply to flights entering Canada.  Citizens, permanent residents, and people registered under the Indian Act can enter Canada at the U.S. land boarder, even if they exhibit symptoms.  The Canadian Government is not able to facilitate travel to the U.S., and you must be aware of travel restrictions in any country you pass through on your way to Canada.  Border wait times may be affected by Coronavirus.  You can check wait times for major border crossing points on the CBSA website.

If you are using a U.S. plated car, temporary exemptions allow you to drive into Canada without paying usual duties and fees.  The vehicle can only be used to bring you to a destination, to spend your 14-day isolation period.  A border services officer should give you a Temporary Admission Permit (TAP), which should be kept with the vehicle.  The TAP expires after 30 days, but can be extended to 60 days if needed, you contact a CBSA office before the expiry.

 

Temporary Residents

In order to enter Canada, a person must hold some valid temporary resident status which would allow them entry to the Country under normal conditions, and meet additional entry restrictions in place due to the Coronavirus.  Different Coronavirus restrictions are in place depending on if the person is entering from the United States, or any country other than the United States.  Details on both are below.

People who have received written confirmation that a work permit application has been approved can overcome the normal restrictions.  Students and new permanent residents who received written confirmation that their study permit or permanent resident application was approved before 12:00pm (EDT), March 18, also can overcome the normal restrictions.  This written proof includes a study permit or letter of introduction from the IRCC (students); work permit, letter of introduction from the IRCC or letter of invitation (workers); permanent resident visa or COPR (permanent residents).  You should carry this written proof with you to present to airlines and immigration officials while entering Canada.

  1. Essential purpose

In additional to falling under an exemption (below), anyone temporary resident entering Canada must be traveling for an essential (not discretionary or optional) purpose.  The only exception to this is for people entering Canada to be with an immediate family member.

You may need to provide proof to demonstrate that your travel is for an essential purpose.  For example, if you are traveling for work, it might be helpful to get a letter from your employer explaining your job function and why it cannot be done remotely.

  1. From Outside the U.S.

If you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and you are outside the United States., you can enter Canada only if you fall under an exemption in the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any country other than the United States).  Many of these exemptions are narrow and complicated.

Notable exemptions include:

  • Immediate Family Member Exemptions:
  • If you are an Immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;

[Immediate family member here means:
a) the spouse or common-law partner of the person;
b) a dependent child of the person or the person’s spouse or common-law partner;
c) a depending child of a dependent child referred to in b;
d) the parent or step-parent of the person or the person’s spouse or common-law partner; or
e) the guardian or tutor of the person.]

[“Dependent child” here means being under 22 years old and unmarried, or having depended substantially on financial support from the parent since the age of 22 and unable to be financially self-supporting due to a physical or mental condition.]

  • Status based Exemptions:
  • If you are a registered Indian (Canadian First Nations) under the Indian Act;
  • If you have had refugee protection conferred upon you by an immigration officer or the Immigration and Refugee Board, and your claim has not subsequently been rejected;
  • If you are a French citizen residing in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (SPM), and you have not been outside SPM, Canada or the U.S. in the last 14 days;
  • Special Permissions:
  • If you have been authorized by a consular officer of the Government of Canada to enter Canada for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members (you can find the nearest office to you here). (Note that this is broader than the Immediate Family Member Exemptions above, as it goes both ways. An independent child whose parent is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident would not qualify under the IFM Exemption, because an independent child is not an immediate family member of the parent.  But the Parent is an immediate family member of the child, and thus makes the child eligible under this Family Reunification exemption.)
  • If certain officials have invited you or determined you should be in Canada;
  • Miscellaneous Exemptions
  • If you arrive by an aircraft, if the scheduled arrival in Canada according to the flight plan is before 11:59pm on March 18;
  • If you arrive by a ship or boat which departed on or before March 22, 2020, and which was scheduled to come to Canada when it departed;
  • If you are a diplomat (for this exemption, you must fit the description of a person in 190(2)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations), or immediate family member of the same.

If you are intending to use the Immediate Family Member exemption, or family reunification exemption, it is recommended that you have some copies of documents proving both your relationship to the family member (such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, or correspondence with immigration officials showing an ongoing spousal sponsorship application), and the family member’s Canadian status (such as a Canadian passport, citizenship certificate, or permanent resident card).

Many of these exemptions, including the Immediate Family Member Exemptions, don’t apply if you have symptoms of Coronavirus (fever and cough, or fever and breathing difficulties), or if you are entering Canada for discretionary purposes, like tourism or entertainment.  Check the Order for details.

  • From the U.S.

Subject to certain prohibitions and exceptions, foreign nationals are free to enter Canada from the U.S., if:

  • You are not experiencing the symptoms of Coronavirus (fever and cough, or fever and difficulty breathing);
  • You are not coming to Canada for discretionary purposes, like tourism or entertainment; and
  • You have not been in any country other than the U.S. or Canada in the last 14 days.

Foreign nationals traveling to Canada from the U.S. must read the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States), available in English and French on the Orders in Council Canada website, and confirm that, to the best of your knowledge, you are not prohibited from entering Canada.

Penalties under this Order include a fine of up to $5,000 for boarding without confirming that you have read the Order, and up to an additional $5,000 if you provide a confirmation you know to be false or misleading.

People who have been to a country other than the U.S. or Canada in the last 14 days can still enter Canada if they qualify under an exemption.  Many of these exemptions are narrow and complicated, and you should see the Order for full details.

These exemptions include the exemptions for foreign nationals entering Canada from outside the U.S. (see above), as well as:

  • A U.S. citizen, or a stateless habitual resident in the U.S.;
  • The mother, father or legal guardian of a minor who is a U.S. citizen, and who wants to come to Canada to make a refugee claim; or
  • An unmarried minor, not accompanied by a mother, father or legal guardian, and don’t have a mother, father or guardian within the U.S.

 

Refugees

Protected persons who have already had refugee protection conferred upon them by a Canadian immigration officer or the Immigration and Refugee Board, and whose claim was not subsequently deemed rejected, can enter Canada from any country.  None of the new restrictions to entry apply to protected persons, except for the self-isolation period once you are in Canada.

Entering Canada from the U.S. in order to make a refugee claim is prohibited, unless you are:

  • A U.S. citizen, or a stateless habitual resident in the U.S.;
  • The mother, father or legal guardian of a minor who is a U.S. citizen, and who wants to come to Canada to make a refugee claim; or
  • An unmarried minor, not accompanied by a mother, father or legal guardian, and don’t have a mother, father or guardian within the U.S.

If you are entering Canada from any country other than the U.S. and seeking refugee protection, you may enter as any other foreign national (described above).

In-person reporting is currently on hold.  Some regions have begun utilizing phone reporting.  For the most up-to-date information, watch the Canada Border Services Agency website.

How Chaudhary Law Office Can Help

If you are one of the Canadians stuck abroad (or permit/visa holder stuck abroad) due to Covid 19 despite the challenges of covid 19 contact us.

The Immigration Webinar You Can't Miss on March 21 2024 at 1800 (i.e. 6 pm ET)

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