COVID-19 Canadian travel and immigration update (April 22, 2020)

22 avril 2020 | Shannon M. Houston, Veronica K. Choy

( Disponible en anglais seulement )

Mandatory Quarantine for ALL Travellers Entering Canada

Effective April 15, 2020 at 12:01 EDT, all travellers arriving in Canada—whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic— are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine, with the exception of essential workers as defined by the Chief Public Health Officer (“CPHO”) of Canada.

Upon arrival, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers will require every traveller to confirm that they have a suitable place to isolate or quarantine, where they will have access to basic necessities, such as food and medication. Travellers will be expected to make plans for where they will isolate or quarantine in advance of arriving to Canada. Travellers who do not have an appropriate place to isolate or quarantine themselves must go to a place designated by the Chief Medical Officer with Public Health. These criteria are newly applied to asymptomatic travellers.

Further, all travellers arriving in Canada will be required to wear a non-medical mask or face covering to proceed to their final destination where they will isolate or quarantine. They will be provided with a mask if they do not have one.

Symptomatic travellers continue to be forbidden from taking city buses, trains and subways. Those arriving at one of the four international airports currently open (i.e. in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, and Calgary) and connecting, will be asked to quarantine in place at those cities for 14 days and will be provided accommodation and meals for those situations.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu stated that no one will be permitted to quarantine anywhere in close contact with vulnerable people (e.g. with an elderly family member or someone with a compromised immune system), and Public Health Agency of Canada will make arrangements for those travellers to stay in temporary accommodations.

CBSA will be taking contact information for all individuals entering Canada, and the government will be enforcing random inspections, with the potential for fines and/or arrests for people in violation of the requirement. Effective April 22, 2020, individuals who are unable to comply with the mandatory quarantine requirement will not be permitted to enter Canada.

There are a few exemptions to the mandatory quarantine order; they are those who will be performing work that has been deemed essential to maintain the health and welfare of Canadians by the CPHO of Canada. The exemptions include people working in positions that:

  • make necessary medical deliveries;
  • work in the trade and transportation sector to move goods and people who are important for the movement of goods or people, including truck drivers and crew members on any aircraft, shipping vessel or train, and that cross the border while performing their duties for the purpose of performing their duties;
  • cross the border regularly to go to their normal place of employment in Canada, including the healthcare sector, or critical infrastructure workers (Energy and Utilities, Information and Communication Technologies, Finance, Health, Food, Water, Transportation, Safety, Government and Manufacturing), provided they are not directly caring for individuals who are 65 and over, within the first 14 days after their entry to Canada; and
  • cross the border to provide or receive essential services, including emergency responders and personnel providing essential services to Canadians related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Notably, the above exemptions include technicians specified by the manufacturer, or the manufacturer warranty, as required to maintain or repair equipment necessary to support critical infrastructure. Further, these exemptions are the only categories of employees exempted from the mandatory 14 days self-isolation requirement. Provincial or Territorial declared essential services are not relevant to the requirements pursuant to the federal Quarantine Act. If an exemption is required for an individual who does not meet the above listed exemptions, a special request can be made to the CPHO of Canada.

Travel for Temporary Residents

On April 18, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that the Canada-US land border restriction for all non-essential travel has been extended for another 30 days. All optional/discretionary travel via the land borders is prohibited until May 21, 2020.

Further, the Government of Canada’s exemptions to the air travel restrictions, announced on March 20, 2020, do apply to foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home. As of March 26, 2020, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) confirmed that the travel exemptions are in effect for approved temporary foreign workers, international students, or approved permanent residents that have not yet landed in Canada, and that they are therefore permitted to travel to Canada.

The exemptions include:

  • Seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers if they are able to prove they are coming to Canada for an essential purpose, and that the position in Canada still exists at the time of entry;
  • International students who hold (or held) a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020; and
  • Permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 16, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada.

All travellers entering Canada by air will need to pass a health check conducted by airlines before they will be allowed to board a flight – anyone showing any symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted to board a plane bound for Canada, and will be subject to the mandatory quarantine order detailed above.

Only Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and some foreign nationals travelling from the United States, who have been in the US or Canada for the last 14 days, and are asymptomatic, are able to enter Canada by air at this time (with limited exceptions). Foreign nationals requiring a work permit, whether they are visa required or not, will not be allowed to board a plane departing from any country other than the United States if they do not have the work permit or approval letter. Further, foreign nationals will not be able to apply for a work permit at the port of entry, unless entering from the US, and are able to prove they have not been outside the US or Canada for the past 14 days, and are not entering for optional or discretionary purpose.

Immediate Family Members

Due to confusion regarding the documentation required for dependent family members seeking to join a temporary resident (i.e. temporary foreign worker) in Canada, the government has since implemented a clear process to facilitate the entry of temporary residents’ dependents. Dependents of temporary residents are required to have written authorization from the government to travel to Canada. In order to be eligible to travel to Canada, dependents of temporary residents require the following:

  • Written authorization from IRCC confirming their exemption to the travel restrictions;
  • A valid visa or eTA;
  • A valid passport; and
  • Clear indication of health (i.e. no visible symptoms).

Returning Canadians and Permanent Residents

The Canadian government continues to make efforts to bring Canadians home from around the world, as well as advise those in Canada to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.

Canadians abroad remain encouraged to sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of emergency abroad or an emergency at home.

Immigration Processing

IRCC has announced that changes have been put in place for the processing of all work permit, study permit, visitor visa, and eTA applications. In order to allow for priority processing of applications from individuals who fall under a travel restriction exemption, and are entering for an essential purpose, IRCC has put a pause on the processing of select applications, including visitor visa and eTA applications. The pause will remain in effect until April 29, 2020.

As a result, if an individual does not meet one of the exemption criteria, or if an officer determines that the travel is not for an essential purpose, the application will not be processed until the pause is lifted.

IRCC has also advised that all work permit applications filed from outside of Canada during the pause must be applied for online, and before travelling to Canada, workers must have the following:

  • Work Permit approval letter;
  • Confirmation that the job is still available (and physical presence is still required in Canada); and
  • Self-isolation plan including, but not limited to, details on how they will get to their residence/accommodations from the airport without using public transport, as well as how they will secure food or groceries.

Other updates

  • As of April 30, 2020, the application fees for several immigration processes will be increased. Specifically, the processing fees for applicants and their family members applying for permanent residence to Canada, including Quebec investor/entrepreneur/start-up business and self-employed persons classes, as well as the Right of Permanent Residence fee, will increase.
  • On April 8, 2020, IRCC announced that students transitioning to online classes as a result of COVID-19 will not forfeit their eligibility to apply for a post-graduate work permit. However, the exemptions only apply to international students who were already enrolled in a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada or were accepted by a DLI prior to the travel restrictions coming into effect on March 18, 2020.
  • The International Experience Canada (IEC) program has been suspended. This program is used by youth looking to gain work experience in Canada through the Working Holiday Program, Cooperative Internship program, or the Young Professionals program. Until further notice, there will be no invitations to apply issued for the IEC program due to COVID-19.

For more information, contact Miller Thomson’s Immigration Team


Miller Thomson is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation to ensure that we provide our clients with appropriate support in this rapidly changing environment. For articles, information updates and firm developments, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page.