COVID-19 restrictions and exemptions for travellers entering Canada

Published on: May 07, 2020 | Tags: COVID-19, Border Security, Canada eTA Rules

In order to safeguard Canadian citizens against the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s Prime Minister recently published restrictions on foreign travel to Canada. Until a new announcement is made, the majority of individuals will not be able to travel to Canada. These restrictions also apply to travellers who are already in possession of a valid eTA (electronic travel authorization) or visa. The announcement effectively put a halt to all discretionary (non-essential) visits to Canada.

What travellers are allowed to travel to Canada during COVID-19 travel restrictions?

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, you will only be allowed to travel to Canada if you are a citizen of Canada, a permanent resident of Canada, an individual who is registered in terms of the country's Indian Act or an individual who is protected under Canadian law. There are also exemptions for the following types of non-Canadian citizens or residents:

  • A citizen of a foreign country who wants to enter Canada for a non-discretionary (essential) purpose, and who will be arriving from the United States.
  • A citizen of a foreign country who wants to enter Canada for a non-discretionary (essential) purpose, but who is not arriving from the United States but are exempted from the current Canadian restrictions on travel.

Are there exemptions to the travel restrictions?

The following individuals or categories of individuals will still be allowed to travel to Canada for essential purposes from locations other than the United States:

  • Temporary workers coming from foreign countries
  • Certain students from foreign countries
  • Certain permanent residents who have been approved
  • Immediate family members of a Canadian permanent resident or a Canadian citizen. Immediate family includes a parent, spouse, child, common-law partner, tutor or guardian.
  • Passengers who are in transit and who are waiting for a connecting flight, provided they do not leave a Canadian airport
  • Individuals who are in the service of the Canadian forces, Department of National Defence, or visiting forces as well as their close (immediate) family members.
  • Accredited foreign diplomats and their immediate (close) family members (including NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), as well as those individuals who resort under the United Nations (UN) Headquarters Agreement as well as a number of additional organizations
  • Crew members of the marine and air services
  • Citizens of France who reside in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and who have not been outside Canada, the United States or Saint-Pierre and Miquelon during the 14-day period before they want to enter Canada
  • Any individual who, according to the judgement of Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, doesn't represent a noteworthy risk to public health, and who will be carrying out an essential service during his or her stay in Canada
  • Any individual whose presence, according to the judgement of the Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; Foreign Affairs; or Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is in the country's national interest
  • Any individual who has been invited by the Minister of Health in order to assist with the fight against COVID-19
  • Any individual who is entering Canada specifically for the purpose of medical deliveries

What are the requirements for permanent residents and Canadian citizen's immediate family members to board a flight to Canada?

  • Pass a check by airline officials to confirm you have none of the following COVID-19 symptoms: a cough, a fever, or difficulty breathing. Should you show any of the above symptoms, you will not be able to board the plane
  • You should inform the airline that you are exempted from current Canadian restrictions on travel
  • Provide proof that you want to travel to Canada for non-discretionary (essential) purposes, and not for non-essential, optional reasons such as entertainment, recreation or tourism
  • Provide proof that you are a permanent resident of Canada or a Canadian citizen's immediate family member (see definition above)
  • You should be in possession of a valid travel document such as an eTA or visitor visa, as well as a passport that is valid for a flight to Canada
  • You should not require a written letter of authorization from the Canadian Government to confirm that you have been exempted from the country's travel restrictions

What type of documents can be used as proof that I am a Canadian citizen's immediate family member?

Two types of documents will have to be presented to show proof of the family relationship claimed to be exempt from travel restrictions:

  1. Proof that your immediate Canadian family member is either a Canadian citizen or that he or she is a permanent resident
  2. Proof that confirms your relationship to that particular immediate family member

What are the documents that will be accepted as proof that my immediate family member is a Canadian citizen, or a permanent resident?

  • A Canadian passport
  • Other proof that he or she is a Canadian citizen, including a citizenship card, a citizenship certificate, or a territorial or provincial birth certificate
  • A travel document showing he or she is a permanent resident of Canada
  • A permanent resident card for Canada
  • A foreign passport (visa exempt) that has an IRCC Special Authorization for citizens of Canada

What documents can be used to prove my relationship to my Canadian family member?

The following documents can be provided in paper or electronic form:

  • A birth certificate
  • A marriage certificate
  • A common law status certificate
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) under the 1-year program known as Window of Opportunity (this will have a OYW coding under Special Program)
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) for the particular family category (this will be categorized as PC under the Application Details)
  • Related documents that prove that you are an immediate family member. These could, for example, include official correspondence that indicates that an application for spousal sponsorship is in progress, or documentary proof of a shared home address

How can I join an immediate family member who is currently in Canada as a temporary resident or visitor?

You will need to get a written authorization from the Canadian Government to embark on a flight to be reunited with family in Canada. Even if you already have an eTA or valid visitor visa, without written authorization you will not be allowed to board the plane for the flight to Canada. To request such an authorization you have to do one of the following:

In both instances you have to provide the following information:

  • Your full name and birthdate
  • UCI (Unique Client Identifier)
  • Passport number
  • A detailed explanation of why you want to travel to Canada
  • Details of your relationship with the immediate family member residing in Canada
  • Proof of the immediate family member who lives in Canada's immigration status
  • Proof of eTA or temporary resident visa

What do I need to be allowed to fly to Canada under the COVID-19 restrictions?

You will need a written authorization from IRCC that confirms you have been exempted from the restrictions on travel to Canada. You can follow the steps above to obtain the authorization from IRCC. In addition to the written authorization from IRCC, you will need the following:

  • A valid passport
  • A Canada eTA or visa

You will also need to inform the airline you are using to travel to Canada that you are exempt from the Canada travel restrictions. You should contact the airline prior to check-in for your flight or at the airport. Upon arrival to Canada, an immigration or consular officer will likely re-check your documents. You will need to confirm that you will be visiting Canada for an essential purpose. For example, to reside with your parent, spouse or partner. If an officer rules that you are travelling to Canada for a non-essential or optional reason, for example entertainment, tourism or recreation, you will not be granted admission into Canada.

You will likely be subject to health checks before departing Canada. Health checks may also be conducted by airline officials to make sure you do not show any symptoms of COVID-19, for example a cough, fever, or difficulty to breathe. If you show any of the above symptoms, you will not get authorization to board the plane.

Are there quarantine requirements for visitors entering Canada?

Upon arrival in Canada, regardless of whether this is by air or by land, you will undergo a health check before you will be allowed to leave the port of entry.

In case you are exempted from the restrictions on travel to Canada, you should have a 14-day quarantine plan ready when you arrive in the country. This is compulsory, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not. Without such a plan, you should refrain from travelling to Canada.


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