New travel restrictions come into effect as immigration numbers drop

Published on: Feb 16, 2021 | Tags: COVID-19, Canada Immigration

The global Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on travel and immigration to Canada. This impact takes several forms: Covid-19 has made it harder for new permanent residents to settle in Canada, as well as reducing travel to Canada for all other reasons.

New immigration figures reveal the impact of Covid-19

The government has released its final statistics on new permanent residents for 2020; these figures reveal the impact of the coronavirus on immigration to Canada. In the first two months of 2020, the number of new permanent residents outpaced the same months in 2019. In March 2020, immigration minister Marco Mendicino revealed the targets for the year: his goal was for Canada to welcome approximately 341,000 new immigrants in 2020, keeping the overall number in line with 2019 before a series of increases over the next three years.

However, Mendicino's announcement came just as the spread of the pandemic was affecting travel to Canada. The first travel restrictions came into effect in March, sending the number of new residents in April down to just over 4,100, less than a sixth of the number who arrived in April 2019. Numbers crept back up over the summer and autumn, largely driven by new permanent residents who were already living in Canada, but December saw a slight decline that ended this trend. Canada ended the year having accepted only 184,370 new permanent residents, just over half of the total envisioned in Mendicino's plan.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is even more significant than these numbers suggest, because the yearly totals include the relatively high numbers of new permanent residents in January, February and early March. This dramatic drop in numbers reveals the challenges of 2020 -- and those that are still to come.

Despite the decline in numbers, the government remains optimistic about meeting its long-term immigration targets. IRCC facilities have greatly improved their pandemic safety, and most services are now available again for applicants. The low levels of spring 2020, when many offices were shut and services were unavailable, are unlikely to return, and as increasing vaccination levels become the norm, travel restrictions may gradually be eased.

New quarantine and test rules come into effect

For now, however, restrictions for travellers entering Canada by air or land remain in place. In fact, stricter regulations for border crossings are set to come into effect in order to ensure that travellers to Canada don't spread the coronavirus.

From February 15, land border crossings will require travellers to provide a negative test result within 72 hours. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to $3,000. However, not all travellers will be subject to this regulation; essential workers such as delivery drivers will not have to provide a negative test. These workers often make frequent border crossings and stay only for short periods, making this kind of test regime impractical.

Travellers by air who arrive at one of the four international airports in Canada currently accepting flights will have to enter a short-term quarantine in a hotel until they receive the results of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. These tests, which have a higher level of accuracy than the faster lateral flow device (LFD) tests, require longer to process the results. Once the results are in, travellers will be free to leave the hotel and proceed to the location where they intend to stay for the remainder of their 14-day quarantine period. Hotel accommodation will be at the traveller's expense. These new regulations will come into effect on 22 February.

The new hotel quarantine joins a range of other travel safety restrictions, including limits on who can fly, preflight tests, temperature checks and health questionnaires, and another Covid-19 test toward the end of the quarantine period.

There's currently no word on when these regulations will end, and for many, air travel to Canada still remains impractical or impossible. But anyone who intends to travel to Canada will need to be aware of these new rules.

Both the dramatic reduction in immigration in 2020 and the new rules for air travellers paint a dramatic picture of the effect the global coronavirus pandemic has had on a vital section of Canada's economy. They also demonstrate the importance of constant adaptation of government policy in responding to this unprecedented crisis.