COVID-19 has developed into a world-wide pandemic. Canada is concerned that people who enter from a foreign country may introduce or contribute to the spread of COVID-19. Since March 18, 2020, there have been a series of Orders about travel restrictions on foreign nationals entering from the United States and other countries around the world, airline passenger screening, and mandatory isolation for persons entering Canada from a foreign country.

 People generally know that permanent residents and citizens of Canada can return to Canada from a foreign country.  But what about foreign nationals? There are people outside Canada who are not permanent residents or citizens of Canada who want to enter Canada to be with their family, work or study. People want to apply for permanent residence for themselves or to sponsor a family member. Many have an application in process. Some have already been approved but have not landed yet. Employers are wondering if they will be able to bring in foreign workers. 

 This is the first of a series of posts about these questions. There are still many unanswered questions about the details of these Orders. We are all wondering how these Orders will be applied by the airlines when screening passengers for boarding, by officers at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and visa offices when adjudicating applications, and by the Canada Border Services Agency when foreign nationals arrive at a Port of Entry. This is all subject to change as new Orders are made. Future posts will go into more depth on specific topics and will include updates.

 

What are the new Orders about Foreign Nationals entering Canada?

There are two Orders in effect about foreign nationals entering Canada, both made on March 26, 2020.

For foreign workers arriving from the United States

Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States), in effect until April 21, 2020.

For foreign workers arriving from any country other than the United States

The other Order is Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States), in effect until June 30, 2020.

Who do the Orders apply to?

The Orders are not based on citizenship or country of origin. They are only based on whether the person who wants to enter Canada is considered a foreign national in Canada and the country the foreign national is arriving from.

The Orders for both the US and the other countries do not apply to permanent residents or citizens of Canada, protected persons or Indians registered under the Indian Act. The Order for the US also does not apply to a person who the Chief Public Health Officer says does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health.

 

When are Foreign Nationals prohibited from entering Canada?

  • No entry with symptoms – Both fever and cough, or both fever and breathing difficulties
    • no matter what country you are arriving from
    • unless allowed to make a refugee claim when arriving from US (only allowed in limited cases)
  • No entry for optional or discretionary purpose – includes tourism, recreation or entertainment
    • no matter what country you are arriving from
    • no exceptions
  • No entry if arriving from the US to make a refugee claim
    • only allowed in limited cases
  • No entry if arriving from US and have been outside Canada and the US during the prior 14 days
    • unless in the limited groups of people listed in the Order
    • unless allowed to make a refugee claim when arriving from US (only allowed in limited cases)
  • No entry if arriving from any country other than the US
    • unless in the limited groups of people listed in the Order

When can Foreign Nationals enter Canada?

Entering from the United States

All foreign nationals arriving from the US can enter Canada, but they can be prohibited for specific reasons. One reason is if they have been outside Canada and the US during the previous 14 days. Then they are treated the same as people arriving from countries other than the US – they can only enter Canada if they are in the limited groups listed in the Order.

  • All foreign nationals can enter Canada from the US
    • If they do not have symptoms of both fever and cough, or both fever and breathing difficulties; and
    • If they are not entering for an optional or discretionary purpose – includes tourism, recreation or entertainment; and
    • If they have not been outside Canada and the US during the past 14 days; and
    • If they are not entering to make a refugee claim; and
    • If they follow Canadian immigration procedures
  • Some foreign nationals can enter Canada from the US to make a refugee claim.
    • This is only allowed in limited cases
    • If allowed, they can enter even if they have symptoms
    • If allowed, they can enter even if they have been outside Canada and the US during the previous 14 days
  • Foreign nationals who have been outside Canada and the US during the prior 14 days cannot enter Canada from the US. The only exceptions are
    • If they are in the limited groups of people listed in the Order; and
    • If they do not have symptoms of both fever and cough, or both fever and breathing difficulties; and
    • If they are not entering for an optional or discretionary purpose – includes tourism, recreation or entertainment; and
    • If they follow Canadian immigration procedures.

Entering from any country other than the United States

No foreign nationals can enter Canada from countries other than the US. The only exceptions are the limited groups of people listed in the order.

  • No foreign nationals arriving from any country other than the US can enter Canada. The only exceptions are
    • If they are in the limited groups of people listed in the Order; and
    • If they do not have symptoms of both fever and cough, or both fever and breathing difficulties; and
    • If they are not entering for an optional or discretionary purpose – includes tourism, recreation or entertainment; and
    • If they follow Canadian immigration procedures.

What Foreign Nationals can enter Canada?

All foreign nationals arriving from the US who do not have symptoms, are not entering for an optional purpose and who have not been outside Canada or the US during the previous 14 days can enter Canada if they follow Canadian immigration procedures.

Some foreign nationals can enter Canada from the US to make a refugee claim, but this is only allowed in limited cases. If allowed, they can enter even if they have symptoms or even if they have been outside Canada and the US during the previous 14 days.

Foreign nationals arriving from other countries, and foreign nationals arriving from the US who have been outside Canada and the US during the previous 14 days, can only enter Canada if they are in the limited groups of people listed in the Order. People in these limited groups who do not have symptoms and are not entering for an optional purpose can enter Canada if they follow Canadian immigration procedures.

The limited groups of people listed in the Order is in section 3(1) of the Order for foreign nationals arriving from countries other than the United States. The list can be found here.

The US Order says the list in the Order for the other countries applies to the foreign nationals arriving from the US who have been outside Canada and the US during the previous 14 days.

Here is a summary of the main groups listed in the Order:

People who were approved for permanent residence

  • If approved before noon, Eastern Daylight Time, March 18, 2020
  • but did not land yet

Immediate family members

  • of permanent residents or citizens of Canada
  • of foreign nationals IF authorized in writing to enter Canada to reunite with family members

Immediate family members of a person are: spouse or common-law partner, dependent child, dependent child of dependent child, parent or step-parent of person or person’s spouse or common-law partner, guardian or tutor

International Students

  • Who already have a study permit
  • Who received written approval for a study permit before noon, Eastern Daylight Time, March 18, 2020 but the study permit has not yet been issued

 Workers

  • Who already have a work permit
  • Who have received written approval for a work permit, but the work permit has not yet been issued
  • Who are authorized to work without a permit if they are
    • A student in a health field
    • A provider of emergency services
    • A member of a crew
  • Who is a worker in the marine transportation sector who is
    • essential for the movement of goods by vessel
  • Who are entering to provide health and medical related services if they are
    • a licenced health professional with proof of employment in Canada
    • entering to deliver, maintain or repair medically necessary equipment or devices
    • entering to make medical deliveries of cells, blood and blood products, tissues, organs or other body parts that are required for patient care in Canada
  • Who will provide an essential service while in Canada if
    • This is the opinion of the Chief Public Health Officer

 Others with high-level government approval

There are several other groups of foreign nationals who are not prohibited from entering Canada. These include diplomats; Visiting Forces; a person invited by the Minister of Health to help with the COVID-19 response; a person whose presence in Canada is in the national interest, in the opinion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, or the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; and a person who does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health, in the opinion of the Chief Public Health Officer.

Links to IRCC information and Orders related to COVID-19

IRCC and COVID-19

IRCC – How the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is affecting immigration, refugees, citizenship and passport services (2020.03.29)

This has links to other pages with detailed information about travel restrictions and exemptions; workers, students and visitors; immigration applications; permanent residents; refugees, claimants and sponsors; Canadians and citizenship applicants; passport and travel documents; IRCC offices and VACs; and Biometrics.

The travel restrictions and exemptions page was updated on April 3, 2020 with detailed information on who can enter Canada and exemptions to the travel restrictions. This page has detailed information for family members entering Canada and how to get a consular letter:
How the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is affecting immigration, refugees, citizenship and passport services: travel restrictions and exemptions

IRCC – Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Program delivery instructions (2020.03.22)

The Program Delivery Instructions contain policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. These program delivery instructions inform IRCC and Canada Border Services Agency staff on the procedures that are affected by the disruption of services associated with impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) for new and existing

  • temporary residence, permanent residence and citizenship applications in Canada and abroad
  • asylum claims in Canada

These instructions will be updated as the situation evolves.

IRCC – Travel restriction measures: COVID-19 program delivery (2020.03.26)

Air travel and border measures have been implemented to protect the health and safety of Canadians by restricting non-essential international travel. These instructions describe IRCC’s role in supporting the administration of these measures and provides guidance on applying some of the exemptions that are in place to facilitate necessary travel.

Travel Restriction Orders

Current Orders

Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States), March 26, 2020 – in effect until April 21, 2020 (Repeals March 20, 2020 Order)

Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States), March 26, 2020 – in effect until June 30, 2020. (Repeals March 22, 2020 Order)

Repealed Orders

Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States), March 20, 2020. REPEALED March 26, 2020.

Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States), March 22, 2020. REPEALED March 26, 2020.

Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada), March 18, 2020. REPEALED March 22, 2020.

Airline Passenger Screening Orders       

Current Order

Interim Order to Prevent Certain Persons from Boarding Flights to Canada due to COVID-19, No. 3, March 24, 2020. In force as of March 24, 2020, sections 6-8 in force as of March 27, 2020).

Repealed Orders

Repealed – Interim Order to Prevent Certain Persons from Boarding Flights to Canada due to COVID-19, No. 2 , March 20, 2020. In force as of March 21 and 27, 2020. REPEALED March 24, 2020.

Repealed – Interim Order to Prevent Certain Persons from Boarding Flights to Canada due to COVID-19, March 17, 2020. In force as of March 18 and 19, 2020. REPEALED March 21, 2020.

Mandatory Isolation Order

 Current Order

Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation), March 24, 2020 – in effect until June 30, 2020.

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