Worldwide travel guidelines and restrictions continue to evolve as many countries, including Canada, are facing increased numbers of COVID-19 infections. Recently, this has had a significant impact on the ability of Canadians to travel to countries within the European Union, as we will discuss in greater detail below. First, however, we will provide a brief update on Canada’s decision to apply refugee status to Hong Kong activists, as discussed in our blog last week.

Canada-China Relationship Strained over Decision

Last week it was announced that Canada would begin allowing refugees from Hong Kong to make claims in Canada for Convention Refugee status. China did not take this decision in stride and has been applying pressure to try and convince Canada to reverse the decision. The Chinese Ambassador to Canada said:

“If the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong SAR, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes.”

In responding to the statement from the Ambassador, Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne denounced the statement and reassured that Canada would support human rights:

“I have instructed Global Affairs to call the ambassador in to make clear in no uncertain terms that Canada will always stand up for human rights and the rights of Canadians around the world.”

It seems this situation is not yet over, but Canada has made no indication that it intends to stop allowing people from Hong Kong to make successful refugee claims, despite pressures to do so.

Travel to the EU Restricted for Canadians

In July, Canadians were included on a list of 14 countries whose citizens were permitted to travel to countries within the European Union. The list is revisited regularly, and updated as new COVID-19 numbers are released. For example, three countries, Algeria, Montenegro, Serbia and Morrocco, were removed from the list in August due to increased numbers. The officials who determine the list meet every two weeks to review and update the list as needed, according to their standards.

The officials met this past Wednesday and determined it was best to remove Canada, as well as Tunisia and Georgia, due to the most recent infection numbers. At the same meeting, Singapore was added to the list. Currently, the only countries on the list are Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Uruguay.

However, the matter is not a simple as a blanket travel ban, as some countries within the EU have set their own rules. For example, France has no restrictions on citizens of any specific country, and Germany has narrowed the list provided by the EU. Italy allows visitors from countries on the list but has installed several safety protocols including mandatory quarantine time and the requirement to obtain private transportation to a visitor’s destination from the airport.

Clearly, even with rules in place, there is still room for confusion. Those hoping to travel from Canada to any country in the EU should be sure to check for up-to-date requirements based on their chosen destination.

New Border Restrictions

Continued extensions of the border closure between Canada and the United States have been agreed to by both nations since the original closure in March. Now, the border is officially closed until November 21 according to an official announcement that was made on Sunday, October 18. It is looking like the border will continue to be closed for the foreseeable future, as Prime Minister Trudeau has indicated that Canada intends to keep the border closed as long as COVID-19 cases in the United States remain high. Further, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness tweeted that Canadian decisions regarding opening the border will be based on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe. Although Canadians can fly to the United States in spite of the border closure, Canada is advising Canadians not to do so.

The border is likely to remain closed considering the United States is seeing an increase in infections, with 31 out of 50 states reporting more COVID-19 cases this week than last week.

Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make travel arrangements. If you are trying to travel, make sure you qualify as essential or prepare an exemption request. Depending on where you are going, you may also need a 14-day quarantine plan. If you have questions about where you can travel, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.

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