If you are a foreign national looking to travel to Canada while the border closure is in place (currently set to expire on September 21st), you need to make sure that you qualify for one of the essential reasons for travel. Failing that, you will need to meet the criteria for one of the listed exemptions in order to ensure you will not be turned away at the border. In the period from March 22 to September 2, the Canadian Border Services Agency denied access to approximately 18,000 foreign nationals who attempted to enter Canada. The people who were turned away include foreign nationals who tried to enter Canada by car, boat and air from the United States.

The would-be visitors were denied entry to Canada for a variety of reasons. For example, 5,300 of the 18,000 people who attempted to cross the border were refused entry into Canada because they attempted to enter for tourism or sightseeing. Similarly, 2,000 people were denied entry because they told the Canadian Border Services Agency they were travelling for recreation, and 1,000 more people were denied entry because their listed reason for wanting to enter Canada was for shopping.

Most of those who were turned away during the pandemic were Americans. Of the around 18,000 people who were denied entry, Americans represented 87% of the total.

Further, for Americans that have been allowed into Canada for ostensibly legitimate purposes, such as travelling to Alaska, there can be consequences if they do not comply with the regulations set forth by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Fines can and have been levied against Americans who break the rules, and an American family of five was fined $2,000 for not taking the most direct route through Canada from Alaska to the contiguous United States.

Remember, the border restrictions are set to last until at least September 21 and will likely be extended further, so travel will be restricted for the foreseeable future as pressure from the municipal and provincial levels to keep the borders closed increases. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Tam also made a statement that seems to indicate that the border will remain closed well into the fall:

“Every month when we evaluate that situation again, we’ll take into account what’s going on, on both sides of the border. But, as you know, as we look at further planning out, we have to look at different options of how we can increase safely—as safely as possible—international travel.”

For the time being, it is best to comply with travel with travel restrictions. Only travel if you qualify as essential or fall into one of the state exemption categories, like the family exemption.

Slight Setbacks in Ontario

This week, a group of border city mayors called on the federal government to keep the border with the United States closed until at least 2021. These calls for an extension of the closure come as parts of Ontario have been forced to delay their reopening plans for at least four weeks following an increase in COVID-19 cases. Premier Ford iterated that Ontario does not need to revert to Stage 2 yet, but he will continue to consult health officials:

“We aren’t there yet,” Ford said. “But if it just keeps creeping and creeping and people are ignoring the guidelines and the protocols – come on guys, we have gone through everything together as a team and you can’t let your guard down now.”

Regarding reopening, schools in Toronto have had their start date pushed back to September 17, with the reasoning for the delay being “complexities of the secondary staffing and timetable process.” This delay will impact approximately 250,000 students. Once schools are fully reopened, some expect the country may see numbers continue to increase, so this will also be a consideration when it comes to determining travel restrictions going forward.

Vaccine Progress

In more promising news, there are now reports that COVID-19 vaccine trials in the United States are starting to enter phase three of the regulatory process. This means that if everything goes well, a vaccine could be ready for regulatory approval in the United States by October. This news comes as another vaccine in the late stages of development at the University of Oxford has been put on pause due to potentially serious side effects.

All eyes are on the development of a safe and effective vaccine, as this will likely be the key to resuming travel and easing restrictions in a way that most closely resembles the situation pre-pandemic.

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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