As of today, the Canada-United States border is still closed to non-essential travel as part of both countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the border situation is constantly changing, and some restrictions are lifting while at the same time others are potentially being extended.

Border Closure Extension

Officially, the border is to remain closed to non-essential travel until June 21. Discussions have been taking place as the agreed-upon deadline approaches, with Canada and the United States reportedly agreeing to extend the closure until late July. Although not confirmed by either country at this time, sources say that the border closure will be extended, as both Canada and the United States say the current deal between the two nations to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is working well.

Family Member Exception

Even if the border remains closed until late July, the Canadian government has started to relax regulations. On June 8 it was announced that the government will begin allowing family members who have been separated by the COVID-19 travel regulations to enter Canada. This news follows many stories in the past few weeks about families separated by the border.

 Regarding the change in policy, Prime Minister Trudeau said:

“We are bringing in a limited exemption to allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to come to Canada. This is an incredibly difficult time to be apart from a spouse, a child, or mom or dad.”

The Prime Minister further warned that anyone entering the country will have to self-quarantine for 14 days and that failure to comply with the quarantine rules could result in “serious penalties”. Complying with the quarantine rules is the best way to stay healthy and avoid any potential fines.

People Included Under the Exception

Although the new policy represents a slight relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions, the government is still worried about the spread of the virus. The exception dictates that people who have COVID-19, exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, or have a reason to believe they have contracted COVID-19 will not be allowed into Canada, and will not fall under the new exception. Foreign nationals who meet the aforementioned criteria will be admitted to Canada if entering to be with an immediate family member for a period of at least 15 days.

Before travelling to Canada, it is important to understand what immediate family member means. The Canadian Border Services Agency defines immediate family member as a person’s:

  1. Spouse or common-law partner;
  2. Dependent child, as defined in section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, or a dependent child of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;
  3. Dependent child, as defined in section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations of a dependent child referred to in paragraph (b);
  4. Parent or step-parent of the parent or step-parent of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;
  5. Guardian or tutor.

Under section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, a dependent child means a child who is the biological child of a parent, if the child has not been adopted by a person other than the spouse or common-law partner of the parent, or is the adopted child of the parent. Further, the child must either be less than 22 years old or financially dependent on their parent due to a physical or mental condition if they are 22 years of age or older.

The announcement from the Canadian Border Services Agency explicitly states that this change does not apply to immediate family members of temporary residents in Canada, such as those on student or work visas. Further, the immediate family member will need to confirm that they have a suitable place to quarantine for 14 days where they will have access to basic necessities and not have contact with vulnerable people such as adults aged 65 or older unless the vulnerable person is a consenting adult or is the parent or minor in a parent-minor relationship. Travellers to Canada must have a quarantine plan in place before they arrive in Canada. There can be severe penalties for failure to quarantine properly, so it is imperative that prospective travellers make sure they will be able to quarantine.

How We Can Help

With the everchanging regulations, it is important now more than ever to stay up to date on the situation and receive advice if you are planning to travel. If you are worried about being turned away at the border, we are here to help.

The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the developing situation in relation to COVID-19 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, please reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.

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