Last week, our firm’s own David Garson and Jessica Ravenhurst hosted a webinar for clients in order to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the recent changes to immigration policies that Canada has made in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If you are looking to travel to Canada and worried about how the travel restrictions and quarantine protocol may impact you, the full webinar is available to view at the link posted below.

Who Can Access Canada and How

In order to come to Canada, you must be considered essential. Since the onset of the pandemic in March, there have been three Orders in Council (“OIC”) that govern Canadian immigration law. These OICs dictate who is allowed into the country, and the conditions that must be followed in order to access Canada:

1. Entry from the United States

  • Foreign nationals prohibited from entry if entry is deemed to be “optional or discretionary”

2. Entry from outside the United States

  • Foreign nationals prohibited from entry, but for specific exemptions

3. Mandatory Isolation

  • All persons entering Canada (including Canadians and permanent residents) must self-isolate for 14 days

When considering these OICs, it is important to note there are some specific exemptions that allow people with certain status, or relation to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to enter Canada. In June, a rule change by the government allowed for immediate family members to enter without needing to show they are coming to Canada for an essential purpose.

Immediate family members of Canadian citizens can enter Canada, provided they meet the criteria for entry and follow certain precautions:

  • Spouse or common law partner, dependent child, parent or step-parent, guardian, or tutor
    • Common law partner in Canada means living together for at least a year
  • No written authorization required
  • 15 day rule
    • The 15 day rule means that you have to be staying in Canada for at least 15 days if you are coming to visit
  • 14 day quarantine plan upon arrival

Now, it is not just immediate family members who can enter Canada, as there was another exemption for extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. This exemption requires:

  • Must be in an exclusive dating relationship (minimum of 1 year), a non-dependent child, grandchild, sibling, or grandparent to be eligible
    • “Exclusive dating relationship” means you have spent some time together in person
  • Statutory declaration
    • Canadian citizen or permanent resident has to complete this declaration, have it notarized and swear they have been in this exclusive relationship
    • The declaration must be submitted to immigration to receive authorization to travel to Canada
  • Written authorization required
  • 15-day rule applies
  • Mandatory 14 day quarantine upon arrival

If you have more documentation to prove your relationship, bring it to the border in case the CBSA officer asks. Remember that the CBSA officer has the authority to refuse you, so bring extra documentation to the port in order to increase your chance of being admitted into Canada. It is important to note that people on temporary work permits cannot have their family members come under this rule.

Entry of Specialized Technicians

  • Specialized technicians are part of the “essential service” group exemption for the non-US OIC and Mandatory Isolation OIC
  • The category includes technicians specializing in the maintenance, repair, installation, and inspection of equipment necessary to support critical infrastructure
  • A Travel Authorization Letter no longer required for installers
    • This is a recent rule change, installers no longer need to go through the consulate to receive travel authorization letters
  • For a quarantine exemption, must show immediacy of the work
    • You must be sure that you have sufficient documentation if you want a quarantine exemption
    • CBSA officer has the discretion to decide the quarantine exemption

New Immigration Policies

There have recently been some public policy updates that will benefit people in Canada who are uncertain of their status as a result of COVID-19 related consequences.

In-Canada Applicants

  • Changing employers if on closed work permit
    • Normally would have file a change of conditions permit
    • Now, you will still be required to submit the application but there is a process you can follow to show immigration you qualify for a change of conditions permit
    • Once filed we have noticed two possible scenarios happen:
      1. Work permit is expedited within 10 days
      2. If not approved, you may be granted interim authorization to work while you are waiting for the work permit application to process
  • Applying for a work permit if a visitor
    • You can try to seek interim authorization to work
      • You must be applying for a employer-specific work permit
  • Applying for restoration if out of status
    • There is a mechanism called restoration where within 90 days of falling out of status you can apply to restore your status
    • There has been an extension for some people to apply for restoration until the end of the 2020
    • There is also a similar interim work permit authorization to obtain an employer-specific permit

Another tip: when applying for these new work permits, always apply for the maximum amount of time you can under the program that you are applying under. In our experience, the government will not deny your work permit for asking for the maximum amount of time you can.

Quarantine Exemptions

A 14-day quarantine is required for anyone coming into Canada unless they can prove that they should be exempt from quarantine. In order to prove you should be exempt, you have to prove that your essentiality overrides the need to quarantine. When asking for a quarantine exemption, there are two different avenues in which you can take in order to try and obtain the exemption.

  1. You can make a pre-application to Public Health Canada before you come to Canada to try to obtain approval to avoid quarantine.
  2. The other method involves making your case for exemption at the port of entry, without making a pre-application.

In our experience, visitors to Canada have had more success making the case for exemption at the port of entry when compared with making a pre-application to Public Health Canada.

Alternatively, you may be granted a modified exemption whereby you have to quarantine, except for in specific circumstances such as going to work. If a modified exemption is granted it may be granted in such a way that you are essential in quarantine, but you are allowed to leave quarantine only to travel to and from work.

We recognize that people have questions about the Canadian border situation, and many of the intricacies regarding the current situation were likely addressed by David and Jessica in our webinar. To view the full webinar on the topics addressed above, please click here.

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 being able to cross the border 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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