The Canadian border policy has continuously changed, in response to the threats the virus poses to the population of Canada and the health care system, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly two years ago. Recently, the government changed border regulations on February 28, relaxing restrictions on entry into Canada. At the same time, the Canadian Government adjusted its Travel Health Notice and no longer recommended that Canadians avoid travel for non-essential purposes. At the same time, the Government changed the testing requirements for entering into Canada, as it was announced that travellers could either present a negative molecular COVID-19 test within 72 hours of crossing the border or could present a negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of crossing the border. The testing requirement for entry has been controversial, as many have been advocating for the Government to eliminate the requirement in order to help facilitate short-term trips abroad from Canada, especially south of the border to the United States.
Now, as they have throughout the pandemic, the regulations for travel across the border have changed again. Starting on April 1, 2022, pre-entry tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada by land, air, or water. Until April 1, travellers must follow the February 28 travel pre-entry testing requirements. While testing before arrival is now no longer a requirement for entry into Canada for fully vaccinated travellers, travellers may still be subject to random COVID-19 testing at the border after arrival in Canada.
Despite the relaxation of testing regulations, foreign nationals coming into Canada must be vaccinated, as there are only limited exceptions available for those who are unvaccinated to be granted entry. Unvaccinated Canadians and foreign nationals who are granted entry will be tested on arrival into Canada and have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Despite the border being more open to travel when compared to almost any other point during the pandemic, this does not mean all foreign nationals who wish to enter Canada will be permitted to enter. Again, to enter Canada most foreign nationals need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Being fully vaccinated for the purpose of travelling to Canada means that you have received a full dosage of a vaccine accepted by Canada for travel, and received your last dose at least 14 calendar days before entry into Canada. Prior to arrival, vaccinations must be uploaded onto the ArriveCAN app. In order to see if you can come to Canada as an unvaccinated foreign national, a short questionnaire can be taken on the Government of Canada website that will provide you with an answer based on your reason for travelling to Canada.
Aside from vaccine status, there are other reasons that can make foreign nationals inadmissible for entry into Canada.
If you have a criminal offense on your record, it is important to make preparations before you travel to Canada in order to have the best chance of gaining entry, as criminal offenses can render foreign nationals inadmissible for entry into Canada. For American travellers, it is important to note that the Canadian Border Services Agency has access to FBI background record information that could render Americans with a criminal record in the United States inadmissible for entry into Canada, so disclosure before entry may be the best option for gaining entry into Canada.
It is worth noting that some criminal offences in the United States may not be considered criminal offences in Canada. For example, if a criminal record is for a marijuana-related offence, the offender may still be allowed to enter Canada, as possession of marijuana is legal in Canada. Possession of up to 30 grams is allowed in Canada, so if a charge was for under that amount, the offender may not be denied entry. However, if a charge involves being in possession of over 30 grams or trafficking, the offender may not be permitted to enter.
Certain charges that are considered to be serious can make individuals inadmissible for entry into Canada on accord of the serious criminality label given to those charges. One example of a charge with serious criminality is a DUI offense. Even if you have committed a charge with serious criminality, there are still ways in which you can enter Canada.
A temporary residence permit, as evident through its name, allows a holder to come to Canada temporarily. Those with a criminal record who are not eligible for rehabilitation, or who need urgent entry into Canada can apply for a permit. The requirement in order to apply for a temporary residence permit is having a valid reason to travel to Canada, and the reason for travel to Canada outweighs any potential risk posed. Through a legal opinion letter, a skilled lawyer can explain their client’s criminal record to the Canadian Border Services Agency, its impact, and why the client deserves to be granted a temporary residence permit.
Criminal rehabilitation can resolve entry issues for coming into Canada on a permanent basis, as opposed to a temporary residence permit. If an application for criminal rehabilitation has been approved, a criminal record will no longer prevent the traveller from entering Canada. A requirement of applying for criminal rehabilitation is that a minimum of five years has elapsed since the completion of the most recent criminal sentence. When making an application, the Canadian government will consider the Canadian equivalent of the crime in making a decision on if the applicant is considered rehabilitated.
Deemed rehabilitation is an option if at least 10 years have elapsed since the last conviction of a charge that is not considered to be serious. The nature of the charge, the extent of the traveller’s record and the amount of time passed are all factors that are considered in deemed rehabilitation. There are some limitations on deemed rehabilitation, as this exception only applies to charges that, if committed in Canada, come with a maximum prison sentence of fewer than 10 years.
Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We successfully guide clients through the immigration process, with an eye toward the ever-changing regulations in light of COVID-19. We will work to find an effective solution for your individual immigration needs and ensure you are positioned for success with respect to your application.
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 if you will be able to travel during these uncertain times, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.