COVID-19 / Coronavirus Updates: Processing Measures and Travel Restrictions

This post is intended for information purposes only to assist clients and the general public. The government of Canada provides several official online resources to assist the public in understanding Canada’s response to COVID-19 / Coronavirus and how it may impact citizenship, immigration and refugee processing. To access these resources, visit:

Entry Restrictions

(Posted: March 16, 2020, with updates to April 22, 2020)

In light of the COVID-19 / Coronavirus pandemic, Canada has implemented the following restrictions on travel and entry of persons into Canada. Effective immediately, the following is a non-exhaustive list of persons who may be permitted entry into Canada by air:

  • Canadian citizens and permanent residents
  • Immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents (updated March 19, 2020)
  • American citizens and foreign nationals entering Canada from the United States who are sign-free and symptom-free of COVID-19, and for non-optional or non-discretionary purposes. Tourism, recreation or entertainment are all considered optional or discretionary purposes, and persons attempting to enter for these purposes will be refused entry (updated April 21, 2020)
  • Persons performing essential services (workers and students/researchers) who pose no serious public health risk to Canada
  • Air crew
  • Members of Canada’s Armed Forces or Visiting Forces (updated March 19, 2020)
  • Diplomats on official business in Canada and their family members
  • Persons in transit to another country
  • All temporary foreign workers, including seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, and caregivers (updated March 20, 2020)
  • International students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020 (updated March 20, 2020)
  • Permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 16, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada, except in the case of persons travelling from the United States to Canada (updated April 22, 2020)

Persons permitted to travel may also have to demonstrate that they are seeking entry into Canada for a non-optional or non-discretionary purpose. Frontline border services offers are applying a rather strict interpretation. For example, IRCC/CBSA considers it optional/discretionary for you to come to Canada to temporarily stay in Canada with your Canadian spouse in isolation if you plan to leave Canada and return to your home outside of Canada once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. A permanent move to Canada to be re-united with your spouse may be considered non-optional/non-discretionary, though not in all cases. (Updated April 22, 2020)

Immediate family members of Canadians may not need to prove they are entering for a non-discretionary purpose provided they are seeking entry for a period of at least 15 days in order to be with their Canadian immediate family member (updated June 8, 2020).

Temporary workers or students coming to Canada for temporary work or study may also be required to present proof. In the case of workers, that the job offer remains and the work cannot be done remotely from outside of Canada. The regulation of “essential work” is largely considered a provincial matter. Persons whose work is in an occupation not deemed essential in the province from which they are seeking to work may be required by the province to work from home. As such, they may have a difficult time demonstrating that their entry is non-optional/non-discretionary, unless they can show that working remotely from home outside of Canada is not available (i.e., non-optional/non-discretionary) for their employment, and therefore, remote work from within Canada is non-optional/non-discretionary In the case of students, that the admissions offer remains and the student is returning home to Canada or otherwise cannot complete studies remotely from outside of Canada.

Some persons may be permitted to travel if they can obtain a permission letter from the Canadian government prior to travel.

All other persons may be prevented from boarding an aircraft to fly to Canada or denied entry upon arrival.

Persons travelling by air must pass a health check before being allowed to board their flight. Anyone who shows symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to enter Canada by air.

Persons arriving to Canada at a land border may also be prevented from entering Canada if they present symptoms of COVID-19.

Canada and the US have agreed to temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the Canada–US border, including for tourism and recreation. Canadian and American citizens and permanent residents who are currently visiting each other’s country can still return home. All essential and business travel will continue unimpeded. Diplomats, American travellers arriving in Canada in transit to a third country, and travellers with family-care, educational or compassionate reasons will continue to be allowed to cross. (Updated March 20, 2020)

Persons entering Canada from abroad will be subject to a minimum mandatory 14-day self-isolation (quarantine) period. All persons must present a quarantine plan at the time of entry. Persons who do not present an acceptable quarantine plan may be denied entry or directed to be housed in a quarantine centre. There are limited exceptions to this order: only people who provide essential services (e.g., medical/healthcare services)and truck drivers who regularly cross the border to maintain the flow of goods may be exempt from the isolation or quarantine requirements.

Persons who breach a mandatory quarantine can be charged with an offense under Canada’s Quarantine Act. Foreign nationals who are convicted of an offense under Canada’s Quarantine Act which was prosecuted by way of indictment may become inadmissible. (Updated March 25, 2020).

Likewise, if a foreign national is convicted with breaching a quarantine in a foreign country where the offence may be equivalent to a breach of quarantine under Canada’s Quarantine Act that can be prosecuted by way of indictment in Canada, the foreign national may be inadmissible to Canada. (Updated March 25, 2020)

*IMPORTANT NOTE: despite the fact that a traveller may fit into one of the exceptions noted above, some travellers are reporting that they are not being allowed to board international or cross-border flights to Canada, or are not being permitted entry into Canada at a land border. Some airports/airlines or land border services officers are refusing to allow non-Canadian citizens or permanent residents to board flights to Canada or enter Canada on arrival. Moreover, Canadian citizens and permanent residents, whose flights may transit through third countries, are reporting that they are being refused boarding. (Updated April 21, 2020)

Processing Measures Affecting Citizenship, Refugee, Permanent Residency and Labour Market Impact Assessment Applications

(Posted: March 13, 2020 with updates to July 15, 2020)

Temporary Work Permit measures

IRCC has introduced a temporary public policy allowing certain temporary residents applying for employer specific work permits to obtain immediate authorization to begin working for new employers. To be eligible, persons must apply for the public policy exemption online and make a specific request for the new exemption to apply to their situation while they await a decision on their work permit application that is already in process. When making the request, the temporary resident must:

  • be in Canada with valid temporary resident status (including implied status),
  • possess a valid work permit or have been authorized to work without a work permit (excluding business visitors),
  • have already submitted an in-Canada work permit application that remains in process, and
  • intend to work for a new employer or in a new occupation.

The request must include a number of statements and attestations that are are set out in the public policy bulletin. (Updated May 12, 2020).

In-Person Appointments – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Domestic IRCC operations are reduced to critical services. IRCC is cancelling all:

Approved applicants for permanent residency may be contacted to reschedule in-person landing interviews to telephone interviews. IRCC is looking into alternative means to provide permanent resident landing services, including possibly by telephone. Clients will be contacted directly to reschedule their appointment. (Updated March 15, 2020).

For persons in Canada who have been approved for permanent residency and sent Confirmation of Permanent Residency (CoPR) documents, IRCC is finalizing applications electronically and sending “landing e-mails” to persons even if they have not been interviewed. In effect, IRCC is waiving the interview requirement in these cases. These persons are officially permanent residents and should expect to receive PR Cards in the mail. However, IRCC is only able to process a small number of PR Cards, so delays are expected. In the meantime, clients can use the approval e-mail to apply for services, such a as a Social Insurance Number (SIN) from Service Canada. A signed CoPR letter will be sent by mail to replace the e-mail in the future. (Updated April 22, 2020)

Biometrics Collection

All Service Canada biometrics collection services are suspended. (Updated March 15, 2020).

A temporary public policy now exempts some essential workers from the requirement of providing biometrics prior to travel to Canada. Biometrics collection will now happen at the port of entry into Canada equiped with biometrics collection services. Essential occupations covered by this public policy include workers in agricultural and agri-food sectors, health-care sector and truck drivers. (Updated June 5, 2020)

Another temporary public policy exempts in-Canada temporary resident applicants from the requirement of completing biometrics. (Updated July 15, 2020)

Settlement Services

All Service Canada non-essential settlement services are suspended. (Updated March 15, 2020)

LMIA – Service Canada

The required 2-week recruitment period will be waived for the next 6 months to the Labour Market Impact Assessment process for agriculture and food processing employers. (Updated March 20, 2020)

The maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is increased from 1 to 2 years.

Expedited processing (10 day speed-of-service) has been suspended for LMIAs made in support of the following : highest-paid positions (top 10% of wage earners), select in-demand skilled trades occupations, short-duration employment (120 days or less) and Express Entry. (Updated April 8, 2020)

Agriculture, agrifood and trucking sector LMIA applications are being prioritized. (Updated April 8, 2020)

As of June 10, 2020, certain occupations which are considered essential during the COVID-19 pandemic are being priority processed. For a specific list for applications for positions within Quebec, please refer to Hiring in the Province of Quebec. For everywhere else in Canada, please refer to the below list of occupations that may qualify for priority processing (per National Occupation Classification codes):

  • 3012 – Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses
  • 3111 – Specialist physicians
  • 3112 – General practitioners and family physicians
  • 3124 – Allied primary health practitioners
  • 3131 – Pharmacists
  • 3211 – Medical laboratory technologists
  • 3212 – Medical laboratory technicians and pathologists’ assistants
  • 3214 – Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists
  • 3219 – Other medical technologists and technicians (except dental health)
  • 3233 – Licensed practical nurses
  • 3237 – Other technical occupations in therapy and assessment
  • 3413 – Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates
  • 3414 – Other assisting occupations in support of health services
  • 6731 – Light duty cleaners
  • 7511 – Transport truck drivers. Note that for this occupation, if the position is situated in a province that has a Mandatory Entry Level Training requirement or equivalent, the foreign national must be in possession of this training certification at the time of work permit issuance.

Additionally, the following occupations may be eligible for both priority processing and an exemption from the minimum recruitment requirement:

  • 6331-Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers-retail and wholesale
  • 8252- Agricultural service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
  • 8431- General Farm Workers
  • 8432- Nursery and Greenhouse Workers
  • 8611- Harvesting labourers
  • 9462- Industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers
  • 9463- Fish and seafood plant workers
  • 9617- Labourers in food, beverage and associated products processing
  • 9618- Labourers in fish and seafood processing

The Refusal to Process applicable to the province of Alberta supersedes any prioritization. (Updated June 10, 2020)

LMBP – Service Canada Global Talent Stream Unit

Service Canada’s Global Talent Stream unit is is temporarily suspending Labour Market Benefits Plan annual reviews for 60 days. Reviews for new applications are expected to continue. (Updated March 25, 2020)

Flagpoling Suspended – Canada Border Services Agency and Immigration Canada

Temporary residents who are currently in Canada should not travel to a port of entry (POE) to apply for visitor, work or student status directly to a border services officer. Travelling to a POE from inside Canada for the purpose of getting immigration services is not considered essential travel, and they will not receive these services. (Updated March 26, 2020)

International Students

Online Course Delivery Will Not Affect PGWP Eligibility

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has confirmed via its official Twitter account (@CitImmCanada) that courses of study being delivered online on an exceptional basis due to COVID-19 will not affect Post-Graduation Work Permit Program eligibility for a post-graduation work permit.

IRCC has also announced that they have removed the restriction that allows international students to work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session, provided they are working in an essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods. (Updated April 22, 2020)

A temporary public policy will:

  • priority process complete overseas study permit applications
  • allow students to count the time spent pursuing their studies online abroad toward their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit, if they have submitted a study permit application and if at least 50% of their program is completed in Canada
  • implement a 2-stage application processing allowing international students who cannot submit all of the documentation needed to complete processing of their applications due to COVID-19 interruptions

This policy allows international students to count the time spent studying online abroad towards their post-graduation work permit once they receive an approval-in-principle, as long as they are able to satisfy all requirements and receive the full approval of their study permit application at a later date (i.e., study permit issuance). As services begin to reopen, applicants will be required to submit remaining documents and receive an approved study permit before being allowed to travel to Canada. (Updated July 14, 2020)

Visitor Visas

Processing has resumed for visitor visa (Temporary Resident Visas for visitors or TRVs) and electronic travel authorization (eTA) applications only for travel purposes qualifying for an exemption from the general entry restriction. Applications for all other purposes may not be processed or else given lower priority. However, despite the resumption, travellers attempting to come to Canada to visit for a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose may still be denied entry. Persons should review the entry restrictions presently in place. (Updated June 30, 2020)

Overseas Temporary Residence (Visit, Work or Study) Applications Must be Made Online

All applications for temporary residence (i.e., visas) must be made online. (Updated July 2, 2020)

Restoration of Temporary Resident Status Inside Canada

Foreign nationals whose temporary resident status in Canada expired after January 30, 2020 (i.e., they did not extend their status, change their status or were refused a status extension) are now able to apply for restoration until December 31, 2020. This policy supersedes the usual 90-day deadline to apply for restoration following expiration of status. They must continue to remain in Canada and prove they meet the requirements for the type of status (i.e., temporary) and authorization (i.e., visit, work or study) they are applying to restore.

If the foreign national held a work permit prior to losing status, remains without status, and is applying to restore to an employer-specific work permit, the temporary policy allows them to start working while waiting for their restoration application to be processed after notifying IRCC.