COVID-19: A Guide for Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada

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Section 1: What COVID-19 (coronavirus) is

COVID-19 causes a respiratory (lung) infection.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms of COVID-19 are often similar to other illnesses. People who are sick with COVID-19 may have symptoms like a fever, a cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, new loss of smell or taste, headache, diarrhea, or vomiting. Symptoms may be very mild or more serious. If you have COVID-19, you may have little to no symptoms at all, but you can still infect others. If you are sick with COVID-19, you may not show symptoms until up to 14 days later.

How COVID-19 spreads

COVID-19 is most commonly spread by an infected person through:

  • droplets of liquid when they talk, sing, shout, cough or sneeze
  • smaller droplets, sometimes called aerosols, that stay in the air
  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands
  • sharing forks, spoons, or drink containers

How to stop the spread of COVID-19

  • Limit your contact with others and keep your social circle small
  • Always stay at least 2 meters away from other people
  • Wear a mask when you are indoors with others, in public, or in close contact with others
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces often

The following settings are particularly risky for transmission of the virus:

  • closed spaces
  • crowded places
  • close-contact settings and close-range conversations

You have a higher risk of having serious health problems related to COVID-19 if you are 65 years or older or if you have certain medical conditions. Some of these medical conditions include:

  • heart disease
  • asthma
  • chronic kidney disease
  • obesity
  • high blood pressure
  • lung disease
  • diabetes, or
  • cancer

You are also at a higher risk of having serious health problems related to COVID-19 if you have a weakened immune system, such as if you have had a medical treatment like chemotherapy.

Section 2: What you need to know before leaving your country

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you will not be permitted to board the plane.

  • Three requirements you need to meet to board the plane:
  • wear a mask covering your mouth and nose at all times
  • proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test (test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of your flight to Canada)
  • proof that you’ve registered in ArriveCAN (see below for more information)

As the COVID-19 situation evolves rapidly, requirements may change at any time. Please visit the Government of Canada's resources on COVID-19 often to have up to date information.

If you have no symptoms of COVID-19, you should:

  • verify with your employer (or your Ministry of Labour if you are with the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program [SAWP]) that your job is still available
  • read the email that you received from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and follow their advice
  • verify that the spelling of your name is accurate on all documents you receive from IRCC. If there is a mistake, signal it to IRCC as soon as possible. Also, verify that the information is correct on your work permit when issued at the Port of Entry
  • pre-register for the testing upon arrival in Canada once your flight is booked, unless you are specifically told that the pre-registration was or will be done for you. You will be required to take a test before leaving the airport once in Canada:

You must use ArriveCAN to provide mandatory travel / quarantine information on and after your entry into Canada. Please consult the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Travel restrictions, exemptions and advice.

Use ArriveCAN by signing in online or by downloading the mobile app through Google Play or the Apple App store. You will need an email address to use ArriveCAN. Please consult ArriveCAN for more information.

Before you board your flight, you must use ArriveCAN to provide your:

  • travel and contact information
  • quarantine plan
  • COVID-19 symptom self-assessment

Once you submit your information through ArriveCAN:

  • a receipt will be displayed and emailed to you
  • show the receipt to a Canadian border services officer when you arrive in Canada
  • you can show your ArriveCAN receipt from:
    • the app as a screenshot
    • your email
    • a printout

You will likely need to undergo mandatory quarantine for the first 14 days when you get to Canada. You need to discuss the plan for this period with your employer before you arrive. Information you need to have with you before you leave, and which an officer may ask to see upon arrival, includes:

  • the address of your quarantine location (housing)
  • a telephone number and email address so that Canadian officials can contact you
  • your employer’s contact information
  • work permit or port of entry (POE) letter of introduction that shows you were approved for a work permit. Show your work permit or POE letter to the airline attendant. This document shows that you are allowed to travel to Canada during the travel restrictions

Three-day hotel stay requirement

  • Most travellers to Canada need to stay in a Government-Approved Accommodation (hotel) for 3 days after arrival, including some temporary foreign workers (TFWs)
  • Travellers are responsible for making their hotel reservation and paying the costs
  • Reservations can be made toll-free within North America by calling 1-800-294-8253 or online hotel booking
  • Workers need to make arrangements and pay for transportation between the hotel and the quarantine location

Three-day hotel stay - exemptions

  • TFWs with work permits in the agriculture, agri-food, and fish and seafood sectors, are exempted from the 3-day hotel stay requirement. See list of National Occupation Codes (NOC) below. Instead, these workers will go directly to their place of quarantine after undergoing their COVID-19 test at the airport
  • Information regarding your NOC is included under “Job Information” on the Employment Details page of your Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) letter
  • Workers in occupations (NOC Codes) exempted from the 3-day hotel stay include:
    • 0821 - Managers in agriculture
    • 0822 - Managers in horticulture
    • 8252 - Agricultural service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
    • 8255 - Contractors and supervisors, landscaping, grounds maintenance and horticulture services
    • 8431 - General farm workers
    • 8432 - Nursery and greenhouse workers
    • 8611 - Harvesting labourers
    • 6331 - Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers - retail And wholesale
    • 9461 - Process control and machine operators, food, beverage and associated products processing
    • 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

Three-day hotel stay – travelling to another province

  • All TFWs with work permits in the occupations listed above and who need to travel to another province via public transportation (for example by commercial flight) are required to stay in a Government-Approved Accommodation for up to 3 nights, upon arrival in Canada while awaiting the results of their COVID-19 test
  • Employers and travel arrangers are responsible for making hotel reservations as part of the travel arrangements where applicable. Workers in occupations (NOC Codes) listed above do not have to reimburse any of these costs

Section 3: What to know for your arrival and initial period of quarantine in Canada

What to expect at the airport in Canada

  • If you show signs of COVID-19 upon arrival, officials will contact a quarantine officer and the officer will perform a more detailed assessment. If necessary, the quarantine officer may:
    • order you to be transported to the hospital to undergo a medical examination
    • inform the local public health authority that you may have COVID-19
  • All air travellers, including TFWs, are required to take a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival in Canada while at the airport
  • You need to take another test again, 8 days into your quarantine period
  • Before leaving the airport, you will be provided with a COVID-19 test kit and instructions for taking the test later during the mandatory quarantine period
  • You will receive more information upon arrival

COVID-19 guidelines for the quarantine

Most workers are required to quarantine for 14 days. Only workers considered “essential” by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada are exempted (for example, healthcare workers, workers in transportation of medical products, truck drivers, crew on planes, trains and vessels). For more information on the TFW Program, what is expected from employers during the COVID-19 pandemic and frequently asked questions, please visit the TFW Program website.

It is your responsibility to follow the COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Government of Canada and the province and territory you will live in.

  • When leaving the airport, you must quarantine. In some cases, you will be quarantining in designated accommodations upon arrival and food-service could be provided
  • Quarantining means that:
    • you must stay in your accomodations
    • you must avoid contact with other people and keep a 2-metre distance from others (physical distancing) at all times (unless you are members of the same family arriving at the same time)
  • In the first 48 hours, you must use ArriveCAN to confirm that you have arrived at your place of quarantine
  • Every day during the quarantine period, you must complete a daily COVID-19 symptom self-assessment on ArriveCAN
  • On day 8 of your quarantine, you will need to complete the COVID-19 testing kit

Specifically for employer provided accommodations

Depending on your contract, your employer may provide your accommodation. This is often the case for farm workers.

  • Your employer must provide you with cleaning products
  • Clean and disinfect your accommodations and common areas. This includes shared surfaces that are touched often, such as:
    • door knobs
    • tables
    • counters
    • sinks
    • taps
    • TV remote, and
    • toilets
  • Other important things to do:
    • do not have visitors
    • stay in a private place like your yard or balcony if you go outside for fresh air
    • wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
  • Once your quarantine begins, no new person should move into the same accommodation as the one where you or your group live
  • If someone new arrives at your accommodations during this time, you must restart a new quarantine period

Know your employers’ responsibilities during the initial quarantine period

You must be paid for the quarantine period for a minimum of 30 hours per week, at your regular hourly rate of pay. The payment you receive is not an advance and you don’t reimburse it later. This requirement also applies to workers in the SAWP and the period of paid quarantine will be in addition to the minimum 240 hours of pay as specified in the SAWP contract.

Employers can make regular deductions. They are not allowed to make any additional deductions due to the quarantine period, except in the case of an agreement to recoup the costs of groceries.

Employers are expected to ensure that you have access to the essentials without inflated prices or surcharges.

Employers must not do anything that prevents you from having access to necessities of life, including food and other basic items. If you need your employer’s or a support organization’s assistance to access the necessities of life, your employer must not deny that request for assistance.

Employers are also expected to ensure that food is fresh, of good quality, and meets your needs with respect to type, variety and quantity.

Know your responsibilities during the initial quarantine period

Under current guidance, you are not allowed to work during the quarantine period. Your employer cannot ask you to perform other duties, such as building repairs or administrative tasks. Please visit the TFW Program compliance webpage to get more information on the TFW Program, what is expected from employers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and frequently asked questions.

If you start having symptoms (like a fever) at any time, including after the quarantine period:

  • you must immediately fully isolate yourself from others, contact local public health officials, and tell your employer. You may also choose to contact your consular official
  • your employer is required to immediately provide you with accommodations that allow you to isolate from others
  • this means they must provide you with your own bedroom and bathroom that is not shared with anyone else during isolation
  • your employer is responsible to assist you in accessing medical care, medicine, and food during isolation
  • you and your employer must follow the advice of the local public health authority
  • your employer must not force you to work during your isolation. If they do, refuse to work and use the contacts in Section 8 to report them

When contacting health services, be ready with the following information:

  • your symptoms
  • where you have been travelling or living (address of accommodation)
  • if you had direct contact with animals (for example, if you visited a live animal market)
  • if you had close contact with a sick person who had a fever, cough or difficulty breathing

After you provide them with this information, they will provide advice on what you should do next.

You can find the phone numbers and websites for health services in your province or territory in Section 7.

You or your employer may face serious consequences if either of you are not following COVID-19 requirements

You may receive a fine of up to $1,000,000, go to jail, or both, if you do not follow the COVID-19 procedures from the time you arrive in Canada. In addition to receiving penalties, you may not be allowed into Canada again and face a removal order.

  • Your employer cannot prevent you from meeting the requirements under the Quarantine Act
  • Employers may also face serious consequences if they do not respect the requirements
  • You can safely report employers by contacting the confidential Government of Canada Tip Line (1-866-602-9448)
  • You can also safely report employers by contacting the phone numbers in Section 8
  • Keep evidence, like screenshots of text messages, videos, or pictures if your employer is breaking the rules, like asking you to work, not paying you, or preventing you from accessing food
  • If your employer is providing you with housing, you can report them if they are not providing you with cleaning supplies, putting you in housing where beds are not 2 meters apart, or housing you with workers not in quarantine
  • You can also report employers if they are not isolating workers who exhibit signs or symptoms of COVID-19

Take care of your mental health during quarantine and during the pandemic

  • Stay informed, but take breaks from social media and news stories
  • Practice physical distancing, but stay connected:
    • talk to friends or family about your feelings and concerns through email, telephone, video chats and social media like Facebook
    • if you don't have access to a telephone or computer, try writing letters to loved ones
  • Take deep breaths (in for 3 seconds, out for 3 seconds), stretch, or meditate
  • Try to eat healthy meals, drink water, exercise often, and get plenty of sleep
  • Focus on the positive aspects of your life and things you can control
  • Be cautious of excessive intake of alcohol or other substances
  • Be kind and compassionate to yourself and others

Section 4: What to know for the rest of your stay in Canada

The information in this section will be useful for the rest of your stay in Canada, after the initial quarantine period has elapsed.

For the rest of your stay in Canada, to avoid the spread of COVID-19, you (as well as all Canadians) are asked to:

  • follow local health rules, which could include to stay at home unless you have to go to work
  • avoid all non-essential trips in your community
  • keep your social circles small and do not gather in groups
  • when around others, wear a mask covering your mouth and nose at all times
  • limit contact with people at higher risk, such as older adults and those in poor health
  • go outside to exercise but stay close to home

If you leave your home, always keep a distance of at least 2 arms lengths (approximately 2 metres) from others. People you live with do not need to distance from each other unless they are sick or have travelled in the last 14 days.

Please note that employers must continue to follow all federal, provincial, and territorial employment regulations and laws. Under the TFW Program, employers do not have the authority to limit you freedom of movement. Like all workers, you are permitted to run errands, access services, and enjoy their time off work when not in quarantine, self-isolating, or otherwise restricted from doing so as per government laws and orders.

All provinces have their own restrictions related to COVID-19. Please visit the website of the province you reside in to be familiar with the dos and don’ts. The websites are listed in section 7.

If you become sick, please follow the same health advice as provided in Section 3.

Reminder: While in Canada, it is important to keep track of the hours you work.

What a Social Insurance Number is and why you need one

The Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a 9-digit number that that you need to work in Canada. A SIN is issued to 1 person only and it cannot legally be used by anyone else.

What you need to apply

You must apply for your SIN online, unless you arrived as part of the SAWP and are being helped by an organization.

To apply for a SIN online, you must provide a minimum of 3 documents:

  • a valid primary identity document that proves your identity and legal status in Canada, such as:
    • Permanent Resident Card (PR card) issued by IRCC
    • work or study permit issued by IRCC that states the “May accept employment” or “May work in Canada”
    • confirmation of Permanent Residence issued by IRCC
  • a valid secondary identity document to confirm your identity, such as a passport or provincial or territorial identification:
    • foreign passport
    • health card
    • driver’s license
  • a proof of address of your accommodation during your employment in Canada (not your quarantine location) with your name and address:
    • employment contract with your name and address
    • letter from an organization/institution/employer attesting your address and signed by a representative of the organization/institution or the employer and you

*Remember: Your address must match the address on your proof of address document. It is also important that you type your names as they appear on your primary identity document.

A supporting document may be required if the name indicated on your primary or secondary document is different from the name you are currently using.

Where to apply for a SIN

Section 5: COVID-19 income support measures

Your employer cannot end your contract if you are sick with COVID-19. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are offering financial supports. You may be eligible for income support if you are laid off or if you become sick due to COVID-19. If you become ill after the initial quarantine period, you may be entitled to either paid or unpaid sick leave, depending on your employment contract and the relevant federal, provincial or territorial employment standards. Contact the employment standards office by telephone or visit their website to find out more. You can find these phone numbers and websites in Section 8. Please note that employers must pay you for the quarantine period and longer than the initial 14 days if you become symptomatic or were exposed to another person who had symptoms. After this period, employers do not have to pay you if you get sick. However, there are income supports available to you if you do get sick.

If you need financial assistance

Employment Insurance (EI)

EI provides regular benefits to individuals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own and are available for and able to work, but can't find a job. If you have insurable employment, you must apply to EI in order to see if you are eligible.

You may be eligible to:

  • EI Regular benefits: if you have lost your job through no fault of your own, or
  • EI Sickness benefits: if you are unable to work due to illness, injury or quarantine (except the initial mandatory quarantine period)
  • EI Maternity/Parental/Caregiving benefits. Please visit the EI webpage for more information

Note: You have “insurable employment” if you have EI deductions taken from your paycheque.

Please visit the EI portal to apply.

If you don’t qualify for EI, you might be eligible for the new Canada Recovery Benefits (CRB) which are currently in effect until September 25, 2021.

Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) will provide $500 per week (taxable, tax deducted at source) for up to a maximum of 4 weeks, for workers who are unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they contracted COVID-19, self-isolated for reasons related to COVID-19, or have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19. This benefit will be paid in 1-week periods.

Note: You don’t need to take your EI benefits before you apply for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. However, you cannot get EI and the Recovery Benefits or any other paid leave at the same time.

You may be eligible to the CRSB if you:

  • reside in Canada (including while you are in Canada and have a valid work permit and SIN)
  • you are unable to work at least 50% of your scheduled work week because you are self-isolating due to COVID-19 (either you are sick or may be sick, or are advised to self-isolate)
  • you are not receiving any other benefits (CRB, EI) or paid leave from your employer for the same period
  • had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in 2020, or in the 12 months before the date you apply from

Learn more about the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit

Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)

The Canada Recovery Benefit will provide eligible workers with $500 per week (taxable, tax deducted at source) for up to 38 weeks for those who have stopped working and who are not eligible for EI, or had their employment/self-employment income reduced by at least 50% due to COVID-19. This benefit will be paid in 2-week periods.

You may be eligible for the CRB if you:

  • reside in Canada (including while you are in Canada and have a valid work permit and SIN)
  • have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are available and looking for work in accordance to your work permit conditions; or are working and have had a reduction in your employment/self-employment for reasons related to COVID-19
  • are not eligible for EI
  • had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in 2020, or in the 12 months before the date you apply from, and
  • have not quit your job voluntarily

Note: You will not be eligible for the CRB for the initial quarantine period because your employer is responsible for your salary during that time, so please do not apply for that period.

Workers can only receive 1 type of benefit at a time.

Learn more about the Canada Recovery Benefit

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administers the Canada Recovery Benefits, and workers can apply through the CRA. The best way to apply for any of the recovery benefits is online, via My Account. However, workers who do not have access to the internet can apply using the CRA’s automated bilingual toll-free phone lines: 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. To obtain more information on how to apply for the recovery benefits please visit the COVID-19 Benefits and Services webpage.

Goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit

You may be eligible for the quarterly GST/HST credit payment. Your eligibility and the payment amount is determined based on the information you provided in your most recent income tax and benefit return. To get the GST/HST credit, you have to file a tax return, even if you have not received income in the year.

Section 6: Changing jobs

If you are changing jobs or employers and need a new employer-specific work permit, IRCC has implemented several temporary public policies that can help you start working quickly.

If you have an employer-specific work permit and you want to change jobs or employers, you can apply for a new employer-specific work permit from inside Canada. Due to COVID-19, your work permit application may be expedited, and you may not need to wait until your work permit application is approved to start your new job or work for a new employer. You just need an email from IRCC that says you have permission to change jobs.

If you are a former TFW whose status as a worker has expired, you may be able to apply to restore your status. If you applied to restore your temporary resident status as a worker with an employer-specific work permit, you may be eligible to request to work while you wait for your application to be processed.

Normally, visitors can’t apply for work permits from inside Canada. Due to COVID-19, visitors can now apply online for an employer-specific work permit. If you are a visitor who applied for an employer-specific work permit in Canada and held a work permit in the last 12 months, you can ask IRCC to be allowed to work while your application is being processed.

Section 7: Contacts for questions or help related to COVID-19

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the COVID-19 information webpage.

Each province and territory in Canada has its own health care system. People who work for the health care system in the province or territory where you live will help you if you have concerns about your health. You can contact them.

Health service and information contacts

Province or Territory

British Columbia





New Brunswick

Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island

Newfoundland and Labrador


Northwest Territories

Migrant worker support organizations

We are funding community organizations to support workers affected by COVID-19. These organizations can provide advice and support, interpretation, workshops, opportunities to build community connections, and more.

  • For workers in British Columbia:
    • the Community Airport Newcomers Network will welcome you at Vancouver International Airport and give you information and offer you an orientation session. In your package, there is a list of support organizations
    • MOSAIC, another funded organization, offers a variety of services to migrant workers and can connect you with support organizations near you
  • For workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba:
  • For workers in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Northwest Territories:
    • Kairos offers a variety of services to migrant workers and can connect you with support organizations near you
  • For workers in Quebec:
    • Immigrant Québec has a website for TFWs. A list of support organizations is included under the tab “Who can help?”

Finally, you can visit the Migrant Worker Hub website to find useful resources. Although some information is related to British Columbia only, most is suitable regardless of where you work and live in Canada. Resources include:

  • short videos
  • webinars
  • e-learning
  • info sheets

Section 8: Contacts to report your employer for not respecting the COVID-19 requirements

For information about the TFW Program, what is expected from employers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and frequently asked questions, please visit the TFW Program's worker rights page.

All documents are also available in French, and some are also available in Spanish.

Use the confidential Government of Canada Tip Line (1-866-602-9448) if your employer is:

  • forcing you to work during the initial quarantine period
  • not paying you during the initial quarantine period
  • not providing you with cleaning supplies during the initial quarantine period (applicable only if your employer is providing you with housing)
  • interfering with the quarantine requirements (for example, preventing you from accessing groceries, etc.)
  • housing workers in quarantine with workers who are not in quarantine
  • not isolating and providing a worker who has signs/symptoms with a private bedroom and bathroom (applicable only if your employer is providing you with housing)
  • preventing you from following the instructions of public health officials
  • restricting you from running errands, accessing services, and enjoying your time off work when not in quarantine or self-isolating

You can also report your employer by using the multi-lingual Online Fraud Reporting Tool.

You can also notify the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, local law enforcement, and local health authorities.

Workplace health and safety offices

Call if your employer asked you to do dangerous work, if conditions at your workplace are unsafe, or if you were injured or sick because of your work.

Federal Labour Program (call if you are in a federally regulated workplace): 1-800-641-4049

British Columbia
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Prince Edward Island
Newfoundland and Labrador
Northwest Territories

Employment standards offices

Call if your employer is not paying you properly, if someone is not treating you fairly at work, or if your employer is not respecting your contract.

Federal Labour Program (call if you are in a federally regulated workplace): 1-800-641-4049

British Columbia
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Prince Edward Island
Newfoundland and Labrador
1-800-661-0408, extension 5944
Northwest Territories

If you think you are being abused, or at risk of being abused by your employer, you may be eligible to apply for an open work permit for vulnerable workers. For more information, please visit IRCC’s vulnerable workers web page.

For information about your rights, please visit the Foreign Worker Rights web page.

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