Travel restriction measures: COVID-19 program delivery

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Air travel and border measures have been implemented to protect the health and safety of Canadians by restricting discretionary international travel. These instructions describe IRCC’s role in supporting the administration of these measures and provide guidance on applying some of the exemptions that are in place to facilitate necessary travel.

Important note: Regular travel document requirements for air travel and entry to Canada continue to apply. Foreign nationals who are exempted from the travel restrictions must continue to meet all travel document requirements under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).

Canadian citizens, permanent residents and protected persons continue to be permitted to board an aircraft, subject to health screening measures.

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Travel restrictions affecting foreign nationals

These restrictions have been implemented under the authority of the Minister of Health through emergency orders under the Quarantine Act and of the Minister of Transport through interim orders under the Aeronautics Act (the Orders). For more information on the Orders, visit List of Acts and Regulations.

Restrictions vary depending on from where the foreign national is departing. However, any COVID-19-symptomatic travellers will not be permitted to enter Canada. Note that regular immigration requirements and admissibility provisions must still to be met for all travel and entry to Canada.

Departing from any country other than the United States

In the air mode, foreign nationals departing from any country other than the United States are prohibited from boarding an aircraft for a flight to Canada when

Departing from the United States

Foreign nationals departing from the United States are prohibited from entering Canada when

Regardless of whether the foreign national is departing from the United States or any other country, upon entry, they will be required to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.

Travel for an optional or discretionary purpose

The exemptions under the Orders do not apply to foreign nationals travelling for optional or discretionary purposes. The onus is on the foreign national to demonstrate the purpose of their travel.

Travel for optional or discretionary purposes is broadly defined in the Orders as including (but not limited to) travel for the purposes of tourism, recreation and entertainment.

Travel for the following purposes would not be considered optional or discretionary:

Learn more:

Definition of immediate family members

The definition of immediate family members set out in the Orders is broader than that in IRPA (spouses and common-law partners, their dependent children and any dependent children of their dependent children) and has been expanded to include

In respect of a parent, dependent child is defined in IRPR as a child who

Find additional information related to the interpretation of a dependent child:

Guardians and tutors are individuals who are responsible for caring for a foreign national minor who is living apart from a parent for an extended period of time, for example to attend a secondary school in Canada. The guardian or tutor should be able to demonstrate that they habitually reside at the same address as the minor. Officers should be flexible in accepting documentary evidence.

Travel restriction exemptions

Immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents

A foreign national who is an immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident is exempt from the travel restrictions and permitted to travel to Canada if they have the required travel documents.

The immediate family members must show that they’re coming to Canada for non-discretionary reasons and not for reasons that are optional or discretionary, such as tourism, recreation or entertainment.

Where the foreign national is a child, age and dependency is a factor. However, note that a foreign national who is an adult child of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident residing in Canada may be exempt under the family reunification exemption.

Where the foreign national is a parent, the Canadian citizen’s or permanent resident’s age is not a factor, and there is no requirement to establish dependency.

The immediate family member’s physical location is not a factor. They may be in Canada, in a third country, or accompanying the foreign national.

Travellers are expected to self-identify to airlines at the point of boarding that they are exempt under this provision by presenting documentation to establish their family member’s Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status and their relationship to that family member.

Recommended documentation for travel

Documentation showing their immediate family member’s Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status, such as a

Documentation showing their relationship to that family member, such as a

Paper and electronic copies of the documents listed above are acceptable.

Role of IRCC

Air carriers who require assistance to confirm that a foreign national passenger is eligible for this exemption will communicate through established channels with Transport Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Family reunification

The Orders also exempt foreign nationals whose travel to Canada is authorized in writing by an officer designated under subsection A6(1) or by a Global Affairs Canada (GAC) consular officer for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members.

The expanded definition of immediate family member described above continues to apply.

In order for a foreign national to be eligible under this exemption, there must be two or more foreign nationals who are immediate family members of each other, and authorizing one or more of them to enter Canada must allow them to be reunited.

While the foreign national’s immediate family member must be a resident in Canada, that family member does not have to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

This means that a foreign national with an immediate family member residing in Canada as a worker, visitor, student or protected person would be included in this exemption.

An adult child of a person residing in Canada may be eligible under this exemption. This is because, while the child is not an immediate family member of the parent under the definition above, the parent is an immediate family member of the child.

The objective of this exemption is to facilitate reuniting immediate family members who have been separated as a result of these travel restrictions. Migration officers and case processing officers are to assess the circumstances surrounding the foreign national’s travel prior to authorizing in writing that the foreign national is exempt under this provision. As noted above, the officer must be satisfied that the foreign national is not travelling for an optional or discretionary purpose.

Recommended documentation for travel

An IRCC officer or GAC employee will provide a letter to the client to demonstrate to the airline that they are authorized to travel to Canada under this exemption.

Role of IRCC

Processing applications for temporary resident visas and electronic travel authorizations

While the travel restrictions are in effect, IRCC will only be issuing new temporary resident visas or electronic travel authorizations to foreign nationals who can demonstrate that they meet the exemption and need to travel to Canada urgently. As the migration officer or case processing officer must verify the purpose of travel, they can also assess whether the foreign national is covered by an exemption under the Orders.

Where the foreign national’s immediate family member is a foreign national resident of Canada, this exemption will apply. To facilitate the foreign national’s travel to Canada, the officer should prepare and send an email authorizing travel under this exemption at the same time that they issue the temporary resident visa or electronic travel authorization. A template authorization will be shared with the processing networks.

Support to GAC employees

GAC employees who require assistance to confirm that a foreign national passenger is eligible for this exemption will seek guidance internally through established channels.

Government of Canada officials may contact the IRCC Operations Support Centre (OSC) to verify immigration status and family relationships to the extent that this information is available in immigration records.

International students

The Orders exempt foreign nationals who held a valid Canadian study permit or were issued a letter of invitation dated on or before March 18, 2020, the date on which the first interim order came into force.

These international students were already enrolled at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada or had been accepted by a DLI and made arrangements to come to Canada to study before the travel restrictions were put in place.

These foreign nationals can self-identify to airlines at the point of boarding that they are exempt under this provision by presenting

Temporary workers

The Orders exempt certain foreign nationals who are authorized to travel to Canada to work.

This includes temporary workers who were already established in Canada or who had made arrangements to come to Canada to work before the travel restrictions were put in place. It also includes new workers who are coming to Canada to be employed in critical industries, such as agriculture, food processing, health, transportation and emergency services.

These foreign nationals can self-identify to airlines at the point of boarding that they are exempt under this provision by presenting

For those who have a letter of introduction, travel may be considered to be optional or discretionary if they do not have a current and active offer of employment associated with that letter of introduction and are simply planning to see what can be found, in terms of work, in Canada.

Note: To obtain a letter of introduction, new applicants must apply for a work permit at a location that is not a port of entry. Even if applicants are visa exempt under IRPR, they must have this documentation prior to coming to Canada if they are travelling by air from a country other than the United States. Upfront processing ensures that new temporary workers only travel after they are confirmed to have met all eligibility requirements, reduces immigration processing upon arrival in Canada and allows border services officers to focus on implementing border restrictions and isolation measures under the Quarantine Act. There is a separate Order concerning travel from the United States (Order in Council 11). Under this Order, certain applicants are able to apply for a work permit at the port of entry if seeking to enter Canada from the United States for an essential purpose (by land or air) if they were otherwise eligible to apply under immigration legislation and if they have been only in Canada or the United States in the 14 days preceding their entry to Canada.

Permit-exempt work

The Orders provide for a number of scenarios where the foreign national is not required to obtain a work permit:

These foreign nationals can self-identify to airlines at the point of boarding that they are exempt under this provision by presenting alternative documentation. This will generally include a letter of invitation from a relevant organization in Canada (federal, provincial or municipal government entity for emergency services providers, teaching institutions for medical students, or shipping agents for persons joining vessels).

Permanent resident visa holders

The Orders exempt foreign nationals who have been approved for permanent residence and who were eligible to travel to Canada to become landed permanent residents on or before March 18, 2020, the date on which the first interim order came into force.

Many of these foreign nationals had already made arrangements to settle in Canada before the travel restrictions were put in place. Facilitating their entry for the purposes of landing contributes to meeting immediate family reunification and labour market needs and reduces the accumulation of an inventory of approved permanent residents who will need to travel to Canada once restrictions are lifted.

These foreign nationals can self-identify to airlines at the point of boarding that they are exempt under this provision by presenting

Accredited officials

The Orders exempt foreign nationals who are exempt from the requirement to obtain a temporary resident visa under paragraph R190(2)(a) and their immediate family members. Note that the broader definition of immediate family members continues to apply.

The foreign national must hold a passport that contains a diplomatic acceptance, a consular acceptance or an official acceptance issued by the Chief of Protocol for GAC on behalf of the Government of Canada. They must be a properly accredited diplomat, consular officer, representative or official of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies or of any international organization of which Canada is a member.

Protected persons

The Orders exempt protected persons within the meaning of subsection A95(2).

A protected person is a person on whom refugee protection is conferred under subsection A95(1) and whose claim or application has not subsequently been deemed to be rejected under subsection A108(3), A109(3) or A114(4). The only document that may be presented to provide proof of this status is a Canadian refugee travel document issued by IRCC, in line with paragraph R39(c).

National interest

The Orders exempt a foreign national whose presence in Canada, in the opinion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship or the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is in the national interest.

This exemption may only be applied by any of the 3 ministers listed. The decision for the exemption will be made by the respective minister. The IRCC Case Management Branch will manage these situations in accordance with existing processes.

Transit passengers

The Orders exempt foreign nationals in transit through Canada to another country. Given the interplay between the interim order under the Aeronautics Act and related emergency orders under the Quarantine Act, the airport of arrival into Canada must have the facilities to permit the foreign national to connect to their destination without the foreign national having to present themselves for examination to enter Canada.

Crew members and foreign nationals entering Canada to become crew members

The Orders exempt foreign national crew members, including those arriving by air to join a vessel.

Airlines will permit boarding for seafarers travelling to Canada to join a ship’s crew if they are holding a seafarer’s identity document supplemented by a passport or other seafarer documentation, including proof of employment on a vessel at a Canadian port.

This exemption does not affect regular travel document and permit requirements for foreign nationals under IRPR.

Members of the Canadian Forces or a visiting force as defined in section 2 of the Visiting Forces Act and the immediate family members of those members

Any person who is a member of the armed forces of a designated state present in Canada in connection with official duties, including civilian personnel designated under section 4 of the Visiting Forces Act as a civilian component of a visiting force, should be permitted to board.

For additional information on the Visiting Forces Act, refer to the following instructions:

Canadian citizens travelling on a foreign passport

Canadian citizens are encouraged to carry a valid Canadian passport at all times. Exceptionally, Canadian citizens may travel to Canada on a visa-exempt foreign passport with a special authorization. When this special authorization is issued, IRCC will produce a confirmation email approving the special authorization. For the purposes of the interim order, the Canadian citizen can provide this email to the airline to show they are not a foreign national and therefore not subject to this travel restriction. Note that the foreign passport number in the approval email should match the traveller’s foreign passport number.

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