Travel restriction measures: COVID-19 program delivery

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC 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 enter Canada, 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 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

Note: The non-optional/non-discretionary requirement does not apply to asymptomatic, immediate family members or extended family members of Canadian citizens or Canadian permanent residents who can establish that they will enter Canada to be with their immediate family member or extended family member and who intend to stay in Canada for a period of at least 15 days.

Regardless of whether the foreign national is departing the United States or any other country, all asymptomatic persons entering Canada must quarantine themselves.

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.

For more information, consult: Non-optional and non-discretionary travel: COVID-19 program delivery

Definition of immediate family members

The definition of immediate family members set out in the Orders is broader than the definition of family members in subsection 1(3) of the IRPR.

Immediate family members in respect of a person are

For additional information related to the interpretation of a dependent child, consult

Definition of extended family members

The Orders have expanded the types of family relationships to Canadian citizens and permanent residents that are exempt from the travel restrictions. In contrast to the immediate family member definition, the extended family member definition does not apply to familial relations of temporary residents in Canada.

Extended family members in respect of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident are

Extended family members departing from the U.S. or countries other than the U.S.

Extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents

A foreign national who is an extended 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 documentation for travel.

Extended family members who do not yet hold an electronic travel authorization (eTA) or a temporary resident visa (TRV) will need to submit an application to IRCC by following the designated instructions to ensure expedited processing and issuance of the authorization letter. Their application for a TRV or an eTA will be assessed under the IRPA, and all eligibility and admissibility requirements apply. Foreign nationals with an application in progress or who already hold a valid TRV or eTA will communicate with IRCC through the designated channels in the Temporary residence: COVID-19 program delivery instructions to ensure expedited processing and the issuance of a letter.

Recommended documentation for travel

In addition to meeting all regular eligibility and admissibility requirements for travel and entry to Canada, including holding a valid eTA or TRV, if required, extended family members must provide the following to be eligible to travel:

Role of IRCC

IRCC is responsible for issuing written authorization to all foreign nationals who are exempt under the extended family member definition. This includes foreign nationals who already hold a valid TRV or eTA and those who do not require one, such as U.S. citizens. To be issued a written authorization, the foreign national must provide IRCC with a copy of their completed and signed statutory declaration. To ensure program integrity, the statutory declaration form must be signed by solemn declaration in Canada in the presence of a person who, by law, is authorized to receive a solemn declaration.

The following instructions explain when to issue or refuse written authorization:

When issuing or refusing the written authorization to travel for the extended family member exemption, officers should enter a note in the Client screen of the Global Case Management System (GCMS) (when there is an open application on file). A copy of the authorization or refusal letter issued should be uploaded into GCMS to ensure the outcome is easily available for reference by other offices and to avoid clients attempting to obtain authorization after a refusal from another unit.

If the request for written authorization was submitted via email and there is a different email attached to an existing GCMS record (Client screen or eTA/TRV application), officers should indicate this in their note and reply to the email address with which the foreign national submitted their current request.

Note: Immediate family members are not required to complete the statutory declaration. It is an entry requirement only for extended family members. It is to be filled out by the Canadian citizen or permanent resident and sworn and completed in Canada, and a copy is to be sent to the foreign national seeking entry before they travel. If the foreign national checks in for their flight or arrives at a port of entry without a copy or printout of the form and the authorization letter, they will be denied entry (unless they are allowed in under other provisions).

Electronic copies of the documents listed above are acceptable. As always, the final decision on admission to Canada is made by border services officers at Canadian ports of entry. In cases where new or conflicting information is provided at entry, border services officers continue to apply their discretion.

Travel restriction exemptions for those departing from a country other than the U.S.

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 documentation for travel.

If the immediate family member of the Canadian citizen or permanent resident’s stay in Canada will be 15 days or longer, they are to be considered to be travelling for a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose. If the foreign national is travelling for less than 15 days, they must be travelling for a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose. Officers should be flexible when processing immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada travelling for less than 15 days, if they are travelling for a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose. The Canadian citizen or permanent resident immediate family member may be in Canada 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.

For more information on the extended family member process, refer to Extended family members departing from the U.S. or countries other than the U.S.

Immediate family member is a child

Where the foreign national is a child, age and dependency determine whether they meet the family member definition under the IRPR as a dependent child, and consequently whether they meet the immediate family member definition of the Orders. However, note that while a foreign national who is an adult child (over the age of 22) of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident is not an immediate family member, they are an extended family member.

Note: Different evidence to prove this relationship is required for immediate versus extended family members.

Immediate family member is a parent

Where the foreign national is a parent, there is no requirement to establish dependency.

Note: Immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents do not require any written authorization from IRCC.

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

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

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 CBSA.

Family reunification

The Orders also exempt foreign nationals whose travel to Canada is authorized in writing by an officer designated under subsection 6(1) of the IRPA, for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members.

The definition of immediate family member described above continues to apply, and this provision is not applicable to extended family members.

In order for a foreign national to be eligible under this exemption, there must be 2 or more foreign nationals who are immediate family members of each other, and authorizing 1 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 temporarily residing in Canada as a worker, visitor, student or protected person, would be exempt under this provision if provided with written authorization.

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

Written authorization may be issued to facilitate family unity at the onset and allow for the whole family to travel together and establish residence in Canada. There is no requirement for the head of family (for example, a worker or student) to come to Canada first and the rest of the family travel at a later date with authorization letters to reunite in Canada.

Accompanying family members may be issued written authorization under this family reunification provision if they are not otherwise exempt under another exemption. However, their travel must still be non-optional and non-discretionary. Generally those accompanying family members seeking to establish themselves in Canada will be considered to be travelling for a non-discretionary purpose.

The objective of this exemption is to facilitate unity of immediate family members who have or would be 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

Documentation showing their immediate family member’s temporary resident status and their relationship to that family member, and written authorization from IRCC:

IRCC will provide a letter to the foreign national to demonstrate to the airline that they are authorized to travel to Canada under this exemption. In situations where a foreign national arrives at a port of entry with an IRCC authorization letter for reuniting immediate family members, the purpose of travel will generally be considered non-discretionary as IRCC is only issuing such letters when travel is for a non-discretionary purpose. Foreign nationals must still continue to meet all regular eligibility and admissibility requirements for entry into Canada. As always, the final decision on admission to Canada is made by border services officers at Canadian ports of entry, and in cases where new or conflicting information is provided at entry, border services officers continue to apply their discretion.

Compassionate grounds

Foreign nationals seeking an exemption from the travel restrictions on compassionate grounds will be required to submit a request to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to receive authorization for one of the following reasons:

Foreign nationals who qualify under the compassionate grounds exemption do not need to provide evidence that they are travelling for a non-discretionary purpose. PHAC will provide foreign nationals with an authorization letter confirming that they qualify under the compassionate grounds exemption.

Foreign nationals without a TRV or eTA or with an application in progress

Those who do not yet hold a TRV will need to submit an application to IRCC, along with the PHAC authorization letter, which will prompt the expedited processing of the application. Those who do not yet hold an eTA will need to apply for one, and will need to contact IRCC directly through the designated channel indicated on the Temporary residence: COVID-19 program delivery page to prompt the expedited processing of their application. Once they receive an authorization letter from PHAC, foreign nationals with an application in progress will communicate with IRCC through the designated channel on the Temporary residence: COVID-19 program delivery page to ensure expedited processing. In all instances, case notes must be entered stating that PHAC has authorized the foreign national under the compassionate grounds exemption. Note that foreign nationals must still continue to meet all regular eligibility and admissibility requirements for travel to Canada, and that a PHAC authorization letter does not equate to an automatic TRV or eTA approval.

Clients applying to IRCC for a TRV will need to submit their PHAC authorization letter with their application for a TRV and self-identify as per the online instructions, giving their purpose of travel as “COVID-19 PHAC”. If the client previously submitted their TRV application and it is currently in progress with IRCC, they will need to send an email to IRCC’s Travel Exemptions mailbox with the PHAC authorization letter as an attachment and include the keywords “COVID-19 PHAC” in the subject line.

Clients who have applied for an eTA but have not yet received it will need to provide IRCC with a copy of their PHAC authorization letter through the Web form, selecting “Electronic Travel Authorization” under “Type of application/enquiry” and then “Electronic Travel Authorization – Case Specific Enquiries” and inserting the keywords “COVID-19 PHAC” in the text box. These enquiries will be triaged to the responsible processing office.

Given the nature of the travel, compassionate cases should be processed on an urgent basis.

Recommended documentation for travel

While the travel restrictions are in effect, applicants must present the PHAC authorization letter at the time of travel and at a POE to demonstrate that they meet the compassionate grounds exemption.

Role of IRCC

Processing applications for temporary resident visas (TRV) and electronic travel authorizations (eTA)

While the travel restrictions are in effect, IRCC has temporarily changed how applications are processed. For information, please see:

International students

For information on the impact the Orders in Council have on international students consult: Study permit: COVID-19 program delivery

Temporary workers

For information on the impact the Orders in Council have on foreign workers, consult: Work permit: COVID-19 program delivery

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 Global Affairs Canada (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.

Incoming accredited officials

The Orders exempt foreign representatives and their accompanying family members destined to Canada to become accredited by GAC and to assume their postings.

These foreign representatives and their accompanying family members, whether they are from a visa-required country or not, are required to apply for and obtain a TRV prior to their arrival in Canada under the current travel restrictions.

The issuance of these TRVs must only occur with the authorization of GAC’s Office of Protocol. The TRV coded D-1 or O-1 is the only indication to border services officers that the passport holder, in Canada’s view, may be entitled to diplomatic, consular or official privileges and immunities and recognized under the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act.

Application instructions for these foreign representatives during the travel restrictions have been shared with GAC.

Protected persons

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

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 (CMB) will manage these situations in accordance with existing processes.

National interest considerations used to overcome the travel restrictions pertain to why the person should exceptionally and immediately be allowed to board a flight bound for Canada or enter Canada. For example, business visitors travelling to contribute to Canada’s critical infrastructure may be considered to be in the national interest. Public Safety Canada’s website contains a non-exhaustive list of essential services and functions.

The national interest exemption is intended to be used in exceptional circumstances only. All other exemptions must be considered before giving consideration to applying the national interest exemption. The national interest is meant to be used in limited cases beyond those contemplated by the other exemptions. It is not meant to be a workaround for cases when a more appropriate exemption is not granted by the authority authorized to make the exemption.

Clients wishing to request a national interest exemption from IRCC can contact their nearest visa office.

Transit passengers

The Orders exempt persons arriving at a Canadian airport aboard a commercial passenger conveyance and who are transiting to a country other than Canada and remains in a sterile transit area within the meaning of section 2 of the IRPR.

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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