Non-optional and non-discretionary travel: 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 optional and discretionary international travel. These instructions describe IRCC’s role in supporting the administration of these measures and provide guidance on how to assess non-optional and non-discretionary travel.

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Restrictions overview

Restrictions vary depending on the foreign national’s point of departure. However, any COVID-19-symptomatic travellers will not be permitted to enter Canada.

Foreign nationals seeking to travel to Canada from any country other than the United States while the travel restrictions are in place need to satisfy government officials that

Foreign nationals seeking to travel to Canada from the United States while the travel restrictions are in place need to satisfy government officials that

For more information on travel restrictions affecting foreign nationals, consult:

Examples of travel for a non-optional or non-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.

Immediate family members

Immediate family members (as defined in the Orders in Council) of a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada will be deemed to be travelling for a non-discretionary or non–optional purpose if the travel is for 15 days or more and they are travelling with or to be with their Canadian citizen or permanent resident family member. In addition, 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

Immediate family members of temporary residents in Canada will still be required to provide evidence that their travel is non-optional or non-discretionary. For these immediate family members seeking to travel to Canada from any country other than the United States, an authorization letter issued by IRCC is required. This letter, issued for the purposes of reuniting immediate family members, should be sufficient evidence that travel is non-discretionary, as letters are only issued by IRCC when travel is for a non-discretionary purpose. In cases where new or conflicting information is provided at boarding or at the port of entry (POE), border services officers may utilize their discretion as always. IRCC officers will insert comprehensive notes in GCMS which will outline their rationale for issuing the authorization letter. If information comes to light for a CBSA Liaison Officer or border services officer that contradicts the original purpose of travel, the traveller may be denied travel to or entry to Canada.

Examples of other non-optional or non-discretionary travel:

Note: Examples of non-optional/non-discretionary travel for international students and temporary foreign workers to be published in accompanying program delivery instructions soon.

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