Non-optional and non-discretionary travel: 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 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.

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. If the foreign national is travelling for less than 15 days, they must be travelling for a non-discretionary, 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.

Extended family members 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. If the travel is for less than 15 days, extended family members will need to provide a statutory declaration and obtain written authorization from IRCC to be eligible to travel to Canada as part of this exemption.

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 the Global Case Management System which will outline their rationale for issuing the authorization letter. If information comes to light for a Canada Boarder Services Agency 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:

Temporary workers

The following are examples of non-optional or non-discretionary travel for temporary workers who hold a valid work permit or received a letter of introduction from IRCC on their work permit application and are seeking entry at a Canadian POE:

For more information, consult Work permit: COVID-19 program delivery.

Exemptions from the requirement to have a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose of travel

The requirement to travel for a non-discretionary or non-optional purpose does not apply to the following travel restriction exemptions:

For more information, consult Travel restriction measures: COVID-19 program delivery.

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