Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Foreign workers

We recognize that the travel restrictions will have an impact on many people who can’t travel to Canada right now. These restrictions stop most discretionary travel to Canada.

International Experience Canada

The information on this page also applies to International Experience Canada (IEC), but participants and applicants should also find out how COVID-19 is affecting IEC.

On this page

If you’re outside Canada

Travel restrictions and exemptions for temporary workers

As a temporary worker, you’re exempt from travel restrictions if you’re coming for a non-discretionary purpose.

Certain people who can work without a permit may also be exempt from travel restrictions.

The Government of Canada’s travel restrictions and exemptions are set out on this page. The province or territory where you’ll work may have additional restrictions.

Non-discretionary travel for a temporary worker

Non-discretionary refers to travel for reasons that are non-optional. The emergency orders under the Quarantine Act do not allow people to travel to Canada for optional or discretionary reasons, such as for tourism, recreation or entertainment.

As a worker, your travel is non-discretionary if you’re in either of these situations:

  • You have a valid work permit and normally live in Canada.
    • This applies even if you’ve been laid off.
  • You’re a worker who meets all of the following:
    • has a letter of introduction for a work permit (open or employer-specific)
    • has a valid job offer
    • can work once you enter Canada and complete your 14-day quarantine (unless you’re exempt)

Discretionary travel for a temporary worker

Your travel is discretionary if you have a letter of introduction for an employer-specific work permit, but your employer has closed their business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can’t travel to Canada if the purpose of your travel is discretionary.

How to bring your family members with you

Your immediate family members may be able to come with you to Canada. They can travel to Canada if they meet one of the conditions below:

  • they’re travelling directly from the U.S. for a non-discretionary purpose
  • they have a written authorization from IRCC to reunite with a temporary resident of Canada (see Uniting with immediate family members for more information)
  • they have a letter of introduction for an open work permit

How to request an authorization


You must use ArriveCAN before checking in at the airport or crossing the border to submit your

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

Please bring your ArriveCAN receipt (electronic or paper) with you to show the border services officer upon arrival.

Work without a work permit

If you’re coming from the U.S. to work without a work permit and you’re coming for a non-discretionary purpose, you’re exempt from the travel restrictions.

If you’re coming from a country other than the U.S. to work without a work permit, then you’re exempt from the travel restrictions only if you belong to one of the following job categories:

Applying for a visitor visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA)

Even if you can work without a work permit, you may still need a visitor visa or eTA to enter Canada.

We’ve temporarily changed how to apply for a visitor visa or eTA to ensure that your application is processed.

Most applicants need to follow these instructions to apply for a visitor visa or eTA.

Crew members joining a vessel, and a few other groups must apply through the IRCC Portal for a visitor visa.

You must apply for a visitor visa through the IRCC Portal if you’re coming to Canada to

  • attend an end-of-life ceremony or funeral
  • be present during the final moments of life for a loved one
  • provide care to a critically ill person
  • join a vessel as a crew member
  • assume a posting as a diplomat or travel as an accompanying immediate family member of a diplomat arriving on posting who will also be accredited in Canada

How to apply for a visitor visa through the IRCC Portal

When you travel to Canada to work without a work permit

You need to show airline staff that you’re exempt from the travel restrictions. To do this, show the following documents to airline personnel when you’re boarding your flight:

  • a passport or travel document
  • proof that you’re exempt from travel restrictions, such as
    • Emergency services providers — A letter of invitation from a relevant organization in Canada (government or non-government organization).
    • Health-care students — A letter of invitation from a relevant teaching institution.
    • Marine crew joining vessels — A joining letter from shipping agents.
    • Technicians or specialists — Evidence that you’ll install, inspect, repair or maintain equipment on critical infrastructure.
    • Commercial or research open-water aquaculture workers — Evidence that you’ll carry out aquaculture-related activities on a foreign-owned vessel.

If you haven’t applied for a work permit yet

Due to the impacts of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we can’t

To keep processing applications from people who are exempt from the travel restrictions, we’re temporarily changing how you can apply to visit, work or study in Canada.

You must apply online when you apply for a work permit from outside Canada.

Priority processing for work permit applicants

People who perform or support essential services

We’re prioritizing applications for people who perform or support essential services, such as

Agriculture and agri-food occupations
  • Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers—retail and wholesale (NOC 6331)
  • Transport truck drivers (NOC 7511)
  • Agricultural service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers (NOC 8252)
  • General farm workers (NOC 8431)
  • Nursery and greenhouse workers (NOC 8432)
  • Harvesting labourers (NOC 8611)
  • Fish and seafood plant workers (NOC 9463)
  • Labourers in food and beverage processing (NOC 9617)
  • Labourers in fish and seafood processing (NOC 9618)
  • Industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers (NOC 9462)
Health-care occupations
  • Nursing co-ordinators and supervisors (NOC 3011)
  • Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses (NOC 3012)
  • Specialist physicians (NOC 3111)
  • General practitioners and family physicians (NOC 3112)
  • Allied primary health practitioners (NOC 3124)
  • Other professional occupations in health diagnosing and treating (NOC 3125)
  • Pharmacists (NOC 3131)
  • Medical laboratory technologists (NOC 3211)
  • Medical laboratory technicians and pathologists’ assistants (NOC 3212)
  • Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists (NOC 3214)
  • Medical radiation technologists (NOC 3215)
  • Cardiology technologists and electrophysiological diagnostic technologists, n.e.c. (NOC 3217)
  • Licensed practical nurses (NOC 3233)
  • Paramedical occupations (NOC 3234)
  • Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates (NOC 3413)
  • Home child care providers (LMIA-required in-Canada applicants) (NOC 4411)
  • Home support workers, excluding housekeepers (LMIA-required in-Canada applicants) (NOC 4412)

If this applies to you, you don’t need to do anything to get priority processing.

Film and television workers

You’re eligible for priority processing if you apply online for your work permit and you’re either

How to get priority processing

After you apply for your work permit, you must use the web form to tell us that you’re a film and TV worker. When you complete the form, copy and paste the message below into the Your enquiry field:

FILMTV2020: Requesting priority processing for Film & TV Industry workers due to COVID-19.”

Where possible, you’ll get a decision on your application within 3 weeks (5 days to identify your application for priority processing and 14 days to process it).

If you don’t include the code FILMTV2020, it may take longer to identify your application.

Most people can’t apply at a port of entry

You should only apply for a work permit at a Canadian port of entry during this time if you meet all of these conditions:

Completing your application

Office closures or service changes due to COVID-19 may affect how you complete some steps in the application process. Find out how COVID-19 has affected

If you’ve been approved for a work permit

When you travel, present the following documents:

You should also be prepared to show that you’re travelling for a non-discretionary purpose.

Health requirements for travellers to Canada

To travel to Canada, you must

Stay safe and limit the spread of COVID-19

Find out more about working in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’re already in Canada

If you’re already in Canada, in most cases, you must apply online to extend your work permit or get a new work permit.

If you can’t apply online because of a disability or because there is a problem with the online application, you can apply on paper.

COVID-19: Changes to biometrics requirement for in-Canada temporary residence applicants

As a temporary measure, if you’re in Canada and applying to work, study or stay temporarily in Canada, you do not need to give your biometrics. Learn more about the exemption.

If you have a valid work permit

Change your status to visitor

Extend your stay in Canada as a visitor if you’re no longer working

Change jobs or employers

Get permission to work while we process your employer-specific work permit

What to do if you don’t have a new LMIA or CAQ yet

Documents to include in your application if you’re waiting for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ)

If you don’t have a valid work permit

Visitors who need work permits

Temporary process for visitors to apply online for a work permit (includes former workers who changed status in the last 12 months)

Workers whose status as worker has expired

Restore your status and get permission to work while we process your application to work for the same employer

Use your letter of introduction

Request your work permit without leaving Canada (for visitors who followed the instructions to apply from outside Canada)

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