Coronavirus and Your Immigration Status

Last updated: March 1st, 2021 at 12:49 PM (EST)

The government of Canada is releasing COVID-19 updates and new information that may impact your Canadian immigration process, status and/or travel plans. Updates are constantly being released by the government weekly, daily and sometimes hourly. This web page will be used to summarize many of the recent updates, focusing within an immigration context. Our aim is to be as accurate and up to date as possible. Disclaimer: this page should not be used as legal advice. For official updates by the government, you may visit the following link:


Non-essential (discretionary/optional) travels such as tourism, recreation and entertainment between the Canada and countries outside of the USA is in place until April 21st. The same ban between Canada and the USA border is currently restricted until March 21st. Foreign nationals are prohibited from boarding an aircraft for a flight to Canada when the flight is departing from any country other than the United States, and the foreign national is not covered by any of the exemptions in the Orders.

  • Canadian citizens and permanent residents are exempt, as long as they do not show symptoms of COVID-19, if so, they may not be allowed to board their flight. They will, however, be able to enter Canada at a land border
  • immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are exempt, which includes their: spouse/common-law partner, dependent child; child of the aforementioned dependent child; parent or step-parent or of the spouse/common-law partner; and guardian or tutor

Additional exemptions to the travel ban:

  • workers: seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers
  • students: international students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on or before March 18th, 2020, if their DLI has an approved COVID-19 readiness plan
  • permanent residence applicants: permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on or before March 18th, 2020
  • air crews
  • transiting passengers
  • members of the Canadian military, visiting forces and their family members
  • any foreign national, or group of foreign nationals, whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Minister of Public Safety
  • accredited diplomats and family members (including NATO, those under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement, other organizations)
  • a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act
  • a person who is authorized, in writing, by a consular officer of the Government of Canada to enter Canada for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members (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
  • other activities at the discretion of the border services officer
  • an adult child of a Canadian citizen or PR residing in Canada (the immediate family member’s physical location is not a factor)
  • 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. Written authorization will be required
  • protected persons
  • transit passengers: 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
  • As of June 9th, foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens or PRs will be exempt from travel restrictions and allowed for non-essential travel to be with their family members if they do not show signs of COVID-19 and stay for at least 15 days
  • Foreign nationals who accompany a spouse who holds a work permit approval and are also exempt from the travel restrictions, may be allowed entry by a border officer
  • Extended family members, including: persons in a dating relationship for at least one year; non-dependent adult children; grandchildren; grandparents; and siblings.

Examples of travel for a non-optional or non-discretionary purpose:

  • economic services and supply chains
  • critical infrastructure support
  • health (immediate medical care), safety and security
  • supporting Indigenous communities
  • transiting through Canada for non-optional or non-discretionary purposes
  • studying in Canada if already approved for a study permit on or before March 18
  • tending to family matters for non-optional or non-discretionary purposes when there is no one else available in Canada to assist
  • any other activities that are deemed non-optional or non-discretionary by the Government of Canada or based on an officer’s assessment

Examples of discretionary or optional travel:

  • to visit family for a vacation
  • for the birth of a relative. (For the parent of a child, this may be considered non-discretionary travel; however, it will still require assessment.)
  • to spend time at a secondary residence. This includes entry for upkeep or maintenance purposes.
  • to attend the funeral of a family member

Examples of non-discretionary or non-optional travel for the purposes of family reunification:

  • to take up full-time residence in Canada
  • to care for an ill family member or a family member who is unable to care for themselves when no other arrangements can be made
  • for foreign national immediate family member(s) to spend the pandemic period with their Canadian citizen family member so they can help to ensure each other’s health, safety and well-being
  • shared custody agreement across borders, as this would be complying with a court order

Applications are generally still being accepted and processed with some exceptions. Be wary of potential delays in processing times. 

  • Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process for agriculture and food processing employers, as the required 2-week recruitment period will be waived for the next 6 months
  • LMIA’s validity will be extended from 6 months to 9 months
  • increasing the maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program from 1 to 2 years
  • if you are in Canada and applied for an extension of your status, rules of implied status have not changed
  • biometrics requests have extended deadlines of 90-days
  • all citizenship events such as oaths, tests, interviews and hearings are cancelled until further notice. Video conference interviews or hearings may be available
  • extra days spent outside of Canada due to the coronavirus cannot be counted towards citizenship
  • permanent resident landing interviews are cancelled until further notice. If you have already been scheduled to land, it will be conducted via telephone or email.
  • students will still eligible for a post-graduate work permit even if their classes have been switched to online attendance. Students may begin their classes while outside Canada and may complete up to 50% of their program while outside Canada if they cannot travel to Canada sooner due to COVID-19.
  • traveling to a port of entry border to make an application is not an essential service
  • IRCC will only be issuing new temporary resident visas or electronic travel authorizations to foreign nationals who can demonstrate that they 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
  • it may be advised to inform IRCC via WebForm if you are unable to gather documents or travel with your Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction, due to travel restrictions within your country
  • LMIAs will temporarily be accessable by email. Employers can also use the LMIA Online process in the meantime
  • the Parents and Grandparents (PGP) Program will be delayed until further notice
  • Canada will pause interviews for refugee claimants in person; or processing of refugee protection document renewals in person until further notice
  • as of May 15th, 2020, the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot is open and accepting applications
  • International Experience Class (IEC) rounds of invitations are currently paused. IEC participants are eligible to travel if they have a Port of Entry letter and valid job offer with an employer who is still operating
  • non-essential temporary resident visa applications are currently suspended, this also applies to some electronic travel authorizations (eTA). This pause is currently until June 9th Application pause is lifted and regular processsing of applications will resume
  • priority will be given to visa and eTA applications for foreign worker application with essential services, such as medical fields and food supply chains
  • all temporary resident applications submitted by persons outside of Canada must be submitted online
  • students who are already in Canada on a study permit may be eligible to work more than 20 hours per week if they are employed in an essential business
  • in-Canada email Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) landings may be available to certain applicants, i.e. Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
  • as of April 27th, IRCC client support center has reopened their call lines
  • a worker in Canada who has secured a new job offer, typically backed by a LMIA, can get approval to start working in their new job, even while their work permit application is being fully processed
  • applicants can apply for their PGWP without their letter of completion or final transcript. One should submit a letter of explanation indicating that they are unable to obtain documents due to school closures, and have these documents submitted through the Webform when available
  • permanent residents outside of Canada who need to apply for a travel document may now submit applications via email if their VAC is closed
  • virtual citizenship ceremonies are currently being conducted, more information to come
  • exemption of biometrics for essential workers overseas. Must be working in agriculture, agri-food, health care or trucking sectors
  • as of June 19, the Refugee Protection Division will resume in-person hearings
  • restoration applications may be accepted for those out of status after January 30th, 2020, if the application is submitted by December 31st, 2020
  • restoration applications may be eligbile to be submitted until December 31st, 2020, if you lost your status after January 30th, 2020
  • some asylum seekers may be eligble for PR if working within the healthcare unit
  • international students studying abroad may be eligble to study online until April 20th, with no time being deducted from the length of a PGWP.
  • biometrics for in-Canada applicants are slowly being continued. Applicants will be receiving phone calls from IRCC to book their appointments
  • Biometrics have been waived for in-Canada temporary residence applications and some PR applications

Upon entry to Canada, it will be mandatory to self-isolate within one residence for a minimum of 14-days to help limit the spread of a potential COVID-19 virus. All Canadians travelling by air or rail will be required to undergo a mandatory health check before boarding. All air passengers are required to have a non-medical mask or face covering to cover their mouth and nose during travel until their final destination. 

It may also be beneficial to plan how you will obtain food, medication and ensure you will self-isolate during the 14-day period. If you do not have an adequate place to quarantine (self-isolate), the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada will designate a facility where you must remain for 14 days.

Those who are traveling for non-essential reasons and returning to Canada may be subjected to a mandatory 3-day stay in a qurantine hotel. 

Exemptions to the quarantine rule:

  • healthy individuals that provide essential services to the movement of goods and people.  Examples include: truck drivers and crew on any plane, train or marine vessel crossing the border
  • healthy individuals who have to cross the border to study, go to work, including health care providers and critical infrastructure worker

To many, the world seems like a movie right now. In Canada, things are changing by the day with the corona virus outbreak. Borders are being closed with some Canadians and foreigners being trapped outside of the country. We discuss this outbreak and recent policies on BorderTalk with Toronto-based epidemiologist, Maria Qadri, and Calgary-based immigration and refugee policy research, Robert Falconer.

Is your immigration status being affected?

There are many different factors that can come into play when confirming whether or not your Canadian immigration status and/or travel plans will be disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. For specific legal advice, please complete our contact form so we can better assist you, and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

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