Last Updated on May 1, 2020
Foreign nationals travelling to Canada must be doing so for ‘non-optional and non-discretionary’ reasons even if they are covered by exemptions to COVID-19 restrictions, the federal government says.
New guidance issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says those covered by exemptions to travel restrictions will not be allowed to travel ‘for the purposes of tourism, recreation and entertainment’.
The requirement also covers foreign nationals entering from the United States. Those travelling from the US do not need to be covered by an exemption but do need to be travelled for non-optional and non-discretionary reasons.
The guidance also includes a specific section for travel for family reunification purposes.
Examples of the types of optional and discretionary travel not allowed include:
- To visit family for a vacation.
- For the birth of a grandchild, nephew, niece, cousin, etc. (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 (vacation home, hunting or fishing lodge, etc.). This includes entry for upkeep or maintenance purposes.
- To attend the funeral of a family member (This purpose of travel would be improbable due to quarantine measures and limits to the number of attendees at funerals under provincial restrictions.)
Examples of non-optional and non-discretionary reasons offered by IRCC include travel for:
- 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 (such as bringing supplies to elderly parents or tending to sick family members) 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.
The guidance warns that family ties do not automatically qualify as non-optional or non-discretionary travel. “Family members will be required to show that they are not travelling for a discretionary or optional purpose such as a routine family visit,” the guidance says.
IRCC examples of non-discretionary or non-optional travel for family reunification include:
- To take up full-time residence in Canada (this applies to prospective permanent residents as well as temporary residents seeking entry to Canada to live with immediate family members).
- 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.
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14-Day Self-Quarantine Plan
IRCC also issued a reminder that, regardless of reason for travel or exemption, any traveller with COVID-19 symptoms will not be allowed to enter Canada.
Furthermore, anyone entering Canada from the US or any other country will be required to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days upon entry.
Travellers are also required to present a quarantine plan, with details of where they will stay, how they will get groceries and medication and whether they will be staying with vulnerable people.
“This information is pertinent to an officer’s decision as to whether travel is for a non-optional or non-discretionary purpose,” the guidance states.