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Covid-19 Travel Rules for Temporary Residents

Effective March 18, 2020, the Canadian government is denying entry to almost all travelers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. There are some exceptions to the travel restrictions for ‘essential travel’. Additionally, the government has now clarified that foreign nationals who have one of the following are exempt:

  1. A valid Work Permit;

  2. A Study Permit;

  3. Written notice of approval for a Work Permit (but who have not yet been issued the Work Permit);

  4. Written notice of approval for a Study Permit before 12 pm EDT on March 18, 2020 (but who have not yet been issued the Study Permit).

Foreign nationals permitted to work in Canada as students in a health field and those who seek to enter Canada for the purpose of delivering, maintaining or repairing medically-necessary equipment or devices are also exempt. As are those foreign nationals whose application for permanent residence was approved, and who received written notice of the approval before 12 pm EDT on March 18, 2020, but who have not yet become permanent residents.

Before Travel

Prior to travel, all travelers should avoid spending time in crowded areas, avoid contact with sick people, follow local public health advice and monitor their health.

Like many countries, Canada is experiencing labour market challenges as a result of the pandemic. Many businesses are closed or are operating on a limited basis. We therefore recommend that Canadian employers coordinate closely with their Temporary Foreign Workers to confirm that they continue to operate and that the position is still available. For those with an Open Work Permit, it may be difficult to secure a job.

Travel Protocol

If travelling by air, please self-identify to airline staff when boarding and indicate that you are exempt from the current travel restrictions by presenting a valid Work Permit; Study Permit; or Port of Entry (POE) introduction and approval letter (for a Work or Study Permit).

Temporary Residents must pass a health check before boarding their flight. No one with symptoms of Covid-19 will be permitted to travel to Canada. Upon arrival in Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency (‘CBSA’) will also assess the Temporary Resident’s health. Under the Quarantine Act, anyone who develops symptoms during the flight to Canada must tell CBSA upon arrival. Similarly, if you do not have symptoms but believe you were exposed to COVID-19, you must report to CBSA.

The Quarantine Act requires that almost all international travellers isolate for 14 days immediately upon arrival in Canada. In isolation, one is not able to leave the place they are staying for any purpose including buying groceries or obtaining basic services. Temporary Residents should be prepared to present a plan as to how they will self-isolate for 14 days. They must also explain how they will obtain medical care should they become sick. Without a viable plan and health insurance, please delay travel.

After Arrival

Temporary Residents must adhere to all public health measures in place in Canada to limit the spread of the virus. Isolation is mandatory. Even if you have no symptoms you must isolate for 14 consecutive days. There are significant penalties for those who do not.

In closing, I note that Temporary Foreign Workers who are laid off or must take sick leave while working in Canada may be eligible to receive employment insurance or other emergency support benefits from the Federal government.


Government immigration policies and practices are rapidly evolving in the Covid-19 environment. For instance, we have recently confirmed that the Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) will not be denied to students because their in-class courses have been moved to an online-only format because of Covid19. We therefore encourage clients to check the information page of regularly and contact our office should they have questions.

This update has been compiled with the latest available information for the general information of Border Law clients and other interested parties. This Update is not comprehensive and should not be relied upon without appropriate legal advice.


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