This blog was prepared with the assistance of summer student Kali Stahl.
On June 8, the Canada Border Services Agency ("CBSA") announced changes to travel restrictions for foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.
The announcement recognized the challenges that the temporary border measures put in place by two orders-in-council had created for some families.
Update: Effective October 8, the CBSA is allowing cross-border family reunifications and entry into Canada on compassionate grounds. The broadened rules include exceptions for certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, including grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and adult children, and couples in an exclusive dating relationship for at least a year and their dependent children. Under the new rules, qualifying individuals do not need an essential reason to enter Canada as long as they meet existing eligibility requirements and have proper documentation, and the duration of their stay exceeds 15 days.
Prior to this announcement, the effects of the orders-in-council were to restrict travelling to Canada for an optional or discretionary purpose. The CBSA applied a broad interpretation to what was optional or discretionary in some cases to include travel for the birth of a child, for a compassionate visit to an ill family member and for attending a funeral. This created hurdles for families attempting to reunite.
The orders-in-council remain in place but the announcement carves out an exemption for immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. The exemption applies to immediate family members travelling to Canada from the U.S. and from non-U.S. countries.
For the purposes of this exemption, an immediate family member is a person's:
- spouse or common-law partner;
- dependent child, as defined in section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, or a dependent child of the person's spouse or common-law partner;
- dependent child, as defined in section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, of a dependent child;
- parent or step-parent or the parent or step-parent of the person's spouse or common-law partner;
- guardian or tutor.
All persons entering Canada must quarantine for 14 days. Immediate family members entering Canada pursuant to this exemption must confirm that they have a suitable place to quarantine for 14 days where they will not have contact with vulnerable people, unless the vulnerable person is a consenting adult or the parent or minor in a parent-minor relationship.
The exemption only applies to travel to Canada for a period of at least 15 days or more. The exemption does not apply for shorter visits or day trips.
Foreign nationals who have COVID-19, exhibit any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or have reason to believe they have COVID-19 continue to be prohibited from entering Canada.
Travel restrictions during COVID-19 can be difficult to interpret and inconsistent application of the rules is common. Individuals planning to travel to Canada during the pandemic should obtain a full review and opinion to ensure rules are correctly applied to their application for entry. MLT Aikins has significant experience advising clients on immigration law matters and would be pleased to discuss the implications of this exemption.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.