In a new announcement, Canada has provided more clarifications on how exempt workers can enter the country while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place.

Since March 18, Canada has had the restrictions in place to curb the spread of coronavirus. The current travel restrictions expires on June 30th (although restrictions on cross-border travels between Canada and the United States are in place until July 21).

Work permit holders are among those exempted from the travel restrictions so long as their coming to Canada is for essential purposes (essential travel is defined as non-discretionary and non-optional).

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced this guidance to provide more explanations to its staff and work permit holder about what constitutes essential travel.

Temporary foreign workers exempt from travel restrictions

Canada’s immigration department notes there are two circumstances in which temporary foreign workers (TFWs) outside of Canada can be allowed to enter the country if they are travelling for non-optional reasons:

  • Foreign workers who hold a valid Canadian work permit.
  • Foreign workers who obtained a letter of introduction from IRCC on a work permit application but whose work permit is yet to be granted. Such candidates should present a copy of the letter of introduction to their air carrier before getting on their flight to Canada.

Critical Occupations Are Prioritized

IRCC officers will continue to prioritize work permits of temporary foreign workers seeking entry to the country to work in occupations critical for health, safety, and food security reasons.

Such persons are not subject to travel restrictions and may not be subject to the mandatory fourteen (14)-day quarantine period presently in place for most people entering Canada.

Critical occupations include the following:

  • Providers of emergency services who work to protect lives and properties (e.g., medical and firefighters service workers)
  • Students who are travelling to Canada to train in health fields and have received written approval from the agency that regulates their field
  • Marine transportation workers
  • Workers who will deliver, maintain, or repair important medical facilities or equipment
  • Workers who will come to Canada to make medical deliveries of cells, blood and blood products, organs, tissues,  or other body parts required to care for patients

Scenarios Of Non-optional Travels (you can come to Canada)

IRCC offers three instances in which nationals of foreign countries would be exempted from the travel restrictions and allowed to enter Canada:

  • Scenario 1: A foreign citizens have a valid work permit and presently settled in Canada. Even if the person does not have a job in Canada, they can still enter the country since Canada is presently their primary residence.
  • Scenario 2: A foreign citizens have a letter of introduction for open work permits, has a valid job offer and will be allowed to work in that job upon entering Canada.
  • Scenario 3: Similarly, a foreign citizen has a letter of introduction for employer-specific work permits, with a valid job offer, which they will be allowed to pursue upon entering Canada.

Scenarios of optional travel (you cannot come to Canada)

The following two scenarios provided by IRCC are for individuals who cannot come to Canada since the travel will be defined as optional:

  • Scenario 1: Despite having a letter of introduction for open work permits, the foreign citizens wishes to come to Canada to find a job.
  • Scenario 2: Despite having a letter of introduction for employer-specific work permits, the employer is currently closed due to coronavirus crisis.

Discretionary situations

There remain occasions where the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) agents will make discretionary decisions based on a foreign citizen’s specific situation.

CBSA agents will consider factors such as the foreign citizen’s current ties to Canada, whether they will be working in an essential occupation and other motivations for travels to Canada such as whether foreign national will be arriving to care for their children.

Only some IEC work permit holders can be allowed into Canada

Since May 8, only International Experience Canada (IEC) individuals with a letter of introduction and a valid job offer with an employer presently operating may enter Canada. This applies to IEC work permit holder under the three IEC categories (Young Professionals; Working Holiday; and International Co-op).

IRCC Continues To Process New Applications

Foreign nationals and Canadian employers can continue to lodge work permit application during this time. IRCC continues to process new applications.

IRCC advises foreigner workers to ensure that the employer is presently permitted to operate based on the rules specified by the provincial government that presides over the employer’s location.

IRCC also reiterates the importance of complying to the other advice outlined on its website before booking travel to the country (e.g., ensuring you present a copy of your letter of introduction to airlines carriers when getting on your flight to Canada).

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