As the coronavirus continues to affect populations around the world, the government of Canada has put in place measures to reduce the spread of the virus within the country. To this end, travel restrictions have been enacted in order to limit the influx of foreign nationals entering Canada.
Despite the importance of tightly controlling who enters Canada during this pandemic, there are several exemptions to the travel restrictions imposed by the federal government. The nature of these exemptions pertains to travel deemed essential to the Canadian economy, as well as to certain family members of Canadian permanent residents and citizens.
The family members exempt fall under the federal government’s expanded definition of “immediate family” to include spouses or common-law partners, dependent children, dependent children of dependent children, parents or step-parents, and guardians or tutors.
This means that despite the travel restrictions, these individuals are permitted to come to Canada. However, even though they are allowed to enter the country, they must still have the proper authorization to do so in terms of visas or permits.
This point was lost among certain Canadians and caused some confusion. Based on the reading of the order issuing the restrictions and setting out the exemptions, many individuals believed that there would now be a facilitated manner through which immediate family members may enter Canada to be with their loved ones.
The logic behind this is that immigration authorities recognized the gravity of the pandemic situation and thought it appropriate to allow immediate family members to be together during this crisis. Based on this, some are now under the impression that foreign nationals who were inadmissible to Canada, or who previously have had difficulty procuring a temporary visa or had been refused, would now be permitted to enter.
This is unfortunately not the case. The exemptions to the travel restrictions do not confer any additional rights of entry upon the individuals subject to the exemption.
As it concerns individuals who have been denied temporary visas the same motives of refusal still apply. So any foreign national who has weak ties to his or her home country, or has had immigration issues in the past with respect to Canada or another country, may still be denied on the basis that the applicant will not leave Canada at the end of their stay. For such individuals, it is important to address these elements in the proper way, so as to alleviate concerns that could lead an immigration officer to refuse an application.
As to individuals who have criminal convictions in the past, there has been no easing with respect to the rules pertaining to inadmissibility. If less than five years have passed since the completion of the sentence a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) application must be submitted and approved prior to coming to Canada. If more than five years have passed the individual is eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation, which is still the application that must be pursued in order to resolve the inadmissibility permanently. The same criteria that were taken into account for these applications before the pandemic are taken into account now. There has been no change in this respect and the same elements are considered in the assessment of these applications.
Even in situations where the individual has only one non-serious conviction and over 10 years have passed, rendering them eligible for deemed rehabilitation, there can be issues with inadmissibility. A legal opinion letter explaining the situation is still recommended in such scenarios in order to avoid an issue. The same confusion as to inadmissibility can arise and the situation should be clarified in the same manner.
Stephen Sherman is a Canadian immigration attorney with the Campbell, Cohen Immigration Law Firm in Montreal. He specializes in assisting foreign nationals to work legally in Canada and resolving issues relating to criminal inadmissibility to Canada.