Canada explains which workers can enter country

Kareem El-Assal
Published: June 19, 2020

In a new release today, Canada has provided more information on how exempt workers can enter the country while coronavirus travel restrictions remain in place.

Since March 18, Canada has had the restrictions in place to contain the spread of COVID-19. The current travel restrictions expire on June 30th (although restrictions on cross-border travel between Canada and the U.S. are in place until July 21).

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

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

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Temporary workers exempt from travel restrictions

IRCC notes there are two circumstances in which a temporary foreign worker (TFW) outside of Canada is able to enter the country if they are travelling for non-optional reasons:

  • Foreign nationals who hold a valid Canadian work permit.
  • Foreign nationals who received a letter of introduction from IRCC on a work permit application but whose work permit is yet to be issued. Such individuals should present a copy of the letter of introduction to their air carrier before boarding their flight to Canada.

Critical occupations are prioritized

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

Such individuals are not subject to travel restrictions and may not be subject to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period currently in place for most people entering Canada.

Critical occupations include:

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

Scenarios of non-optional travel (you can come to Canada)

IRCC offers three examples in which a foreign national would be exempt from the travel restrictions and permitted to enter Canada:

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

Scenarios of optional travel (you cannot come to Canada)

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

  • Scenario 1: Despite having a letter of introduction for an open work permit, the foreign national wants to come to Canada to find a job.
  • Scenario 2: Despite having a letter of introduction for an employer-specific work permit, the employer is currently closed due to COVID-19.

Discretionary situations

There remain instances where Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) officers will make discretionary decisions based on a foreign national’s specific situation.

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

Only some IEC work permit holders can enter Canada

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

IRCC is still processing new work permit applications

Foreign nationals and employers in Canada can continue to submit work permit applications during this time. IRCC continues to process new applications.

IRCC advises foreign nationals to ensure that the employer is currently allowed to operate based on the rules set out by the provincial government that presides over the employer’s location. IRCC also stresses the importance of adhering to the other advice outlined on its website before booking travel to the country (e.g., ensuring you present your a copy of your letter of introduction to airlines when boarding your flight to Canada).

Get help with Canadian work permits and TRVs

Need assistance with a temporary visa application process? Contact

© 2020 CIC News All Rights Reserved

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