Amateur athletes exempt from Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions

Mohanad Moetaz
Published: March 29, 2021

Canada is making it easier for high-performance amateur athletes to enter the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amateur athletes and accompanying support personnel, who are participating in international single-sport events, may be exempt from Canada’s imposed travel restrictions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In addition, they may not need to fulfil the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement.

To be eligible, foreign amateur athletes must be taking part in an international single sporting event and must be affiliated with a sports organization. For example, a weightlifter from the U.S. should be affiliated with USA Weightlifting. Foreign nationals who are carrying out an essential role as part of the event must also be affiliated with a sports organization.

In addition, both amateurs and support personnel will need a letter of authorization from the Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage. This letter will serve as proof that they are participating in the event. The national sports organization that is responsible for the sporting event should be the one to apply for the authorization letter, the government website says.

It is important to note that the letter of authorization alone is not enough to travel to Canada. Foreign nationals will need to obtain a temporary resident visa (TRV) or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) if they are required. Those who would normally need a visa to travel to Canada should apply for a TRV. Those who would not normally need a visa should obtain an eTA. Citizens of the U.S. do not need either.

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Travelling to Canada

Athletes and support personnel may be allowed into Canada as long as they meet the requirements for entry. For example, travellers who show COVID-19 symptoms may not be allowed to enter Canada, as well as those who are inadmissible due to a prior criminal record.

Travellers also need to be seeking entry to Canada for the purpose of attending the sporting event. If they are looking to enter Canada for other reasons, they may also be turned away at a port of entry.

Even if a traveller has their letter of authorization and TRV or eTA, they may still be turned away. An immigration officer at a port of entry makes the final decision on who gets to enter.

Expedited processing for sporting event participants

Receiving a letter from Canadian Heritage is not enough to travel to Canada, unless you are a citizen of the U.S.

Foreign nationals who need a TRV to travel to Canada will be told when they should apply for a visa. They will need authorization so that their visa processing is expedited.

Foreign nationals who need an eTA will also be told when they should apply. They will need to contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to request expedited processing of their application. They can do this by submitting a web form on the government's website.

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