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Travel restrictions amid COVID-19: Exemptions for specific groups, foreign nationals
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Travel restrictions amid COVID-19: Exemptions for specific groups, foreign nationals

Foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home have been exempted from the travel restrictions put in place by the Canadian government to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had earlier announced that Canada would close its borders to international travels with the exception of Canadian citizens and residents and a few others. However, the government has now issued an update, allowing specific groups to travel to Canada despite the restrictions.

The exemptions include seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers; international students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020; and
applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 16, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada. The travel by these individuals will be considered essential travel for land border restrictions.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco Mendicino says that allowing foreign workers to enter Canada recognizes their vital importance to the Canadian economy, including food security for Canadians and the success of Canadian food producers. “Our government will continue to take the measures necessary to protect the health and safety of Canadians, including putting in place social distancing, isolation and travel restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Today’s announcement will ensure both a robust response to addressing the spread of the virus, and that our farmers, fishers and other producers have the workers they need, when they need them, to strengthen Canada’s food security and provide other vital services,” says Mendicino.

A temporary modification has also been made to the Labour Market Impact Assessment process for agriculture and food processing employers, as the required two-week recruitment period will be waived for the next six months. Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough says, “Temporary foreign workers are important for sectors with critical labour needs – notably agriculture. These exemptions will provide the short-term workforce support necessary to maintain our high-standard levels of trade, commerce, and food security.”

In addition, the maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been increased from one to two years. Officials say that this will improve flexibility and reduce the administrative burden for employers.

These exemptions follow others that were announced earlier for, 

  • foreign nationals travelling at the invitation of the Canadian government for a purpose related to the containment of COVID-19
  • close family members of Canadian citizens
  • close family members of Canadian permanent residents
  • a person who is authorized, in writing, by a consular officer of the Government of Canada to enter Canada for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members
  • a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act
  • accredited diplomats and family members (including NATO, those under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement, other organizations)
  • aircrews
  • any foreign national, or group of foreign nationals, whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Minister of Public Safety
  • members of the Canadian military, visiting forces and their family members
  • transiting passengers

Strict measures will continue to be followed to contain the spread of COVID-19. In addition to health screening protocols before travel, all individuals entering from abroad must isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada. Those affected by the exemptions are advised not to try to travel to Canada immediately, as the government is set to announce when the exemptions will be in place, hopefully soon.

For the latest COVID-19 updates, please visit the Government of Canada website.

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