Canada Allows Entry to Foreign Workers & International Students

Published on: March 19th, 2020

Ottawa has confirmed that it will continue to allow foreign workers and international students to enter the country. Canada recently banned all international travelers and closed its borders to non-essential travel from the US in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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On Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair officially announced that Canada would be keeping its borders open for foreign workers and international students. This will apply to any foreign worker who currently has a visa. It is expected that all workers and students entering the country will respect the rule to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Spring is the time of year that many foreign workers flock to Canada, primarily from Mexico and the Caribbean. Quebec agriculture alone employs more than 16,000 foreign workers annually. Across the country, there are more than 140,000 foreign workers supporting Canada’s economy. 

Agriculture workers have been growing increasingly concerned as borders begin to shut down. Without the supply of foreign workers, many worried the entire season would be compromised. Recognizing the critical role of foreign workers in the agricultural sector, the federal government made the decision to continue to allow them to enter the country.

Important update

Exemptions for air travel to Canada will apply to all foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying, or moving to Canada permanently, and their entry will be considered essential travel, permitting them to cross land borders as well. 

The IRCC has released a list of exemptions related to the travel bans. Those who fall under the following categories may still be granted entry to Canada:

  • 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
  • Permanent resident 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

as well as:

  • Those who have only been in Canada or the United States in the last 14 days
  • Immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents
  • Anyone who identifies as an Indian under the Indian Act
  • Anyone with authorization in writing from a consular officer of the Canadian government to enter Canada for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members
  • A crew member, as defined by the Canadian Aviation Regulations
  • Anyone who is exempt from obtaining a temporary visa under paragraph 190(2)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations and their immediate family members
  • Anyone who has been invited by the Minister of Health to provide assistance for the COVID-19 disease response
  • Anyone who arrives by an aircraft operated by the Canadian Forces or the Department of National Defence
  • Any member of the Canadian Forces or a visiting force as defined in section 2 of the Visiting Forces Act and their immediate family members
  • Anyone who is a protected person within the meaning of subsection 95(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
  • A French citizen who resides in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and has been only in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, the United States or Canada during the period of 14 days before the day on which they arrived in Canada
  • Anyone who, in the opinion of Chief Public Health Officer appointed under subsection 6‍(1) of the Public Health Agency of Canada Act does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health, or will provide an essential service while in Canada
  • Anyone whose presence in Canada, in the opinion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration or the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is in the national interest
  • Anyone who arrives by air, if the scheduled arrival in Canada according to the flight plan is before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on March 18, 2020

Additional processing changes:

  • The two-week processing time for Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) for  agriculture and food processing employees has been waived for the next 6 months
  • Workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program are now able to work for employers for two years instead of one
  • All individuals entering from abroad must isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada

The IRCC has stated that those affected by these exemptions should not try to travel to Canada immediately. They will announce when the exemptions are officially in place.

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