COVID-19: An Update on Work Permit Holders Entering Canada
As of March 18, Canada has placed restrictions in traveling to diminish the spread of COVID-19. The current restrictions are to expire on June 30, with an exception on the travel between cross-border Canada and the U.S, which is in place till July 21 until today.
Work permit holders are exempted from the travel restrictions if they are traveling for essential reasons or if their travel is acknowledged as non-optional or non-discretionary. In order to provide a clearer picture, IRCC as provided further guidance on the subject about essential travel, workers exempted from travel restrictions.
Temporary Workers exempted from Travel Restrictions
Foreign nationals outside Canada are exempted from travel restrictions if their travel is for essential reasons – a non-optional or non-discretionary purpose:
- Foreign nationals with a valid Canadian work permit (also includes open work permit)
- Foreign nationals who have received positive response – a letter of introduction from IRCC on a work permit application but whose work permit has not been issued yet. In such case, this copy of the letter of introduction must be presented to the air carrier.
IRCC notes that work permit applications overseas and in Canada should be prioritized if the occupations are in health, safety and food security reasons. They are exempted from the travel restrictions and may not be subjected to mandatory 14-day quarantine period if described in the Order in Council. This includes:
- Providers of emergency services, working for the protection or preservation of life or property – example: Firefighters and Medical Service Providers
- Foreign nationals qualifying for LMIA-exempt work permit, if the work is associated with protection or preservation of life or property, for COVID-19 response and maintenance of critical infrastructure or services.
- Students coming to Canada in health field, as a medical elective or clinical clerk, for the purpose of training with a written approval from the regulating body
- Workers in the marine transport, responsible for movement of goods by vessel
- Workers in delivering, maintaining, or repairing medically necessary equipment or devices
- Workers in medical deliveries of cells, blood and blood products, tissues, organs or other body parts that are required for patient care in Canada during or within a reasonable period of time
Example scenarios – Non-optional or Non-Discretionary Travel
Following travel scenarios are for foreign nationals, with a valid work permit or have received a letter of introduction from IRCC on their work permit application.
- A foreign national with a valid work permit who ordinarily resides in Canada. Even if the foreign national does not have a job in Canada, but since their primary residence is in Canada, this is suggested as non-optional travel.
- A foreign national with a letter of introduction for open work permit, along with a valid job offer, can work once they enter Canada.
- A foreign national with a letter of introduction for an employer-specific work permit, along with a valid job offer, can work once they enter Canada.
Example Scenarios – Optional or discretionary travel
Following travel scenarios define an optional or discretionary travel for foreign nationals with a valid work permit or letter of introduction from IRCC.
- A foreign national with a letter of introduction for an employer-specific work permit, but the business has been closed by the employer due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- A foreign national with a letter of introduction for an open work permit but has not found a job yet and is planning to search for work opportunities.
There are other context-specific scenarios, where the accompanying family members of the work permit holders may be able to enter Canada, in case where the family members ordinarily reside in Canada. Border Service Officers will be however, examine the motivations for travel of the dependents and make discretionary decisions based on the situation, including current ties to Canada, such as whether they will be working in essential industry or coming to take care of their children.
International Experience Canada (IEC)
International Experience Canada (IEC) applicants of the work permit and who has already received the letter of introduction but are outside Canada, may be allowed to enter only if they have a valid offer of employment and the business is still operating during COVID-19, effective since May 8, 2020 until further notice. The applicant should however meet the admissibility requirements under the legislation.
Processing of Work Permit applications
IRCC has been processing applications and applicants outside Canada can continue to submit their work permit applications. Outside Canada applicants are suggested to apply online. In order to be on the travel exemption, the foreign national must adhere to the requirements of having a letter of introduction, when traveling by air and have a valid employment offer in the essential occupation and the business must be operating.
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