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December 1, 2020

COVID-19 and the Holidays: What does it mean for me?

If you are the extended family member of a Canadian, you are admissible to Canada if you plan to stay for 15 days or more . . .

 

Whichever holiday you celebrate, or even if you’re just taking advantage of a few days off work, it’s that time of year: everyone seems to want to make travel plans. Which begs the question: am I even allowed to travel right now? Where? Under what conditions?
 
Here are a few things you should know.
 
 
Am I allowed to come to Canada from abroad?
 
If you’re a Canadian citizen (including a dual citizen) or a permanent resident of Canada, you are automatically admissible to Canada, wherever you are right now. This also applies to those registered under the Indian Act, and to protected persons. Otherwise, it’s worth taking a closer look at the specifics of your situation.
 
If you are the immediate family member of a Canadian (including a permanent resident or a person registered under the Indian Act), you are likewise admissible to Canada, if and only if you plan to stay for 15 days or more. If you plan to stay for a shorter period of time, you must prove that you will be travelling for a non-discretionary purpose. (Sadly, visiting family for the holidays is considered discretionary. If you were hoping to zip in and out within the space of a week, it might be time to re-evaluate.)
 
If you are the extended family member of a Canadian, you are admissible to Canada if you plan to stay for 15 days or more – as with an immediate family member – and you have written authorization from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). You will not be allowed into Canada without this written authorization. At Quadro Law, we are happy to help obtain this authorization on your behalf.
 
IRCC recently updated its definition of extended family members to include those in an exclusive dating relationship, if you have been in the relationship for at least one year and have met your partner in person at some point during your relationship. Other extended family members, as defined by IRCC, include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and adult children (over 22 years old). In contrast, a common-law partner is classified as an immediate family member. Two people are common-law partners if they have been living together for at least one year without breaks, in a marriage-like relationship.
 
Whether you are the immediate or the extended family member of a Canadian, you will require appropriate documentation to prove the existence of your relationship, as well as your family member’s status in Canada.
 
Certain other individuals are also currently admissible to Canada despite the pandemic. Discrete categories of others who are still admissible include temporary workers coming for a non-discretionary purpose, certain work permit-exempt workers, and some international students. The ins and outs of these categories tend to be nuanced, so please let us know if you need any help navigating the system.
 
Okay, so I’m allowed in. What does am an acceptable quarantine look like?
 
If you plan to come to Canada from abroad, you will generally be required to self-isolate and to monitor for symptoms for 14 days. This requires advance planning, as you must submit a plan through the Government of Canada’s ArriveCAN app before travelling to Canada. (ArriveCAN is also available in website format if the app isn’t accessible to you.)
 
Here are a few details you should have ready when submitting your plan through ArriveCAN:
1. Your contact information and travel document details.
2. Your travel details, including date of arrival, flight number, and airline (or your port of entry, if you don’t plan to travel by air).
3. Where you will be spending your quarantine period (exact address).
4. Whether you will be able to have food, medication, and other necessities delivered to you at this address while in quarantine. It is important that you avoid coming into contact with the general public during this 14-day period.
5. Any symptoms you have been experiencing.
 
Are you travelling to Alberta directly from another country through Calgary International Airport or the Coutts land border crossing? In partnership with the Government of Canada, the Alberta COVID-19 Border Testing Pilot Program still requires you to submit a full quarantine plan through ArriveCAN. However, you may be eligible to quarantine for fewer than 14 days if you undergo a COVID-19 test immediately upon arrival in Canada. You must quarantine until you have received your test results. If your results come back negative and you plan to remain in Alberta for at least 14 days after coming from abroad, you will not be required to quarantine. However, you must still follow all required preventative measures, including completing daily check-ins (online or by phone) and a second test on either your sixth or your seventh day after arrival. See the International Border Testing Pilot Program website for more information.
 
Can I get around the quarantine requirement?
 
In select circumstances – for example, if you will be providing an essential service in Canada, or for compassionate reasons (including supporting a critically ill loved one or attending a funeral) – you may be able to forego the 14-day quarantine requirement.
 
However, the general rule is that you are required to quarantine even if you show no symptoms of COVID-19 and have not recently been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for the disease. It is also worth noting that, if you have previously recovered from COVID-19, you must still quarantine, due to the potential risk of reinfection.
 
If you were hoping to dodge the quarantine requirement without fitting into one of the officially exempt categories, the consequences probably aren’t worth it. Possible penalties include a fine of up to $750,000, up to 6 months of jail time, and being found inadmissible to Canada for a period of one year (including forced removal). That’s one way to put a damper on the holidays.
 
What about interprovincial travel?
 
As each province and territory is continually updating its travel guidelines to respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation, we recommend checking the most recent provincial/territorial policy.
 
In B.C., for example, the official guidelines currently direct that nonessential interprovincial travel is inadvisable, but not absolutely prohibited.
 
“Travelling home to see my family for the holidays is obviously essential. Right?” Wrong. Just as with coming from outside of Canada, travelling between provinces or territories to visit family counts as discretionary travel. It might be up to you to make this call, and to evaluate the risks and rewards of holiday travel. Of course, before travelling, check back with the appropriate provinces/territories for the latest updates.
 
Maybe the travel restrictions provide a good opportunity to start some new traditions this season. Bond over copious amounts of home-cooked food with your roommates or coworkers. Check out the local ski and snowboard slopes (trust us, there are plenty of hidden gems out there). It could be worse.
 
Before you go…
 
One final piece of advice: check with your airline before boarding a flight to Canada this holiday season. While the Government of Canada requires you to submit your quarantine plan before travelling and to have certain other documents to enter the country, many airlines are imposing additional restrictions. This is an extra precautionary measure to cover their own bases, so that they can avoid transporting anyone who may later turn out to be inadmissible. Be prepared and reach out to your airline beforehand to see what documents you will require.
 
Questions?
 
As always, we’re here to help at Quadro Law. If you’re at all in doubt, schedule a (virtual) consultation with us.

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