Exception from Prohibition on Entry for Immediate Family Members
Date: August 5, 2020
Fully releasable (ATIP)? Yes
Branch / Agency: SPB/CBSA
- Immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents are exempt from the prohibition on entry provided that they meet the requirements of the Orders in Council.
- This applies to foreign nationals seeking entry from the United States, as well as from any other country.
- To qualify for the exemption, foreign nationals must establish, at the time of entry, that:
- their purpose for coming to Canada is to be with an immediate family member who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident; and
- they intend to remain in Canada for a period of at least fifteen (15) days.
- They must continue to meet all other requirements outlined in the applicable Orders in Council and in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations.
- Foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada to be with an immediate family member must abide by all public health requirements related to COVID-19, including the requirement to self-quarantine for 14 days.
- Any immediate family members who were previously prohibited from entering Canada because their travel was deemed to be optional or discretionary are now eligible to seek entry.
- Each situation is decided case-by-case, based on the information available to Border Services Officers at the time that a person seeks entry to Canada and in accordance with all applicable immigration laws.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an outbreak of what is now known as COVID-19 to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on January 30, 2020, and a pandemic on
- March 11, 2020. COVID-19 has demonstrated the potential to cause widespread illness if not properly contained. Global efforts are focused on containment of the outbreak and the prevention of further spread. To date, Canada has managed to slow the spread of the virus by introducing a range of measures, including restrictions on travel across Canada’s international borders. Failing to contain the outbreak may lead to widespread disease in Canada, increasing negative health impacts and potentially overwhelming the health system. If border restrictions were to be fully lifted at this time, it would be highly likely that Canada would experience a resurgence of travel-related infections.
- In recognition of the importance of family reunification, however, new Orders in Council have been introduced that contain – along with certain minor technical amendments – provisions that allow for foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to seek entry to Canada for the purpose of being with their family members.
New OIC 20: 20200549 (replacing OIC 17 : 2020-0524 Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States) – In force until August 31, 2020.
In order for a foreign national to enter Canada from a country other than the U.S.:
- they must not have COVID-19 or exhibit signs and symptoms of COVID-19 [section 2]; and
- their travel must not be optional or discretionary [section 3(3)], unless they meet the immediate family members exception detailed below [section 3(4)]; and
- they qualify for one (1) of the twenty four (24) exemptions outlined in the order [section 3(1)].
New OIC 19: 2020-0538 (replacing OIC 16: 2020-0469 Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States) – In force until August 21, 2020.
In order for a U.S citizen or other foreign national to enter Canada from the U.S.:
- they must not have COVID-19 and must not exhibit signs of symptoms of COVID-19 [section 2]; and
- their entry must not be for a purpose that is optional or discretionary (non-essential) [section 3(1)], unless they meet the immediate family member exception detailed below [section 3(2)]; and
- they must be able to comply with the requirement to quarantine based on their purpose of travel and intended length of stay [section 4(1)].
In order for a foreign national to be allowed to enter Canada, the standard for entry must be met in full. In addition to meeting the standard of entry under the applicable Order in Council, the requirements under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) must also be satisfied.
Immediate Family Members
For the purposes of the border restrictions, the definition of immediate family member has been aligned between Orders in Council and is as follows:
- the spouse or common-law partner of the person;
- a dependent child of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;
- a dependent child of a dependent child referred to in paragraph (b);
- the parent or step-parent of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner; or
- the guardian or tutor of the person.
Guardians and tutors are individuals who are responsible for caring for a foreign national minor who is living apart from a parent for an extended period of time (i.e. to attend a secondary school in Canada).
Foreign nationals who meet the definition of an “immediate family member” may seek to enter Canada for a discretionary purpose if they can establish: their intent to enter Canada to be with an immediate family member who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident; their intent to remain in Canada for more than fifteen (15) days; and if they agree to comply with all the requirements to quarantine detailed in the Order pertaining to mandatory isolation. Foreign nationals who seek to enter Canada for fewer than fifteen days may still enter if the purpose of their travel is considered non-optional, or non-discretionary.
Other updates to Orders in Council
A minor technical amendment was included in the newest Order restricting entry from countries other than the U.S. to add “groups of persons” to the National Interest Exemption provision, in line with other previously issued Orders. The Orders maintains previous updates including a provision confirming that conveyances have the right to pass through Canadian waters or air space in accordance with Canada’s obligations under international conventions. The Orders maintain that travellers transiting to another country who land in Canada and remain in a contained area of the airport (sterile transit area) while in transit to their final destination are not prohibited from entering. Accredited diplomats, consular officers or other officials and their immediate family members entering Canada for the purposes of their posting continue to be exempt from the prohibition on entry.
Prepared by: Edward Ludwig, Manager, Strategic Policy Branch, 613-948-3436 / [Redacted]
Approved by: Kathy Thompson, Vice-President, Strategic Policy Branch, 613-941-4937 / [Redacted]
- Date modified: