Prohibition of Entry for Individuals Travelling to Canada by Air and Marine (Other than from the U.S.)

Date: August 5, 2020
Classification: Unclassified
Fully releasable (ATIP)? Yes
Branch / Agency: SPB/CBSA

Proposed Response:


On March 13, 2020, the Government of Canada issued an official global travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel abroad. In an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19, many governments implemented special entry and exit and movement restrictions for their territories. As a result, the Government of Canada advised Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.
To further complement these measures, Transport Canada implemented new measures pertaining to cruise ships in Canadian waters. Cruise ships with overnight accommodations allowed to carry more than 100 persons are prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until October 31, 2020. As of July 1, 2020, all other passenger vessels must follow provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority requirements for timelines and processes to resume operations. Passenger vessels with the capacity to carry more than 12 persons continue to be prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters (including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador Coast) until October 31, 2020.

Restrictions for Individuals Travelling to Canada by Air and Marine

On March 22, an order came into force restricting travel of foreign nationals to Canada by air and marine from any country other than the U.S. This restriction does not apply to a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act, nor a protected person as defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Specified exemptions exist for persons seeking entry for purposes that are not optional or discretionary. Despite these exemptions, persons that exhibit signs and symptoms of a fever and cough or a fever and breathing difficulties, are prohibited from boarding a flight, and entry to, Canada.


Provided a person is not symptomatic and not travelling for an optional or discretionary purpose, exemptions to the prohibition of entry for individuals travelling to Canada by air and marine from destinations other than the U.S. include:

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:

  1. he spouse or common-law partner of the person;
  2. a dependent child of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;
  3. a dependent child of a dependent child referred to in paragraph (b);
  4. the parent or step-parent of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner; or
  5. the guardian or tutor of the person.

However, a foreign national simply meeting the definition of “immediate family” does not guarantee their eligibility to enter Canada. The individual travelling for a non-discretionary (essential) purpose may still enter Canada.  But, foreign nationals can be exempt from the requirement to enter for an essential 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 15 days, and who agrees to comply with all the requirements to quarantine detailed in the Order pertaining to mandatory isolation.

International-to-International (ITI) Transit

ITI transit is allowed with some restrictions including remaining airside, not formally entering into Canada, and arriving and departing from the same Canadian airport within 24 hours. Should one of these ITI travellers have to enter into Canada through no fault of their own (e.g., onward border closures or flight cancellations), the Minister of Foreign Affairs has issued a letter of national interest to enable their temporary admission provided that they immediately self-isolate while waiting for their onward flight and report any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 to the Public Health Agency of Canada. These travellers are bound by the same rules as any other person entering Canada, except that their self-isolation order can be for a short duration and end when they leave Canada, provided they are asymptomatic.

This approach promotes the Government’s positive bilateral relations around the world and promotes enhanced cooperation during this crisis through  reciprocal boarding on government supported repatriation flights to help Canadians come home, and foreign nationals return to their home country 

Notwithstanding the exemptions, all foreign nationals are prohibited from entering if they display  a fever and cough, or a fever and breathing difficulties.

In regards to the Canada-U.S. border, both governments agreed to temporarily restrict discretionary or non-essential travel across the border on March 18, 2020. An order came into effect on March 22, 2020, which was renewed on April 22, 2020 and on May 22, 2020,
June 19, 2020, and again on July 20 (until August 21, 2020); as a result, travellers continue to not be permitted to cross the border from the U.S. to Canada for tourism, recreation and entertainment. The two governments also agreed that non-discretionary or essential travel will continue, and recognized that it is critical to preserve supply chains between both countries. These supply chains ensure that food, fuel, and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border.

Approved by: Kathy Thompson, Vice-President, Strategic Policy Branch, [Redacted]

Date modified: