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How To Travel To Canada From The U.S For Immigration During The Pandemic

U.S. citizens and foreign nationals living in the United States have options to travel to Canada even during the COVID-19 pandemic for immigration purposes.

Canada is still processing temporary and permanent immigration applications. For U.S. nationals, and temporary visa holders, this means it is still possible to travel to Canada to work, or reunite with family.

Rules for travelling to Canada from the United States are not as strict as other countries, but, U.S. travelers must proof that they are coming to Canada for essential reasons.

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) itemize the following as some examples of what could be considered essential travels:

  • work and study;
  • critical infrastructure supports, which includes services that are important to the health, safety, and security of Canadians and the Country;
  • economic services and supply chain; and
  • purposes of family reunion, though a family visit may not be considered essential.

Currently, the Canada-U.S. travel restrictions are now in place until May 21, although the Globe and Mail is reporting restrictions could be stretched further until June 21.

Despite Canada’s rules, at the end of the day, the officers at Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) determine whether or not the reason travelers give for coming to Canada is considered “essential.” CBSA has its own set of requirements for assessing whether or not travelers may be admitted into Canada.

On the immigration front, U.S. citizens benefit from a couple of initiatives that have been fast-tracking the work permit process since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

General Instructions For Crossing The Border

If your trip is essential, some of the following tips might help make the process much easier for you and the CBSA officer:

Don’t attempt entry if you are symptomatic.

You will be turned away. You are advised to stay home and get better.

Ensure your application is well documented.

For workers, demonstrate clearly that you have a job waiting for you in Canada and that your job is an essential service. It is crucial also to make it clear that your entry is non-optional and non-discretionary. For instance, if your duties can be performed remotely, it might be considered “optional” to come to Canada for work.

For family, have documented evidence of your relationship with the immediate family member, their status in Canada, and the reason you must cross the border to see them. The reason should be related to reuniting permanently or to care for a family member who cannot otherwise get care in Canada.

You must have a detailed plan as to how you will quarantine yourself for two weeks.

Ensure you have a reliable strong plan for isolating yourself upon entry to Canada, or demonstrate that you are exempt. If you cannot sufficiently prove that you will be able to self-isolate for two (2) weeks, away from vulnerable people, and with access to the necessities of life, you will have to self-isolate in a government-approved facility.

Call CBSA ahead of time.

In some cases, it may be favorable to call the border crossing in good time and ask in advance if they will be willing to process your work permit, though a positive answer over the phone does not assure entry, but will be granted once you arrive. Contact details for border crossings can be found on the CBSA website.