Canadian Spouse? Travel to Canada During COVID-19
By now, you are probably aware that Canada like most other countries has implemented stringent travel restrictions on travellers to Canada in the midst of COVID-19. The restrictions affect everyone including citizens, visitors, workers, and their family members.
The travel restrictions have come down in the form of Orders in Council (OICs), i.e. legal instruments created by the Governor General. While these provide basic rules surrounding restrictions and exemptions, they leave room for a lot of confusion as to how they apply in practice. This has been particularly so for spouses not currently living together in Canada where one spouse is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and the other a foreign national. This has led to foreign nationals with Canadian spouses in Canada being frequently denied permission to travel to Canada.
According to the OICs, the basic restriction against foreign nationals travelling to Canada doesn’t apply to spouses of Canadian citizens or permanent residents so long as the foreign national has no COVID-19 symptoms and can prove they’re not coming here for a discretionary or optional purpose. Unfortunately, the OICs don’t define optional or discretionary. This has led to many instances of spouses being denied permission to travel to Canada since the prevailing OICs came into effect at the end of March 2020. Airline personnel and officers of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have been tasked with assessing the travellers’ purpose in a short turnaround time based on whatever information the traveler provides. This has been and continues to be a distressing problem that keeps spouses apart longer than they perhaps intended.
The Canadian government has been trying to provide further clarity by regularly updating its websites and practice directions, though these have at times led to further confusion. In perhaps what is one of the most useful updates so far, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provided a substantial but non-exhaustive list of examples on April 29, 2020 of optional versus non-optional.
That list clearly indicates the following are non-optional; coming to live permanently with a Canadian spouse, coming to spend the pandemic period with their spouse and to ensure each other’s wellbeing during this time, and to take care of ill family members who have no means to otherwise to do so. No doubt, spouses who fell into these categories were previously denied permission to travel up to now. Hopefully, this new direction from the IRCC will provide clearer parameters to airline personnel and CBSA officers making these tough assessments and will result in the reunion of spouses suffering the current hardship of being apart.
If you, your spouse or any other family members have been denied permission to travel to or enter Canada, please contact our immigration lawyer Maya Krishnaratne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-446-5841.
“This article is intended to inform. Its content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon by readers as such. If you require legal assistance, please see a lawyer. Each case is unique and a lawyer with good training and sound judgment can provide you with advice tailored to your specific situation and needs.”