Many people have been asking questions about immigration that are related to the coronavirus COVID-19. The following information is current as of 23 March 2020. I shall strive to update it regularly as long as COVID-19 seriously affects immigration, refuge, and travel.
I have a visa for permanent residence but have not landed. May I still come to Canada?
Yes, if you received your visa before 16 March 2020. You may travel to Canada immediately for the purpose of landing. Please note that you will not be allowed to board a flight to Canada if you exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. This restriction applies to everyone, including Canadian citizens. Also, upon arriving in Canada, you must isolate yourself at home for fourteen days. This is not just a recommendation but a legal requirement.
I have a visa for permanent residence but have not landed. What will happen if the visa expires before I am able to travel to Canada?
This is a good question, because you must indeed land before the visa expires but you may not be able to travel right now because of restrictions put into place in an effort to control COVID-19. The government has not yet announced a solution but is considering different ways to enable you to use your visa, including «landing» by telephone.
I shall post updated information as soon as possible. For now, I urge you to seek all means to land in Canada before the visa expires. Please contact me as soon as possible if you are concerned that your visa may expire before you can use it.
I have a temporary visa. May I come to Canada?
In general, no. In response to COVID-19, Canada is temporarily denying entrance to most foreign nationals. Exceptions exist for temporary foreign workers, students with a study permit issued before 18 March 2020, persons given a visa for permanent residence before 16 March 2020, some close relatives of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, protected persons, crew members of commercial aircraft, diplomats accredited to Canada, and a few other categories of people. You may not come just for tourism, even if you have a visa.
I am already in Canada on a temporary visa. What shall I do if I am unable to leave before the visa expires?
You may apply for an extension of your visa. The application gives you what is called implied status, which means that you may stay in Canada until a decision is rendered, even if your visa expires. Submit the application on line (not in person) and keep printed proof of the application with you in case you need it.
May I still apply for immigration?
Yes. Temporary visas are not being issued at this time; however, applications for permanent residence are still being accepted.
May I still become a refugee?
You may still claim refuge (seek asylum) inside Canada, though not at the border with the United States. If you arrive at the border and claim refuge, you will be returned to the country from which you just came.
Resettlement of refugees who are outside Canada, however, has been suspended. It depends on referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and similar organisations, all of which have suspended resettlement. Private sponsorship of refugees is also suspended.
Are the restrictions on travel legal?
Yes, the major restrictions that have been put into place in response to COVID-19 are legal.
Canadian citizens enjoy a constitutional right to enter and leave Canada, and permanent residents enjoy similar rights. Foreign nationals, however, do not have a right to enter Canada, even if they hold a valid visa.
Even Canadian citizens and permanent residents can be subject to quarantine for health-related reasons. In the days when travel by sea was common, Canada had establishments called marine hospitals at ports of entry to control infectious diseases.
If you are concerned about the legality of any restriction or other governmental action, you are welcome to consult me for an opinion. I take a strong interest in protecting constitutional rights and human rights.
How can I get legal help with immigration or refuge?
My offices remain open. Please contact me for an appointment at which we can discuss your needs.