Canada’s borders now closed to foreign nationals as of noon on March 18
Posted on - Mar 19, 2020

By Catherine Sas Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

As the world grapples to contain the rapid spread of the Coronavirus, all facets of Canada’s immigration program have implemented changes including Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) and the Federal Court.

Here is a brief summary of the most significant provisions introduced:

  • Effective 12:01 p.m. EDT (noon) March 18, 2020 all international travel will be suspended into Canada. All foreign nationals, including students, workers or visitors, who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents or their immediate family members, will be denied entry. Exceptions are for US citizens and international crew or transportation workers.
  • Any passenger with COVID 19-like symptoms will be barred from boarding a flight regardless of status or nationality. All travellers arriving from international locations must self-quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.
  • In order to enhance screening for the virus, all international flights will be directed to land only at Canada’s international airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. This does not apply to domestic travel from within Canada nor for flights from the US, Mexico, Caribbean or St. Pierre and Miquelon.
  • IRCC is providing automatic 90-day extensions for all further steps in processing of applications for both permanent and temporary residence. Previous requests for information will automatically be given a further 90-day response period. All IRCC appointments will be cancelled until April 13, 2020.
  • International students in Canada who are now receiving on-line instruction in response to COVID 19, will still be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit.
  • Citizenship ceremonies and citizenship tests are cancelled as of March 14, 2020 until further notice.
  • The IRB has postponed all in-person hearings and mediations (other than detention hearings) effective from Tuesday, March 17, 2020 until Sunday April 5, 2020. Further extensions of time have been introduced for the various stages of refugee processing and are set out in a Practice Notice:
  • CBSA has suspended all removals effective immediately as of today, March 17, 2020 for a 3-week period.
  • The Federal Court of Canada has cancelled all sittings of the Court effective from March 16, 2020 to March 27, 2020.
  • Many Visa Application Centers (VACs) have either closed or are operating on a significantly reduced capacity. Expect delays in all overseas processing of applications.

Both the spread of the Coronavirus and the international response to contain it, is changing at a rapid pace. At the time of writing last month on February 19, 2020 about the IRCC Coronavirus special measures ( there were 73,424 reported cases worldwide and 1,873 deaths. As of posting this blog, the reported cases are over 190,000 with over 7,500 deaths. Coordinated efforts such as these listed above are for the benefit of all – Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals alike.

The advisories, notifications and program modifications are coming fast and furious – often changing several times throughout the day. Check the relevant government websites often to see how these new measures affect your immigration status or application.

Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 30 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 9 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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