Sat | Jul 31, 2021

Immigration Corner | Who can travel to Canada

Published:Tuesday | October 20, 2020 | 12:07 AM
Deidre S. Powell
Deidre S. Powell

Dear Miss Powell,

I’m so stressed. My study permit was approved and I’ve been doing classes online, but I’m worried that this won’t be good enough, and I may not do well in my exams. This is unfair to us international students, as we pay so much for our tuition fees. Do you know when the borders will be open for international students to come in?

– A.S.

Dear A.S.,

I understand your frustration. Many persons who have received study permits, work permits, visitor’s visa and confirmation of permanent residence are asking the same questions.

The government of Canada has been making decisions based on the evolving situation in Canada and the world, with the aim of protecting Canadians and those authorised to enter Canada. The situation is constantly changing, and so my advice is based on the situation at the time of writing this article.


The department of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship (IRCC) announced that “starting October 20, 2020, designated learning institutions (DLI) with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by their province or territory will be able to reopen to international students who are currently outside Canada”.

This means that you will first need to examine the government’s website or get confirmation from your school that it is listed as an approved DLI before you book your ticket to come to Canada on or after October 20, 2020. The advisory affects all international students, whether you are travelling from the United States or any other country.


International students in Canada are urged to remain in Canada, as if you leave and your school is not listed as a approved school, you will not be permitted to return until your school has been approved.

Should you decide to travel to Canada, you should expect increased health-screening measures, and long delays at the airport and all ports of entry.

Students will be permitted to travel to Canada after October 20, provided that you have a valid study permit and your DLI is on the list of approved schools, or your travel may be considered non-discretionary.

As a student, these are the basis on which you could enter Canada – if you already live in Canada, you need to be in Canada for your programme (for laboratory work, workshops, or similar); your school is not offering online study options, you cannot study online from your home country because of Internet restrictions or bandwidth limitations, or you cannot participate in live online classes from your home country because of the difference in time zones.

If you qualify, on arrival a border services officer will make the final decision on whether your reason for travelling to Canada is non-discretionary or non-optional. Therefore, you will need to travel with documents to prove that you fall within one of the approved categories or exempted from travel restrictions, or you will not be allowed into Canada.


The government announced that some extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents with a valid visa or ETA, and others who are authorised to travel to Canada on compassionate grounds, will be allowed to travel to Canada at this time. Some persons will need to seek permission before they plan to travel. The government is expected to provide more information on the steps to take and the required documents.

An immediate family member is defined as a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, dependent child, dependent child of a dependent child, parent or step-parent, guardian or tutor. A guardian or tutor is defined as someone who cares for a foreign national minor child who lives apart from a parent; for example, to attend a secondary school in Canada. The guardian or tutor must be able to prove that they normally live at the same address as the minor child.

It is your duty to find out if you are exempted and have the necessary evidence. You must be prepared to prove that you are travelling for a non-optional or non-discretionary purpose.


On landing in Canada, you must ensure that you have documents to show the reason for your trip, valid study permit or work permit. Additionally, you should have a letter outlining the details of your 14-day quarantine plan. This should include the address where you will be staying, your plan to quarantine before physically attending class, and the fact that you can study online during quarantine, if necessary.

If you are a family member, you must plan to stay in Canada a minimum of 15 days and your ticket must reflect that. Ensure that you have a notarised letter from your family member, copy of your marriage certificate or birth certificate as proof of your relationship. If you are visiting for medical/humanitarian reasons, then you should have a letter from your family member’s doctor or a person in authority to substantiate your grounds for travelling.

Additionally, dress comfortably, pack lightly, and expect that the Canadian border authorities could impose sudden control measures or recommend on-entry COVID-19 testing at the airport.

This situation is changing daily, so you should check the various government websites and social media accounts for regular updates. Should you have any other issues or concerns, I recommend that you contact us via telephone directly to advise you further.

Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator and notary public who is a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada bars, with office located in Ottawa, Ontario. Email: Subject line: Immigration. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, or call 613.695.8777.