The pre-arrival phase for most newcomers to Canada is bittersweet. On the one hand, there is the excitement and joy of achieving your dream of moving to a new country while, on the other hand, the sadness of leaving behind your friends and family slowly begins to creep in. Newcomers dedicate much of their efforts during this time to wrapping up their life in their home country and gathering as much information as they can on life in Canada. 

Moving to a new country, whether alone or with family, is stressful. In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, countries are moving to close borders, and this has added new levels of uncertainty to everyone’s travel plans. Canada has also stepped up its efforts in controlling the spread of COVID-19, and some of the measures implemented by the government will affect those who intended to move to Canada in the immediate future. 

As a newcomer scanning the news, media outlets, airline and government websites for information, you would have often seen the words ‘restricted travel’ or ‘travel ban’ in notices and articles. Let’s look at what this really means, whether or not it impacts you and how. 

What does restricted travel mean?

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), for those travelling by air, Canada is currently denying boarding to all foreign nationals, unless they fit one of the exemptions outlined by the government

Canadian citizens, permanent residents, persons registered under Canada’s Indian Act, protected persons or exempt persons with COVID-19 symptoms may be permitted to enter Canada at a land border. 

Additionally, all travellers arriving in Canada will have to self-isolate for at least 14 days upon arrival and may be unable to perform basic administrative tasks such as obtaining a Social Insurance Number (SIN) or opening a bank account.


Although you may be exempt from travel restrictions to Canada, IRCC is encouraging all travellers, including permanent residents, international students, and temporary foreign workers to delay or postpone any non-essential travel to Canada. Also, while the exemptions have been specified, they have not been implemented yet. You can find the latest information and updates regarding the implementation of these exemptions on the IRCC website.

If you do decide to travel, note that all international flight arrivals have been redirected to four airports in Canada:

To summarize the measures and travel restrictions IRCC has in place:

For permanent residents (PRs)

If you’re a PR who was visiting another country or if you were approved as a PR before March 16, 2020, but haven’t travelled to Canada yet, you will be able to enter Canada by air or land. Upon arrival in Canada, like all other travellers, you will undergo necessary health checks and must isolate for 14 days. 

If you have a confirmation of permanent residence (COPR) and permanent resident visa (PRV) and are unable to travel during the validity of your documents, you can inform IRCC by submitting a web form. Accordingly, you will be informed of the next steps.  

For temporary foreign workers (TFW)

If you’re a TFW who was approved for a work permit before March 18, 2020, you will be exempt from travel restrictions and will be able to travel to Canada by air or land. Upon arrival in Canada, like all other travellers, you will undergo necessary health checks and must isolate for 14 days.

Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process is being temporarily modified for agriculture and food-processing employers; the required 2-week recruitment period will be waived for the next six months.

Additionally, to improve flexibility and reduce the administrative burden for employers, including those in food processing, IRCC is increasing the maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the TFW Program from 1 to 2 years.

For international students

If you are an international student who was in the middle of your course of study or if you had been approved to study in Canada (before March 18, 2020) but were outside Canada when the travel restrictions took effect, you will be able to travel to Canada by air or land. Upon arrival in Canada, like all other travellers, you will undergo necessary health checks and must isolate for 14 days. 

For refugees and asylum claimants

As per guidelines from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), resettlement travel for refugees is temporarily suspended, which means you will not be able to enter Canada as a refugee. According to the IRCC, the IOM and the UNHCR will make alternative arrangements for those refugees currently in transit and who are no longer able to continue their journey to Canada at this time.

Maintaining consistency with human rights obligations, Canada will continue to accept asylum claimants. However, note that Canada and the US have announced collaborative and reciprocal measures where Canada will now be returning irregular migrants who attempt to cross anywhere at the Canada–US border, including those who attempt to make an asylum claim at a land port of entry (POE). 


Although you may be permitted to enter Canada, restrictions imposed by your home country may limit you from being able to fly out. Therefore, it’s advisable to check your local government’s travel advisory for all the up-to-date information.

Staying optimistic and hopeful

These are challenging times for newcomers. The prevailing uncertainty and the impact of the coronavirus on Canada’s economy is likely to dampen employment prospects in the immediate future for newcomers in Canada. 

The silver lining, however, is that you can utilize this time to hone your skills, network online, and prepare yourself for the Canadian job market so that when the time comes, you can arrive ready. We briefly explored this topic in our previous article, Newcomer employment in the time of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and we encourage you to read it. Try career tools like Prepped, which offer newcomers all the training and resources they need to succeed in their job search in Canada.

This is certainly not an easy situation to navigate, but we are here to help you put your best foot forward and get through this with confidence. Together, we can do it!  



About Arrive

Arrive is powered by RBC Ventures Inc, a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada. In collaboration with RBC, Arrive is dedicated to helping newcomers achieve their life, career, and financial goals in Canada.

An important part of establishing your financial life in Canada is finding the right partner to invest in your financial success. RBC is the largest bank in Canada* and here to be your partner in all of your financial needs.

RBC supports Arrive, and with a 150-year commitment to newcomer success in Canada, RBC goes the extra mile in support and funding to ensure that the Arrive newcomer platform is FREE to all.

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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.