UPDATE: March 18, 2020

On March 18, 2020, the Canadian and US governments announced that the Canada-US border will be closing to all non-essential travel between Canada and the USA, such as travel for tourism or recreation. These border restrictions will take effect within “hours or days”. Both governments have indicated that today’s announcement is not intended to restrict commerce and trade. Cross-border entry will continue to be permitted to maintain essential services and supply chain processes. This includes workers who are traveling to provide essential goods and services, such as truck drivers and healthcare workers.

Canadian citizens will still be allowed to return to Canada via air travel, per the information released on March 16 (noted below). The Canadian government has now clarified that Canadians crossing at a land border will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. If a Canadian citizen is symptomatic, they will be allowed into the country and immediately referred to public health authorities on the Canadian side of the border.

The Canadian government has also clarified that work permit and study permit holders who are in the USA but ordinarily reside in Canada, are only permitted re-entry to Canada if they have been in Canada or the USA for 14 days prior to entry.

This is a developing story and additional details will be posted as they become available.

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On March 16, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that travel restrictions will be implemented on those entering Canada via international flights, beginning on March 18, 2020 at 12:00pm EST (noon). These restrictions are the latest ones in a series of measures taken by the Canadian government to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Canada. Below is a summary of what has been confirmed so far. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we anticipate further changes and clarifications in the coming days. We are monitoring the situation closely, and will continue to communicate updates as soon as they become available.

What We Know

Beginning March 18, 2020 at 12:00pm EST (noon), the following changes will come into effect:

  • International flights will be redirected to four airports: Toronto Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, and Calgary International Airport.
    • Domestic flights, and flights arriving from the USA, Mexico, the Caribbean or St. Pierre-et-Miquelon will not be limited to these four airports.
  • Foreign nationals will not be permitted to enter Canada by air travel, with few exceptions. The exceptions include:
    • Foreign nationals who are in transit to a 3rd country.
    • Foreign nationals who are “essential workers”, including (but not limited to):
      • Workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people (e.g. air crews)
      • Healthcare workers
      • Diplomats
    • Immediate family members of Canadian citizens.
    • US Citizens who have been residing in the USA or Canada in the last 14 days.
  • Asymptomatic Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) will continue to be permitted to enter Canada by air travel.
    • Airlines will conduct a basic health assessment of all air travelers prior to boarding an international flight to Canada.
    • Anyone who presents COVID-19 symptoms will not be permitted to board an international flight to Canada, regardless of nationality.
  • Airlines will conduct a pre-boarding health assessment for all travelers. This assessment involves asking simple health questions, looking for visible signs of illness before boarding, and possibly referring the traveler for a further medical assessment.
    • Travelers who present COVID-19 symptoms will not be permitted to board an international flight to Canada for a period of 14 days, or until they present a medical certificate that confirms the patient does not carry the virus.
    • The Government of Canada will provide support to Canadians affected by COVID-19 abroad. Canadians stuck abroad should get in touch with their local consular services.

Travelers who enter Canada are instructed to self-isolate for a period of 14 days upon arrival, with limited exceptions for healthy essential workers. The above updates will not apply to travel related to commerce or trade.

As the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rapidly evolve, employers are increasingly faced with around-the-clock challenges on how to support employees and their families in these unprecedented times. Frequent touch points with international assignees and travelers, and an assessment of immigration considerations and strategies, are critical now more than ever.

Please contact your Baker McKenzie lawyers (above) for more information.

You can also subscribe to our blogs, Canadian Labour and Employment Law and The Employer Report to keep up with employment and labour law developments in Canada or access our Coronavirus Resource Center for global information on the impact of this situation on your business and what you can do to manage these risks. It covers areas of immediate concerns such as employer obligations, contract issues, supply chain disruption, financing and force majeure, as well as more forward looking issues such as practical impact on transactions and IPO activity.