IRCC to process temporary visas and eTAs for immediate family

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Processing of temporary resident visas (TRVs) and electronic travel authorizations (eTAs) will remain temporarily suspended except for exempt individuals travelling to Canada for essential purposes and eligible immediate family members who intend on remaining in Canada for at least 15 days.

This was set out in Ministerial Instructions released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) this afternoon.

Those currently able to come to Canada are defined under the laws governing Canada’s coronavirus travel restrictions (the laws are called “Orders in Council”).

According to IRCC’s website, exempt travellers individuals include, but are not limited to, temporary foreign workers, study permit and confirmation of permanent residence (COPR) holders who obtained their status prior to the middle of March (March 16 for study permit holders and March 18 for COPR holders), Canadian citizens and permanent residents, among other individuals.

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Upon arrival, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) must determine the purpose of their travel to be essential.

Canada broadened the definition of exempt travellers on Monday when it announced that the immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents could also travel to Canada, and the purpose of their trip did not need to fit the definition of “essential.”

However, some of these immediate family members will need TRVs and eTAs to enter Canada, an issue which has now been addressed through today’s Ministerial Instructions announcement.

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which is Canada’s main immigration law, the federal immigration minister has the legal authority to release Ministerial Instructions to help achieve the country’s public policy goals.

In this case, the Ministerial Instructions confirm that Canada will only continue to process TRVs and eTAs for individuals currently exempt from coronavirus travel restrictions.

Immediate family of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are defined as:

  • Spouses or common-law partners
  • Dependent children
  • Grandchildren
  • Parents or step-parents
  • Guardians or tutors

Immediate family can now enter Canada from any country in the world so long as they meet the following conditions:

  • The visit to Canada is at least 15 days long
  • They are legally required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering Canada
  • They do not have COVID-19 and do not have any COVID-19 symptoms

Today’s Ministerial Instructions announcement potentially offers clarity as to why IRCC had initially announced on its website on Monday that it would resume processing of TRVs and eTAs for essential travellers, but then retracted the announcement yesterday.

IRCC’s announcement on Monday was incompatible with the new Order in Council exempting immediate family from the travel restrictions, since Canadian law now states that immediate family of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are eligible to travel to Canada for non-essential purposes.

Today’s Ministerial Instructions are only valid until June 30th, when Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions are set to expire. The Canadian government will provide another update prior to June 30 about its travel regulations beyond that date.

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