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  • Writer's pictureCalver Immigration Consulting Inc.

What is essential travel to canada?

Those who are exempt from travel restrictions must demonstrate they are coming to Canada for an essential reason

The Canadian Government released a list of travel restrictions in March 2020 to limit the spread of COVID-19. Canada has since clarified which types of travel are considered “essential”.

Exemptions from Travel Restrictions: Who Can Enter Canada

You can travel and may be permitted to enter Canada if you are a:

  • Canadian citizen

  • Canadian permanent resident

  • person registered under Canada’s Indian Act

  • protected person

  • foreign national who is coming for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose from the United States

  • foreign national who is coming for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose from a country other than the U.S. and are exempt from the travel restrictions

AND you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19.

What is essential travel to Canada?

With this updated list of exemptions, the Government of Canada has used the terms non-discretionary and discretionary travel.

Non-essential travel: travel for the purposes of tourism, recreation and entertainment.

Examples of discretionary travel:

  • to visit family for a vacation

  • for the birth of a grandchild, nephew, niece, cousin, etc. (For the parent of a child, this may be considered non-discretionary travel; however, it will still require assessment.)

  • to spend time at a secondary residence (vacation home, hunting or fishing lodge, etc.). This includes entry for upkeep or maintenance purposes.

  • to attend the funeral of a family member (This purpose of travel would be improbable due to quarantine measures and limits to the number of attendees at funerals under provincial restrictions.)

Essential travel: travel that is non-optional

Examples of non-discretionary travel:

  • economic services and supply chains

  • critical infrastructure support

  • health (immediate medical care), safety and security

  • supporting Indigenous communities

  • transiting through Canada for non-optional or non-discretionary purposes

  • studying in Canada if already approved for a study permit on or before March 18

  • tending to family matters for non-optional or non-discretionary purposes (such as bringing supplies to elderly parents or tending to sick family members) when there is no one else available in Canada to assist

  • any other activities that are deemed non-optional or non-discretionary by the Government of Canada or based on an officer’s assessment

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Exemptions to Travel Restrictions

The following people may travel to Canada for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose from a country other than the U.S.:

  • temporary foreign workers

  • some international students

  • some approved permanent residents

  • immediate family members of a Canadian citizen or Canadian permanent resident

  • immediate family members with written authorization from the Government of Canada to reunite with a family member living temporarily in Canada

  • transiting passengers (must remain in a Canadian airport to complete their connection)

  • air and marine crew members

  • any person whose purpose is to make medical deliveries


See the full list of exemptions


An immediate family member is defined as a

  • spouse or common-law partner

  • dependent child

  • dependent child of a dependent child

  • parent or step-parent

  • guardian or tutor

Other pages you might find helpful:


Our Services

Calver and Associates is a leading provider of Canadian Immigration services in Durham Region. We serve clients in Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, and beyond. Our Registered Canadian Immigration Consultant has over 10 years of experience in Canadian Immigration law and over four years of experience serving those in the Oshawa area.

We can provide assistance with applications for both temporary and permanent residency in Canada. We handle applications for study permits, permanent residency, family class sponsorship, visitor visas, work permits, and Canadian citizenship. We also handle criminal inadmissibility cases by developing remedies for refusal.

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