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Immigration and International Mobility

Business Travel and COVID-19 Restrictions

For well over a year, businesses have been grappling with the effects of COVID-19 including the various travel restrictions imposed by provincial, federal, and foreign governments.

While restrictions have made it more difficult for certain businesses to operate, trade and commerce has certainly not slowed down as a result of COVID-19.

Furthermore, with countries are progressing with vaccination efforts and relaxing of public health restrictions, more and more businesses are moving ahead with plans that have up until now been put on hold. For those involved in cross-border trade and services this can mean finalizing acquisitions, establishing new supplier and customer relationships, and reopening certain markets.

As travel restrictions have been ever changing since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the context described above, they can be even more confusing. On one hand, there is light at the end of the tunnel for business travel, and on the other, business travellers must still be aware that there are strict regulations imposed by the Canadian government related to such travel.

In this context, this article will address below some of the most frequent questions asked by our clients. Note that this article does not address all the restrictions and exemptions in place and is only meant to be an overview.

1. I work for a business in an essential industry. A business trip is required in the course of finalizing a due diligence related to an acquisition, finalizing an investment or securing a new customer. Will I be subject to the quarantine obligations upon my return?

This is a very important question, as we have seen a general misconception that all persons working for, or involved in, essential industries are exempt from quarantine obligations upon their return to Canada.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, this is a misconception. While there is an exemption to certain quarantine obligations upon their return, this only applies to a small category of precisely defined individuals and occupations.

For example, a technician of a Canadian company who had to travel to the United States to repair the equipment of its cross-border affiliate, would be exempt from mandatory quarantine if upon his or her return had to maintain or repair the equipment of the Canadian business within the 14 day period upon their return.

An upper management team of a food business visiting a cross-border customer in order to secure a new market and supply chain in the food industry, would not be exempt from the mandatory quarantine obligations upon their return to Canada.

2. Will I have to quarantine at a hotel upon my return to Canada?

The obligation to quarantine at a government-authorized hotel depends on how a person is arriving in Canada.

Presently the requirement for individuals to book a 3-night stay at a government authorized hotel during the 14-day quarantine period applies only to individuals flying to Canada.

For those arriving in Canada by land, there is no obligation to book or remain at a government-authorized hotel for 3-nights. All other quarantine obligations do however remain in place for those do not exempt.

Therefore, if cross-border travel is required and a mandatory 3-night hotel stay is prohibitive, individuals could consider returning to Canada by land.

3. I have temporary foreign workers arriving to work at my business. Are they exempt from the quarantine obligations?

The mandatory quarantine obligations apply to all individuals arriving in Canada (unless specifically exempt) regardless of their status. There are currently no exemptions to the mandatory quarantine requirements for temporary foreign workers arriving in Canada, except for certain occupations in the agri-food industry which are exempt from the mandatory 3-night hotel stay for individuals flying to Canada.

Therefore, employers should plan for the mandatory quarantine of their temporary foreign workers upon arrival in Canada.

Conclusion

The rules relating to foreign travel and returning to Canada are ever changing. In the context of re-opening and relaxing of certain local restrictions, it is important to keep in mind that many federal travel restrictions and requirements remain in place.

If you have to travel abroad, or have clients who must travel to Canada, it is important to plan ahead, be aware of the intricacies relating to travel exemptions, and in the case of doubt, seek guidance on the restrictions that may be imposed upon entry into Canada.

Our immigration team is here to help and answer your questions related to travel restrictions and immigration obligations resulting from COVID-19. Our networks of affiliated firms throughout the world are also at your service and allow us to offer you integrated support for your international projects.

June 1, 2021

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