The Immigration Process for Canada during COVID
August 31, 2020
With bans on international flights and increasing corona cases all over the world, the immigration process for Canada has changed drastically as compared to a few months ago. In this article, I go through my experience of the whole process and answer your most important questions.
If you followed my story previously, you know that despite all the challenges that COVID presented, I somehow managed to come to Canada. It was not an easy ride. As I mentioned in the earlier post, the story had twists and turns of a masala Bollywood flick. Despite the precariousness of the decision to leave a reliable, stable and a well-paying job and to move to an entirely different country, and that too in the middle of a pandemic; there was still an element of optimism in the air. Like every protagonist in the movies I watched growing up, I knew nothing can come in between my dreams of a life in a developed world. This is exactly what happened. I achieved my dream and landed in Canada on June 29, 2020.
Given the uncertain times we are facing and the drastic changes in the requirements by IRCC for the first entry into Canada, there were dozens of questions that haunted me. I am sure many of you must be going through a similar situation and must have a lot of such questions that have become a villain in your life. In this article, I will be answering the following questions:
- What happens when you land at the airport for the first time in Canada?
- Who is exempt from travel restrictions if they have a valid Confirmation of Permanent Residence Document?
- Can you travel for a soft landing?
- Can we take a connecting flight? Can we stay at the airport before getting to the final destination? Can we take an Uber to our destination?
- What about the quarantine plan? or a place to stay for the first 14 days?
- Should I get Airbnb or a hotel?
- How can I get grocery or food during quarantine?
If you are one of those people you can better understand through a video, then please have a look at the video linked above. It has everything that I am writing here. If not, then continue reading..!
1) What happens when you land at the airport for the first time in Canada?
Once you land and get off the plane, your body temperature will be measured as you enter the arrival terminal. You will also be asked about the symptoms if you have any. Assuming, everything is well, someone will hand you a small booklet on precautions against COVID19 and how to effectively quarantine. That booklet is for your consumption so you can take it home.
Booklet handed to you at the airport
If you do not have a connecting flight, and the current location is your final destination, you enter the immigration area. In this hall, there are various booths available for self-service. You will be given a “Travellers Information Form”. It has the basic details of your travel plans, your destination etc. It will take a minute or so to fill.
Travellers’ Information Form
Once the form is filled, you will move on to enter your details in the self-service booth. Due to the restrictions, I could not make a video of the procedure, but it was again a straight forward process. The booth printed out a form which I took to the officer. The first officer did not ask me any additional questions; although he did tell me to remove my glasses for the photo. Once that was done, he stamped my passport and just directed me to the immigration office on the right. It was a big room with a couple of officers handling the new immigrants.
Fortunately. This was the only flight at the time and therefore I got my turn fairly quickly.
When you arrive in Canada by air, land, sea or by digging a tunnel through the middle earth, there will be a couple of basic health questions where the authorities would ask you about your symptoms and will measure your body temperature. That is it.
Once you get to the immigration booth, you must have a plan to quarantine for 14 days, including a place to stay, how you are going get to your destination, how you will get your groceries and receive essential services including medical care, if any. Yes, this plan is mandatory, even if you have no symptoms. So, back to my experience.
The officer asked about my quarantine plan, He specifically asked if there was an area where the facilities were shared. As I had booked a separate apartment for myself, I did not have a major challenge. The officer also asked me about how I plan to reach my destination. I replied that I would be taking an Uber for that purpose. For the food delivery and groceries, I told him that I would be ordering online and have no plans of going outside during my quarantine days.
He also asked me if there was additional luggage that would follow. I filled the necessary forms. For this process, I would recommend that if you are going to bring your laptops, phones, tablets etc. just write down their IMEI numbers or serial numbers beforehand. You may be asked to provide them for the record. I was not asked for these details but a few people have told me that they were asked. So it’s better that you are prepared and you don’t have to open all your stuff just to get the serial numbers.
After all these questions, the officer stamped my Confirmation of PR document, kept one for his use and handed me my copy. The discussion ended with “Welcome to Canada”. That was it. It hardly took 15 to 18 minutes for this process.
2. Who is exempt from travel restrictions if they have a valid Confirmation of Permanent Residence Document?
Well, you are exempt from the current travel restrictions and can come to Canada if:
a) you’re currently living in the U.S. and will be coming to Canada directly
b) Or You have a valid confirmation of PR and this confirmation was issued on or before March 18, 2020. There is, however, one exception to this rule. If your Confirmation of PR was issued after March 18th, 2020 and you are an immediate family member sponsored by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, then you are exempt from this travel restriction. However, please note that grandparents are, unfortunately, not considered immediate family members and cannot come to Canada at this time.
3) Can you travel for a soft landing?
Unfortunately, COVID has impacted the immigration rules of Canada drastically. I apologize for being the bearer of bad news but you cannot travel for a soft landing as of the date of the writing of this article, that is August 31, 2020. The Canadian Immigration Authorities clearly state that You should not travel to a port of entry to validate your Confirmation of PR. This is not considered essential travel and you won’t be able to validate it this way.
Travelling to Canada during a pandemic
4) Can we take a connecting flight? Can we stay at the airport before getting to the final destination? Can we take an Uber to our destination?
I have now received and seen a few dozen of such questions in the past couple of months. I think I need to explain this in more detail.
So let’s break it down.
a) For the connecting flights, please know that you can take connecting flights without any issue. If there is a significant wait time before your next flight, you are recommended to stay at the airport and wait for the flight.
I checked with the airport authorities and the only concern they had was that people should not roam around or get out of the airport. Basically the purpose is to ensure least contact with others.
b) For the point relating to the plan of getting to your destination, all you need to tell them is that you will be booking an Uber or a taxi or someone is there to pick you up.
The main concern of the authorities is that you should not be using any public transport which includes trains, trams and buses etc., immediately after landing. So as long as you have a response ready for them, you will be ok.
Now comes the most important question…
5) What about the quarantine plan? Or a place to stay for the first 14 days?
This is one of the most important questions and is also the one where people are constantly getting confused. The question has gained more importance as this information is now requested by IRCC in case your Confirmation of PR has expired and you are willing to travel to Canada.
For the quarantine, you can use Airbnb, hotels, personal residence or a family home. But the main point to consider is that your living space should not be shared with anyone. So if you are planning to book an Airbnb, please make sure that you filter out the results with shared spaces. Although, in my personal experience, I have seen people get away with shared laundry and kitchen space — I would not recommend that. I say this because the safety of your loved ones is more important than a couple of hundred dollars. Therefore, please stay safe, stay in an area that is not accessed by anyone else.
The point is that we should not try to cheat the system. Because doing so is easy, you can find ways around all these checks but these checks are in place for your safety and for the safety of the ones you love. So, my recommendation would be to get a separate place for 14 days and then move to a shared location once it’s safe for everyone.
6) Should I get Airbnb or a hotel?
This is another question that has been asked multiple times. Hotels, in my view, are over-rated and obviously expensive. For 14 days, a hotel would cost double than that of Airbnb. In a normal situation, the cost of a hotel makes sense. You get exclusive treatment, you can use their facilities etc. However, for the quarantine, you will not be allowed to use their facilities, you will not be allowed to have buffet breakfasts or dinners, you will not be able to use their exercise equipment etc. So in my view, hotels are not worth the cost.
Now for Airbnb, you can choose a variety of apartments depending on your needs. Plus, if you book for more than 28 days, you also get extra discounts from the hosts. This article is not sponsored by Airbnb at all, it’s just that I enjoyed the service. I have lived in two different apartments in two different cities and both times, the service was top notch. I will try to make a separate article on using Airbnb effectively. But till then, if you plan to use the service, you can click here. You will get up to $CAD53 using the link. Let’s help each other out. Free money!
7) How can I get grocery or food during quarantine?
One of the problems of using an Airbnb apartment is to get the groceries for the first couple of days so that you do not have to go to bed hungry on the day of your flight. I will share my personal experience, I just requested my Airbnb host to get the groceries for me. He was kind enough to get those and I was set for the first couple of days. Obviously, I paid for the groceries.
After an initial couple of days, there are a few food delivery and grocery apps that you can use. These apps can be downloaded from anywhere in the world and are easy to setup. Just keep in mind that you will need a working phone number for these. Plus, I would highly recommend you to get your international roaming switched on before coming to Canada as it might take a few days for you to get a cell phone number. The two apps for grocery and food delivery that I have used the most are Door Dash & UberEATS (use code: eats-su85f86nue). You will get around $20 off on your orders. So, free money, again!
These were the most important questions that I came across. If you are coming to Canada, I have compiled a list of 9 tips that you should follow that will definitely make this process a lot smoother for you. I will link it here.
I am making a series of videos for new immigrants in Canada. You can subscribe to the channel here. Let me know your specific questions in the comments below and I will try to answer them in as much detail as possible. In my next few articles and videos, I will be talking about getting the Social Insurance Number, your bank account and the first cell phone number. So stay tuned!