Canadian immigration lawyers’ new business line: the quarantine plan

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Catherine A. Sas

Barrister, Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre, Vancouver, BC



Covid-19 has introduced an extraordinary number of measures which affect virtually every aspect of immigration processing but, interestingly enough, it has created a new line of business – the quarantine plan.

Shortly after emergency measures were introduced at border crossings in mid-March, there were numerous stories of family members being separated and unable to join relatives in Canada. In the midst of these stories, clients sought assistance from immigration lawyers to provide them with a strategy to be reunited with their family members. In addition to setting out the various laws pertaining to Covid-19 which allow for the re-unification of immediate relatives of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, an essential element was to demonstrate the manner in which the arriving individual would be able to quarantine and live separate from their family members (or co-workers) for 14 days.

The Covid-19 environment at the port of entry is anything but clear and predictable. For example, a few weeks ago, a client of ours who is an essential worker arrived to obtain a work permit. As an essential worker in infrastructure, he is exempt from the need to quarantine. However, we still prepared a quarantine plan for him to make sure that he would be permitted entry. His employer had arranged for private accommodation, had stocked the residence with food and supplies, and had provided a letter confirming that he would facilitate the worker’s isolation if and as necessary. The worker was permitted to enter Canada and issued a work permit. The following day after arrival, he was sent a letter confirming that as an essential worker, he was exempt from the provisions of the Quarantine Act requiring him to self-isolate for 14 days. Two days later, the same worker was sent a further letter telling him that he was required to quarantine for 14 days.

The distinction between an essential and non-essential worker has become pivotal in determining potential entry to Canada, as well as the need for a quarantine plan. Essential workers have been identified in specific sectors and are unique to the criteria for each province or territory. All entrants to Canada are required to quarantine for a period of 14 days other than essential workers. To determine the criteria for evaluating an essential worker in a specific province or territory, please refer to www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/crtcl-nfrstrctr/esf-sfe-en

What exactly is a quarantine plan? There is no checklist nor application forms as there is for virtually every Canadian immigration application type. However, we recommend providing a number of documents to make it easy for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer at the port of entry to determine that the individual is allowed to enter Canada in accordance with the various Covid-19 provisions. This includes identity documents for the individual(s) entering Canada as well as their Canadian family members (if they are coming to join Canadian relatives).

In the case of workers, it is vital to clearly demonstrate how the person’s employment fits squarely into the definition of an essential worker. Provide proof of the accommodation that the individual(s) will have access to and generally provide photos that clearly show that a person’s living space will be self-contained and separate from other family members or co-workers living in the same residence. We recommend a letter from the person entering Canada that acknowledges the need to self-isolate for 14 days as well as the steps that will be taken to ensure that they are able to comply. The further supporting information may be letters from relatives, friends, neighbours or employers confirming that they will provide the necessary groceries, supplies and/or medication that may be required. It is necessary to demonstrate a clear understanding and recognition of what is required in order to quarantine in isolation for 14 days as well as the means to do so.

Employers also have specific responsibilities to ensure that their workers comply with the terms of the individual Quarantine plan for each worker in accordance with both the Quarantine Act and Emergencies Act. Employer responsibilities include the following:

  • that employees are permitted to follow any order made pursuant to the 

Quarantine Act or Emergencies Act;

  • that workers are able to comply with any provincial/territorial law related to

Covid-19; and

  • that employees are paid their full wages during any quarantine or isolation 

period regardless of whether the worker is able to perform any of their duties.

Covid-19 has introduced many new challenges for people entering or returning to Canada. Our goal for our clients is to make the process as seamless and stress-free as possible. We encourage the preparation of a quarantine plan to minimise the risk of being denied entry.


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