Recent updates to Government of Canada’s COVID-19 response

In response to the evolving COVID-19 situation, the Government of Canada continues to update its policies and regulations relating to travel and immigration to Canada.

The most recent set of changes aim to contain the spread of COVID-19 while also recognizing the important contributions that immigrants, temporary foreign workers and international students are making to Canada’s COVID-19 response. These changes have consequences for students, foreign workers, and Canadian employers, and include the following:1. New Compliance Rules for Employers of Temporary Foreign Workers
2. New Rules for International Students Working in Essential Services
3. Updated Restrictions on Travel from the United States
4. New Requirement to Wear Face Masks

New Compliance Rules for Employers of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program

As of April 20, 2020, employers are subject to a series of specific responsibilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety and health of foreign workers under the amended Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (“the Regulations”). These amendments serve to codify policy guidelines into law and also introduce new requirements pertaining to employer compliance inspections.(a) Conditions and Obligations for Employers of TFW ProgramTo ensure that foreign workers are able to comply with the requirements imposed upon them under federal and provincial/territorial laws, the following conditions have been imposed on the employers of foreign workers under the TFW Program:
  • Employers must not do anything that prevents a foreign worker from complying with an Order or regulation made under the Emergencies Act or Quarantine Act, or with any provincial/territorial laws that govern public health in response to COVID-19; and,
  • Employers must provide foreign workers with wages that are substantially the same as those set out in the offer of employment, for the period of employment for which a work permit is issued, which includes the period that the foreign worker is in isolation or quarantine.
For employers who provide accommodations to their workers, there are additional obligations to ensure that:
  • Workers in self-isolation/quarantine have accommodations that are separate from workers who are not in quarantine;
  • Workers are housed in accommodations that allow them to remain at least two (2) metres away from any other person; and,
  • Cleaning products are provided to foreign workers for the purpose of cleaning and disinfecting accommodations regularly.
In the event a foreign worker develops any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, employers also have an obligation to provide that foreign worker with a bedroom and bathroom that are solely for the foreign worker’s use, while they isolate themselves.(b) InspectionsService Canada also has an expanded authority to launch inspections to monitor compliance with the new IRPR amendments. These inspections will be conducted remotely/virtually and with or without prior notice. If selected for an inspection, employers will have up to 48 hours to respond to any requests for documentation. The prescribed timeframes for employer’s to respond to concerns about non-compliance have also been reduced.(c) Penalties for Non-CompliancePenalties for non-compliance with the new requirements under the Regulations will vary depending on the severity of the violation and may include one or more of the following:
  • Administrative monetary penalties, ranging from $1,000 to $100,000 per violation, and up to a maximum penalty of $1 million over one year;
  • A ban of one, two, five or ten years, or permanent bans for the most serious violations;
  • The publication of the employer’s name and address with details of the violations and/or consequences; or
  • The revocation of previously-issued LMIAs.

New Rules for International Students Working in Essential Services

Effective April 22, 2020, the Government of Canada has temporarily removed restrictions on off-campus work for certain international students. International students are currently allowed to work more than 20 hours per week, while classes are in session, so long as:
  • They are a study permit holder in an academic session;
  • They are eligible to work off-campus; and
  • They are providing an essential service or function, such as in health care, critical infrastructure or the supply of food and other critical goods.
This temporary rule change will be in place until August 31, 2020.

Updated Restrictions on Travel from the United States

On April 20, 2020, the Government issued a new Order-in-Council extending the restrictions on travel from the United States into Canada. Under the latest Order-in-Council, non-Canadian citizens and permanent residents continue to be prohibited from entering Canada from the United States if:
  • They have or are exhibiting signs and symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, cough and/or breathing difficulties;
  • They are seeking to enter Canada for an optional or discretionary purpose, such as tourism, recreation or entertainment; or,
  • They cannot comply with the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement, based on the purpose of entry and length of their stay.
Currently, these travel restrictions are effective until May 21, 2020.

New Requirement to Wear Face Masks

As of April 20, 2020, every person boarding a flight to Canada must confirm prior to boarding that they are in possession of a face mask, such as a non-medial mask or face covering. Face masks must be worn at all times during a flight to Canada, when travellers are seated two (2) metres or less from another person, unless both persons are occupants of the same household. Upon entry to Canada, all travellers must continue wearing a face mask while in transit to their place of isolation or quarantine, unless the mask needs to be removed for security of safety reasons.Express Entry UpdateImmigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada continues to process applications for permanent residence under the Express Entry system. On April 29th 2020 and May 1st 2020, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued two new rounds of invitations to apply for permanent residence, under the Provincial Nominee Program and the Canadian Experience Class.

Provincial Nominee Program

In the April 29th 2020 draw, 589 candidates were invited to apply under the Provincial Nominee Program. The minimum score selected in this draw was 692. To qualify, candidates must have received a certificate of nomination from a Canadian province or territory.

Canadian Experience Class

In the May 1st 2020 draw, 3,311 candidates were invited to apply under the Canadian Experience Class. The minimum score selected was 452. This is the lowest minimum score we have seen selected this year to date. To qualify for selection under the Canadian Experience Class, candidates must have at least one year of skilled work in Canada within the past three years and must meet minimum language proficiency requirements. The recent decrease in scores required for selection under this category makes this an ideal time for candidates who meet the Canadian Experience Class program criteria to apply for permanent residence.As a result of the covid-19 outbreak, since March 2020 IRCC has been focusing on inviting candidates who are already likely to be in Canada. Recent Express Entry draws have therefore been limited to the Canadian Experience Class and the Provincial Nominee Program, excluding the Federal Skilled Worker category. We do expect draws under the Federal Skilled Worker program to resume, however there may be an initial increase in the minimum scores selected at that time, due to the increased number of candidates in the Express Entry pool.

Get in touch

If you have any Canadian immigration queries or require further information on recent and forthcoming changes to Canadian immigration law, visit our website, contact your assigned BARTLAW lawyer or reach us at



Visit our Coronavirus resource hub to find out how to navigate the world of work during the Coronavirus