IRCC recently announced that people with a close connection to a Canadian can request authorization to travel. Until now, the exemption has only applied to close family members, shutting out everyone other than children, parents and spouses. And, oh ya, guardians.

With last weeks’ announcement of expanding the exemptions to relieve hardship to people who don’t meet the narrow definition of family, IRCC has issued new instructions and a form to be completed in order to receive authorization to travel.

The new rules apply to those travelling from the US or elsewhere. So everyone who meets the new definition and is wanting to join an extended family member in Canada, has to fill out and submit the same form and request authorization, which IRCC says will take 14 days.

The form (EDIT: the form has been taken down and updated 3 times since it was first published, hopefully it will be back up soon? @IRCC form person: you got this! don’t give up, you are our hero) and the details are just hours old, but these are the criteria to qualify:

  • The visit must be for 15 days or longer and cannot be discretionary (ie. not primarily for tourism, recreation or entertainment)
  • The Canadian (citizen or PR) extended family member must be physically in Canada (eg. it looks like they cannot be outside Canada, so travelling together into Canada does not appear to be an option)
  • Travelers must have a quarantine plan for the first 14 days in Canada
  • For extended family members: Travelers must be able to show their relationship to the Canadian (birth certificates, marriage certificates in addition to the declaration form)
  • For those in an “exclusive dating relationship” IRCC defines it as a romantic relationship with a Canadian, have been in the relationship for at least 1 year and have spent time in the physical presence of that person at some point during the relationship. So presumably proof will have to be provided – such as a selection of documents showing the relationship is exclusive and has been ongoing for over a year.

As far as the process goes, there are 4 options:

  • If you are in the US, it is unclear how you are supposed to apply, but it appears there has to be approval before arriving at the port of entry (hopefully this will be clarified by IRCC shortly – EDIT: yes, updated to say US citizens should use the same email process as those with visas)
  • if you have an eTA,  you submit the application form and supporting documents to the IRCC Webform using the language provided.
  • If you already have a visitor visa, you email all your info to IRCC
  • If you need a visitor visa,  you must apply for one and use this special wording on the application form:



So this is a good move on the part of IRCC and positive news for those who meet the new expanded criteria. But it reflects that we are in this travel restriction thing for the long haul.

And godspeed to all those willing and able to jump through the hoops to get here.


There is a lot to love about Canadian immigration these days. Our immigration minister is the right person for the job: a refugee, a lawyer and former immigration lawyer. There is a general perception that our programs are fair yet firm (just stay off the Canada subreddit). Express Entry is ticking along nicely. You can get through to a human at IRCC and sometimes a human will respond, even use an exclamation mark here and there (massive shout-out to “Lucy” at IRCC). Whoever is running the @IRCC Twitter account has a sense of humor, previously unseen (is that you, Lucy?). Here in Nova Scotia, we have new programs and a provincial immigration office that is fast, responsive and competent. We’ve also almost finished a balmy winter worthy of Weather Smugness at least when we talk to people in Alberta and Ontario. Everything is relative here in Canada.

On the surface, it’s sunshine and roses. But of course it’s not really. There are serious, prevailing, systemic problems. And I’m not only talking about the increasing inland refugee backlog, which is due to a lack of resources and decision-makers. There are other problems, all I think at least partly related to a collective myopic-optimism that has lulled us into thinking that everything is going just fine, thank you very much.

Parent/Grandparent sponsorship: in 2017, IRCC changed this process to a lottery. But the details were never sorted out, so ineligible people could throw their names into the lottery, and throw off everyone else’s chances of getting selected. A year later, IRCC promised to tighten up the process. But when the program reopened in January 2018, it became apparent that almost nothing had changed – one optional question was added to remind people they should be eligible. Sad, sad trombones.

Caregiver program closes: On February 5, 2018, IRCC announced that the 2014 caregiver “pathway to permanent residence” pilot expires in November 2019. Over the years, it has become harder for caregivers in Canada on work permits to qualify for PR and now there is no assurance that after November 2019 there will be an option to get PR. My humble suggestion is that the NOC for caregivers get listed under the Federal Skilled Trades class to facilitate permanent residence through Express Entry, and recognize that (a) caregiving is a skilled occupation; and (b) people who take care of children and the elderly in Canada should be valued the same as anyone else, and deserve a means to obtain permanent residence, the same as butchers and bakers and candlestick makers.

No more self-employed farmers: For as long as I have been practicing law (15 years), Canada has had a self-employed permanent residence program for artists, athletes and farmers. It’s not a particularly well-used program, but is helpful especially since many immigration programs don’t easily recognize self-employment as qualifying work experience (I’m looking at you, CEC and Atlantic Immigration Pilot). As of March 10, 2018, no more farmers can go through that program. Wait, what? Wait, why?

The new and improved family class: It’s amazing to me that in December 2016 when IRCC streamlined the family class, it increased the document checklist from 3 pages to 10 pages and required that applications be submitted on paper and then later linked online, which has proven to be a vexing problem. We joke about it around the office, but for people who are doing the applications themselves, it’s incredibly confusing. Love prevails, but it can be messy.

Refugee Resettlement is too slow and numbers are too low: We were on such a roll in 2015 but since then, the numbers have dwindled. Processing times are increasing, and spots for government assisted refugees are static. IRCC recently announced 1000 more female refugees would be resettled, which is great, but a lot more should be done to bump up the quotas, streamline the process and get rid of the backlog. The 2015 situation was not a blip, it’s the new normal. Canada needs to have ongoing infrastructure and contingency plans.

Today, someone asked if I thought they would be welcome in Canada. They qualify for permanent residence and are exactly the kind of newcomer Canada is trying to attract. But they were feeling insecure about immigrating, and that everything they had read seemed so impossibly positive, there must be a catch.   I told them I thought they would be welcome here, but starting a new life anywhere is tough, even when you plan properly and things go smoothly.

It is the first time I have ever been asked that question.

So, yes, despite everything, feeling pretty good.


Question: I am a permanent resident with a valid PR Card. I arrived at the airport and ended up being questioned for 3 hours about whether or not I can prove I live here. In the end the officer “reported” me for being inadmissible to Canada. Now I have to go back for another interview to deal with the report. What can I do?

The short answer is that you should not have engaged in the officer’s questions when you entered. A permanent resident has no obligation to answer any questions regarding residency or any other suspected ground of inadmissibility at the border. The CIC policy manual (. Section 11 of ENF 4) puts it this way (POE stands for Port of Entry, BSO stands for Border Services Officer):


“When a permanent resident appears at a POE for examination, the BSO must determine whether the person is a permanent resident. BSOs must remain cognizant of the fact that the Act gives permanent residents ofCanadathe right to enterCanadaat a POE once it is established that a person is a permanent resident, regardless of non-compliance with the residency obligation in A28 or the presence of other inadmissibilities.


“BSOs can refuse entry to a permanent resident only when the person has already lost the status in accordance with the provisions of A46 (such as a final determination has been made that they have failed to comply with the residency obligations or when a removal order comes into effect). In other words, once a permanent resident’s status is established, the person may enter Canada by right and the immigration examination under IRPA concludes.”


But once someone has answered the questions (and raised the suspicion of the BSO), then what? In my experience, you are stuck having to answer to the “report”. Generally, this means going back to the border (usually airport) at a designated date and time with all your supporting documents and being interviewed by another officer (who is referred to as “the Minister’s Delegate”). At this stage, you are risking a finding of inadmissibility (i.e. the beginning of losing permanent residence status) so it is imperative that you have an immigration lawyer assist you throughout. It is never good to go to an interview like this without a representative, even in cases where it seems like there is a simple answer or the border officer has just made a mistake.