Recent updates include temporary travel restrictions for land ports of entry to the United States, temporary restrictions on nonessential travel to Canada, and similar restrictions on entry into Mexico. These restrictions may be expanded at any time.
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that beginning March 20, 2020, through April 20, 2020, travel through land ports of entry and ferry terminals, including passenger rail along the US-Canada border and the US-Mexico border will be limited to “essential travel” only.
This restriction currently does not apply to air, freight rail, or sea travel between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Those who have travelled to any of the countries covered by the temporary coronavirus (COVID-19)-related bans such as China, Iran, and the 26 European countries, in the 14 days before their scheduled arrival in the United States will not be allowed admission.
“Essential travel” includes the following:
Individuals traveling for tourism purposes will be denied entry into the United States during this period. Supply chains, including trucking, will not be impacted by this new measure. As the situation evolves daily, employers are strongly encouraged to make immediate arrangements related to cross-border travel.
Due to the mutual determination that nonessential travel (such as tourism or shopping) between the United States and Canada poses additional risk of transmission and spread of COVID-19, the Canadian government has closed its air and land borders to all foreign nationals.
Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, student permit holders (as well as prospective students who have been approved for a study permit), and work permit holders, as well as any immediate family members of the same are allowed to return to Canada by air or via United States or Canada border. Foreign nationals traveling from the United States who have been in the United States for at least 14 days will be able to enter Canada. Any passenger showing symptoms of the virus will not be permitted to board an airplane to Canada.
Family members do not need to be traveling together. However, the immediate family members traveling separately from the Canadian citizen/permanent resident, student or work permit holder, will have to be prepared to show evidence of the family relationship. In case of a common-law spouse, documentary evidence will need to show that the common-law spouse and the principal have lived together for at least one year.
All eligible entrants into Canada (by air and land) will be subject to a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine.
Those who hold work permit approvals and will be entering Canada will have a waiting period of 14 days before they can receive their Social Insurance Numbers (SIN).
Intermittent travelers between the United States and Canada will be subject to imposed self-quarantine. Therefore, it is highly recommended that intermittent travelers who are currently in Canada and whose presence is required for business purposes remain in Canada.
Travelers entering on work permit approvals will bear the burden of evidencing to the Canada Border Services Agency officer the true business need:
The definition of essential travel has been agreed upon and is in effect for travel to Mexico. Hence individuals traveling for work will likely not be barred from entry to Mexico. We await guidance from the Mexico Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will update as information is released.
While individuals traveling to work in the United States, Canada, and Mexico appear to be considered by definition “essential,” employers should reach out to their Morgan Lewis contact to check on whether the particular port of entry will allow entry for business travelers and work permit holders and/or processing for visa applications. Travelers should expect delays and inconsistent application of the travel suspension by port of entry officials. Employees may be required to shelter in place until the travel restrictions are lifted and will need to ensure compliance with relevant immigration laws.
For our clients, we have formed a multidisciplinary Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force to help guide you through the broad scope of legal issues brought on by this public health challenge. We also have launched a resource page to help keep you on top of developments as they unfold.
 Immediate family members include the following: spouses, common-law spouses, dependent children (under the age of 22), parents/step-parents, or guardians/tutors of Canadian children. Parents/step-parents or their spouse or common-law partners’ parent or step-parent, and guardians/tutors. This definition is a bit broader than the definition of a family member in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.