Canada halts visas in unprecedented Ebola travel policy

3 Nov 14

CANADA

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? In one of the most restrictive Ebola-related travel policies to date, Canada has halted issuance of visas to foreign nationals who have been physically present in a country designated as having “widespread and intense” Ebola virus transmission.

What does the change mean? The policy bars all non-Canadians who have recently traveled to an Ebola-affected country.

  • Implementation timeframe: Oct. 31.
  • Visas/permits affected: Worker, student, and visitor temporary resident visas.
  • Who is affected: Non-Canadians who have been physically present in an Ebola-designated country within the three-month period preceding their application.
  • Business impact: The visa ban may cause business disruption if employees’ visas are canceled because of recent travel to Ebola-affected countries.

Background: Canada announced it will temporarily suspend processing of visa applications for non-Canadians who have been physically present in a country that the World Health Organization designates as having “widespread and persistent/intense transmission” of the Ebola virus. Physical presence includes residing, traveling or transiting through an Ebola-affected country.

Canadian citizens currently in West Africa, including health-care workers, are not included in the ban and will be allowed to return to Canada.

Temporary resident applications

Canada will stop processing new visa applications and pending visa applications for temporary residence in the worker, student or visitor categories for foreign nationals who have been in an Ebola-affected country within the three months prior to the date the application is received by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

CIC will also stop processing new visa applications and pending visa applications from foreign nationals who are intending to travel to an Ebola-affected country.

The policy does not apply to renewal, extension or restoration of status applications by temporary residents who are in Canada at the time of application and at the time of the decision on the renewal, extension or restoration of status.

Permanent resident applications

Canada will also stop processing new permanent resident visa applications for foreigners who have resided, traveled or transited in an Ebola affected country within the three months prior to CIC receipt of the application.

Foreign nationals who hold valid temporary resident status and who are applying for permanent residence while in Canada are not affected by this policy.

Pending permanent residence applications will be approved only if an officer is satisfied that the applicant has not resided, traveled or transited in an Ebola-affected country in the three-month period prior to the issuance of a visa or other document.

Foreign nationals covered by the new policy who have pending applications will have their applications canceled and their fees returned to them. Entry may be granted on a discretionary basis.

Canada is also enforcing its Quarantine Act by screening foreign nationals at all international points of entry. Visa applicants are asked whether they have any disorders that “would require social and/or health services, other than medication” while in Canada. In addition, the government recently formed and tested a rapid-response team in preparation for a possible Ebola outbreak in Canada.

The Ebola outbreak that began in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has killed more than 5,000 people worldwide since March.

BAL Analysis: Canada’s policy is considerably more restrictive than the measures taken by other countries, and travelers should be aware of the scope of this ban and its implications for anyone who has been physically present in an Ebola-affected country, whether or not they have had contact with any Ebola patients.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network partner located in Canada. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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