Optional and Non-Optional TravelTravel for optional or discretionary purposes is broadly defined in the Orders as including (but not limited to) travel for the purposes of tourism, recreation and entertainment.

Some examples of discretionary or optional travel are:

  • to visit family for a vacation
  • for the birth of a grandchild, nephew, niece, cousin, etc. (For the parent of a child, this may be considered non-discretionary travel; however, it will still require assessment.)
  • to spend time at a secondary residence (vacation home, hunting or fishing lodge, etc.). This includes entry for upkeep or maintenance purposes.
  • to attend the funeral of a family member (This purpose of travel would be improbable due to quarantine measures and limits to the number of attendees at funerals under provincial restrictions.)

Travel for the following purposes would be considered non-optional or non-discretionary:

  • economic services and supply chains
  • critical infrastructure support
  • health (immediate medical care), safety and security
  • supporting Indigenous communities
  • transiting through Canada for non-optional or non-discretionary purposes
  • studying in Canada if already approved for a study permit on or before March 18
  • tending to family matters for non-optional or non-discretionary purposes (such as bringing supplies to elderly parents or tending to sick family members) when there is no one else available in Canada to assist
  • any other activities that are deemed non-optional or non-discretionary by the Government of Canada or based on an officer’s assessment

Family reunification

Officers should be aware that family ties will not automatically qualify the foreign national for non-optional or non-discretionary travel. Family members will be required to show that they are not travelling for a discretionary or optional purpose such as a routine family visit.

Some examples of non-discretionary or non-optional travel for the purposes of family reunification are (not an exhaustive list)

  • to take up full-time residence in Canada (this applies to prospective permanent residents as well as temporary residents who are seeking entry to Canada to live with immediate family members)
  • to care for an ill family member or a family member who is unable to care for themselves when no other arrangements can be made (the 14-day quarantine for travellers will be factored into whether the travel is discretionary)
  • for foreign national immediate family member(s) (as per the definition in the Order in Council), to spend the pandemic period with their Canadian citizen family member so they can help to ensure each other’s health, safety and well-being (This section is specifically to allow for the reunification of family members where it would be beneficial to all parties, as the reunification of family members is a key point of the Order in Council. This allows for families to be together during this difficult time.)
  • shared custody agreement across borders, as this would be complying with a court order

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