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High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom COVID-19: Frequently asked questions

Updated: October 19, 2020

Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions from Canadians in the United Kingdom. There is also useful information for foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home. Please read this before contacting the High Commission to allow us to focus on assisting Canadians in distress and requiring urgent assistance.

The High Commission of Canada in the UK is currently operating with very reduced on-site presence in line with UK and Canadian government guidance. We advise against coming to Canada House in person. If you are a Canadian citizen in need of emergency consular assistance, contact ldn.consular@international.gc.ca. Please note that we strongly recommend that you contact us by email. We are checking this address frequently between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. If you do not have access to email, you can leave us a voicemail message at (+ 44) 0 20 7004 6000 (international call from a Canadian number) between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. Follow the prompts for Services to Canadian citizens, then Emergency situation involving a Canadian. We will reply by the next business day.

For serious consular emergencies after hours, please call the 24-hour Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa, either directly at 00 800 2326 6831 (charges apply), or via (+44) 0 20 7004 6000 (international call from a Canadian number) outside of office hours. Please note that the Centre is currently experiencing a high volume of calls.

You can also follow our social media channels (TwitterFacebook and Instagram) for ongoing guidance and check this page regularly for updates. Please also visit www.travel.gc.ca and register on ROCA as a Canadian abroad.

Thank you for your patience while we work to respond to this unprecedented situation.

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I heard there are new measures in place to allow extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to travel to Canada, is this true?

Yes. Extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents may be exempt from Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions and will be allowed to board a flight to Canada if they have obtained a written authorization in advance. Extended family members covered by these new measures include among others: adult children, siblings, grandchildren and grandparents, as well as persons in an exclusive dating relationship. Every person entering Canada, with limited exceptions, must quarantine for 14 days, starting on the day of arrival.

Without advance written approval for an exemption of a border restriction, you may be denied aircraft boarding or entry into Canada.

You should not book a flight to Canada until you receive written authorization from IRCC.

To find out more and to apply for the special authorization, please visit the IRCC website.

What does Canada consider to be an exclusive dating relationship?

An exclusive dating relationship means you’re in a romantic relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, 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.

Examples of an exclusive dating relationship include:

  • fiancé(e)
  • committed romantic partners for at least 1 year who lived together but don’t meet the definition of common-law
  • boyfriends, girlfriends or any other couple in an intimate, loving relationship

You should not book a flight to Canada until you receive written authorization from IRCC.

To find out more and to apply for the special authorization to be exempt from COVID-19 travel restrictions, please visit the IRCC website.

Are there any exemptions in place to allow foreign nationals to travel to Canada for compassionate reasons, such as to say goodbye to a loved one?

Yes. Foreign nationals may be exempt from Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions for compassionate reasons, if they have obtained a written authorization in advance from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Applications will be considered for those needing to:

  • be present during the final moments of life for a loved one or to provide support or care to someone who is critically ill
  • provide care for a person who has a medical reason as to why they require support
  • attend a funeral or end of life ceremony

Every person entering Canada, with limited exceptions, must quarantine for 14 days, starting on the day of arrival. Travellers entering Canada for compassionate reasons may seek approval for an exemption from border restrictions and a limited release from mandatory quarantine.

Before your trip to Canada, you must receive advance approval for both the exemption to the border restrictions and a limited release from quarantine.

Without advance written approval for an exemption of a border restriction, you may be denied aircraft boarding or entry into Canada and without an approved release from quarantine, you’ll be subject to all mandatory quarantine requirements.

To find our what steps to follow to apply for an exemption to current border restrictions and a limited release from quarantine for compassionate reasons, please visit the PHAC website.

I’ve heard the rules for international students wanting to travel to Canada to start their studies are going to change on October 20th, what is changing?

Starting October 20, 2020, Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by their Province or Territory will be able to reopen to international students who are currently outside Canada. A new list of DLIs with approved COVID-19 readiness plans will be available on or before this date.

If you plan to come to Canada as an international student on or after October 20, 2020, your DLI must be on the list of DLIs with approved COVID-19 readiness plans before you travel to Canada. This change will apply to all international students, including those who currently hold a study permit.

This change doesn’t affect study permit holders already physically present in Canada.

If you’re already in Canada, you can continue studying at any DLI. However, if you leave Canada, you may not be able to return if your DLI doesn’t have a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by the Province or Territory in which you are residing.

I heard that the NHS has just launched a Test and Trace service. How does it work?

For an overview of the NHS test and trace service, including what happens if you test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive, please consult: NHS Test and Trace: how it works.

Are there new rules for passengers coming into the UK?

Yes there are new rules for those entering the UK. Effective June 8, travellers will be required to share their contact details and travel information. They will also have to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival or they may incur a fine. Transit passengers who remain airside and do not pass border control will be exempt from self-isolation requirements. More information available on Entering the UK.

If I am leaving the UK, do I have to quarantine myself when I get back to Canada?

Yes. All persons entering Canada, by air, sea or land, whether or not they have signs and symptoms of COVID 19, are REQUIRED to confirm their 14-day mandatory quarantine accommodations before they will be allowed to enter the country. There are exemptions in place to ensure that critical infrastructure, essential services and economic supply chains continue between Canada and the U.S.

All air passengers are required to have a non-medical mask or face covering to cover their mouth and nose during travel. When travelling by air, travellers will be asked to cover their mouth and nose:

  • at Canadian airport screening checkpoints, where the screeners cannot always keep two metres of separation between themselves and the traveller;
  • when they cannot physically distance from others, or as directed by the airline employees; and
  • when directed to do so by a public health order or public health official.

Aviation passengers on all flights departing or arriving at Canadian airports will be required to demonstrate they have the necessary non-medical mask or face covering during the boarding process otherwise they will not be allowed to continue on their journey. Travellers must have their own masks – these will not be provided. Passengers should follow the current Public Health Agency of Canada’s guidance on face coverings.

Please note that the requirements on travel to Canada are subject to frequent change.

Before arriving in Canada, downloading the ArriveCAN app and entering the required information securely within 48 hours before arriving in Canada allows you to spend less time in line and limit your physical contact with others upon arrival.

During the 14 days after you arrive in Canada, the app allows you to voluntarily validate your quarantine plan and provide updates on the possible development of COVID-19 symptoms.

Should a Canadian traveller not be allowed to board an aircraft because of illness, they should follow the instructions of UK authorities and if consular services are required, contact: ldn.consular@international.gc.ca. Please note that we strongly recommend that you contact us by email. We are checking this address frequently between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. If you do not have access to email, you can leave us a voicemail message at (+ 44) 0 20 7004 6000 (international call from a Canadian number) between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. Follow the prompts for Services to Canadian citizens, then Emergency situation involving a Canadian. We will reply by the next business day.

I know there are some restrictions in place to prevent certain persons from boarding flights to Canada due to COVID-19. Are there any exemptions applicable to immediate family members of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident? 

Yes. Immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are exempt from Canada’s Covid-19 travel restrictions and are allowed to board a flight to Canada if they are travelling to Canada with their immediate family member and will remain in Canada for a period of 15 days or more, or if they are travelling to Canada to visit their immediate family member and will be remaining in Canada for a period of 15 days or more. 

An immediate family member is limited to:

  • the spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • a dependent child of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or of the spouse or common law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • the dependent child of a dependent child of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or of the spouse or common law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • the parent or step-parent of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or of the spouse or common law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident; or
  • the guardian or tutor of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

A dependent child is a person under 22 years old and does not have a spouse or common-law partner, or is 22 years old or older and has depended on their parents for financial support since before they were 22 and cannot financially support themselves because of a mental or physical condition.  For more information on who qualifies as a dependent child, please visit: Who you can include as a dependent child on an immigration application.

Adult children and siblings of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident are not included in the definition of immediate family member.

In all cases, the traveller must still possess the required travel documents for entry into Canada. They will be asked to confirm their 14-day mandatory quarantine accommodations, as would any other traveller entering Canada. Passengers are encouraged to bring documents that confirm their immediate family member is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident (e.g., a photocopy of their Canadian passport or Canadian permanent resident card) and evidence of their relationship to the Canadian citizen or permanent resident (e.g., photocopy of a marriage or birth record).

Immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are travelling to Canada for a purpose other than to visit their immediate family member may not be eligible to travel to Canada. 

Should a Canadian traveller not be allowed to board an aircraft because of illness, they should follow the instructions of UK authorities and if consular services are required, contact: ldn.consular@international.gc.ca. Please note that we strongly recommend that you contact us by email. We are checking this address frequently between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. If you do not have access to email, you can leave us a voicemail message at (+ 44) 0 20 7004 6000 (international call from a Canadian number) between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. Follow the prompts for Services to Canadian citizens, then Emergency situation involving a Canadian. We will reply by the next business day.

To find out what documentation you require to enter Canada please consult the IRCC website.

Who does Canada consider to be a common law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident?

A common law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada is somebody who has lived together with the Canadian citizen or permanent resident for at least one year in a conjugal relationship. To be considered a common-law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you will need to provide evidence that you have cohabited with that person in a conjugal relationship for at least one year. The cohabitation must have been continuous, and not intermittent cohabitation adding up to one year.

Passengers should bring documents showing that they have lived together with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident in a conjugal relationship for at least one year. For a more complete list of the types of documents you will need to provide when travelling as a common law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, please visit the IRCC Help Centre.

For further details on the definition of a common-law partner, please visit the IRCC Help Centre.

I have heard that Canada has updated exemptions to travel restrictions to include foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home – is that true? 

Exemptions to travel restrictions for foreign nationals who are coming to Canada as temporary foreign workers, some international students and approved permanent residents who haven’t landed are now in effect. If you’re exempt, you can travel to Canada, if your travel is deemed essential. You will be asked to confirm your 14-day mandatory quarantine accommodations, as would any other traveller entering Canada. If you do not have an adequate place to quarantine (self-isolate), the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada will designate a facility where you must remain for 14 days. If your travel is not deemed essential, you will be turned back. Before you travel, you will need to go through health screening protocols.

More information on who is exempt and to monitor the most recent updates consult How the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is affecting immigration, refugees, citizenship and passport services.

Can holders of work permits board a flight to Canada?

Passengers with a valid work permit or with a letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada confirming that their application for a work permit has been approved are eligible to travel to Canada under the following circumstances:

  • They have confirmation from their employer that they will be starting to work in Canada after the conclusion of the mandatory quarantine period;
  • They were previously established, living and working in Canada, they were only outside of Canada for a temporary period, and they have maintained their home or residence in Canada during their absence; or
  • They have been issued an open work permit or had an application for work permit approved as the spouse or common-law partner of a foreign national in Canada as a student or worker and the purpose of their trip to Canada is family re-unification.

Passengers travelling to Canada to work should bring their valid work permit or letter of approval along with either written confirmation from their employer that they are expected to start working upon arrival in Canada, or in the case of the spouse or common-law partner of a student or worker in Canada, copy of the spouse or common law partner’s work or study permit.

Applications for work permits are not currently being accepted at Canadian Ports of Entry.

Passengers who were previously eligible to apply for a work permit at a Port of Entry are advised to apply for a work permit before travelling to Canada.

Can holders of study permits board a flight to Canada?

Passengers with a study permit issued before 18 March 2020 are eligible to travel to Canada under the following circumstances:

  • They were previously established, living and studying in Canada, they were only outside of Canada for a temporary period, and they have maintained their home or residence in Canada during their absence;
  • Their presence in Canada is necessary for their continued participation in their program of studies (e.g., participating in laboratories or workshops); or
  • Pursuing online studies is not an option for their school or program.

Passengers with a letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada confirming that their application for a study permit has been approved before 18 March 2020 are eligible to travel to Canada under the following circumstance:

  • The passenger is required to begin studying immediately upon arrival to Canada and their physical presence in Canada is necessary (e.g., the educational institution is delivering the studies through a combination of on-line and in-person classes).

Passengers whose study permit was issued after 18 March 2020 or whose application for a study permit was approved after 18 March 2020 are not currently allowed to board a flight to Canada.

Passengers travelling to Canada to study should bring their valid study permit or letter of approval along with written confirmation from their school or academic institution confirming that their studies are scheduled to resume and that the course or program requires them to be physically present in Canada.

If I am a Canadian citizen travelling in the UK, should I leave and return to Canada because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, the Government of Canada advised, as of Monday, March 16, that Canadian travellers should return to Canada by commercial transport while they still can. Flights from London to a few major Canadian cities are still available. We understand that airlines are reducing flight schedules and we recommend you book a flight as soon as possible, while commercial options are still available. If you decide to stay in the United Kingdom, you should consider the implications of flights being cancelled or ceasing to operate and your ability to cover unexpected living expenses in the UK if flights suddenly stop operating. There may also be implications for your health and travel insurance.

If I am a Canadian citizen, will the High Commission of Canada in the UK assist me to find flight information and buy or change an airline ticket to return to Canada?

Consular services at the High Commission, particularly in the current circumstances, must focus on assisting Canadians in distress requiring urgent assistance. In most cases, travellers should take responsibility for changing their own travel arrangements, taking into consideration that airlines are extremely busy responding to calls at present. Many travellers have found that contacting a local travel agent has been very helpful in identifying travel options.

How do I access the new COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad, as announced by the federal government?

On March 17, Global Affairs Canada announced the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad. The COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program will facilitate Canadians’ return to Canada, or help ensure that their basic essential needs are met while they work on their return to Canada, through a repayable loan.

Canadian citizens abroad who are directly impacted by COVID-19 and who require emergency financial assistance to secure their return to Canada, and those who need to sustain themselves while they work towards securing their return to Canada, are eligible for a loan of up to $5,000 CAD. The loan can be used to cover expenses related to transport (most economical option possible) and for basic needs: housing, meals, medical expenses that are not covered by travel insurance or Canadian provinces).

If you wish to apply for a loan under this program, please email our office at ldn.consular@international.gc.ca with a subject heading of “COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program”, and provide your contact details. Further information on eligibility and advice on how to apply can be found on the Frequently asked questions - COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad. Each application will be assessed according to the specific situation and need. In all cases the Canadian will need to undertake to repay the loan in its entirety.

In the meantime, please research the cost of flights, as your application will need to include a budget estimate with a breakdown of expenses, and ultimately proof of expenses or cost estimates.

Can I travel to Canada if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

No. You will not be allowed to board your flight if you are displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

You must self-isolate if you have symptoms (fever, cough, respiratory difficulties). In this situation, you should follow the United Kingdom’s procedures and use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do (only call 111 if you cannot get help online, or 999 for emergencies). Please also keep the High Commission informed of your situation: ldn.consular@international.gc.ca. Please note that we strongly recommend that you contact us by email. We are checking this address frequently between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. If you do not have access to email, you can leave us a voicemail message at (+ 44) 0 20 7004 6000 (international call from a Canadian number) between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. Follow the prompts for Services to Canadian citizens, then Emergency situation involving a Canadian. We will reply by the next business day.

You may also choose to apply for a loan if this situation leads you to require financial assistance (see above).

I am concerned about COVID-19 affecting my longer-term plans to return to Canada. Can you provide me with any information about what I should do?

We recommend that Canadians in the UK who wish to return home do so without delay, while commercial flights to Canada are still available.

Please note that for Canadians who have been living outside Canada, most provinces have a three-month residency requirement before you would become eligible for healthcare coverage once again. Please check this directly with the provincial healthcare provider and ensure that you have travel/medical insurance to cover you for your initial three months in Canada.

If you are concerned about travelling or need to change your flight, you will need to contact your airline and/or accommodation providers directly.

I am concerned about contracting COVID-19 while here in the UK. Can I access local healthcare?

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has a 111 online coronavirus service which is accessible to all, where you can answer questions about your health and get advice if you feel you may be at risk.

The present advice is that if you have flu-like symptoms, if you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 10 days from when your symptoms started. If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 10 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

As with any illness abroad, we would recommend that you contact your health insurance provider to make enquiries about your particular situation.

If I need a new passport or want to make a citizenship application, do I have to apply in person?

No. We are unable to check and accept routine applications at the public counter. Clients should submit their applications to us by tracked mail or by placing in the drop-off box at Canada House.  

We would be glad to assist you with any urgent questions or concerns by phone (returned voice mail) or email. In case of emergency travel please send an email to ldn.passport@international.gc.ca including your full name and phone number.

For urgent citizenship matters, general consular services or notarial services, please send an email to ldn.consular@international.gc.ca with your full name and phone number.

Is there a means to register with the High Commission of Canada to let you know that I am a Canadian presently in the UK?

Yes. We would encourage you to register as a Canadian abroad to stay in touch with the Government of Canada. You will be asked to provide your contact details and emergency contact information.

If I am a Canadian citizen living in the UK and my long-stay visa or my residency permit is due to expire in the coming weeks, do I have to leave the UK and return to Canada?

On 24 March, the UK announced that visa nationals who cannot return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to extend their visa. For the latest advice visit UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents. You can also contact the UK’s Coronavirus Immigration Helpline: 0800 678 1767 or email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.

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Date Modified:
2020-10-19