COVID-19 Rules for Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada

Backgrounder:  New measures to protect foreign workers and prevent the spread of COVID-19 for the 2021 season

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Backgrounder

The Government of Canada recognizes the vital role temporary foreign workers (TFWs) play in key sectors such as agriculture, agri-food, and fish and seafood processing that are critical to Canada’s food supply, food security and the Canadian economy. Allowing foreign workers entry into Canada is the first of many steps the government has taken to facilitate employer access to this important labour supply, while also protecting the health and safety of foreign workers and Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to enter Canada by air, all travellers five years of age or older, regardless of citizenship, must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of their flight to Canada. As of February 22, 2021, all air travelers, including TFWs, are also required to take a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival in Canada while at the airport, and later in their 14- day quarantine period.

The requirement for travelers to quarantine in a Government-Authorized Accommodation (GAA) while they wait for the results of their arrival COVID-19 test was deferred for certain TFWs, including those with work visas in the agriculture, agri-food, and fish and seafood sectors, until March 14, 2021. This deferral has been extended to March 21, 2021. This applies to workers in the following occupations:

Primary agriculture:

  • NOC 0821: Managers in agriculture
  • NOC 0822: Managers in horticulture
  • NOC 8252: Agricultural and related service agricultural service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
  • NOC 8255: Landscaping and ground maintenance: contractors and supervisors, landscaping, grounds maintenance and horticulture services
  • NOC 8431: General farm workers
  • NOC 8432: Nursery and greenhouse workers
  • NOC 8611: Harvesting labourers

Other agri-food, fish and seafood occupations:

  • NOC 6331: Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers (retail and wholesale)
  • NOC 9461: Process control and machine operators, food, beverage and associated products processing
  • NOC 9462: Industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers
  • NOC 9463: Fish and seafood plant workers
  • NOC 9617: Labourers in food, beverage and associated products processing
  • NOC 9618: Labourers in fish and seafood processing

Today’s announcement outlines a strengthened approach that builds on existing public health measures and will further protect workers and Canadians from the spread of COVID-19 for the quarantine period upon arrival and through the entire agricultural season. 

Two-pronged approach as of March 21, 2021

The Government of Canada will be moving forward with a two-pronged approach to quarantine requirements for TFWs after March 21, 2021. This will apply to TFWs with work visas in agriculture, agri-food, fish and seafood sectors based on their final destination:

  • Asymptomatic TFWs will be able to travel directly to their place of quarantine after getting a COVID-19 test at the airport provided they travel by private transportation and are accompanied only by others who travelled with them to Canada.
  • TFWs who will need to travel by public means of transportation to a secondary location upon arrival in Canada will be required to stay in a GAA and await the results of their COVID-19 test.


The approach is built on:

  • Ensuring that workers provide evidence of a suitable quarantine plan as per current travel requirements and verified on arrival. 
    • Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will work with federal partners and stakeholders to ensure workers have the necessary information so they can fully comply with requirements on arrival, and be better educated on their obligations under the Quarantine Act.
    • This includes exploring the use of alternative formats for reporting the required pre-arrival and post-arrival information that takes into account some of the barriers workers face including language and access to technology.
    • Employers whose workers who will be required to stay at a GAA will need to make reservations in advance of the worker’s arrival in Canada using the current booking system available to all travellers.
    • Provided TFWs have a suitable quarantine plan and safe transportation arranged to their place of quarantine, the government intends to ensure employers and TFWs will not assume incremental costs associated with the three-day quarantine requirement at the point of entry.
  • Ensuring workers are safely transported directly from the airport to their place of quarantine according to public health guidelines
    • A TFW’s place of quarantine may be either an employer or government facility, depending on the jurisdiction.
    • The government will work with provinces and other program partners to communicate guidelines and promote the adoption of best practices.


Workers who need to travel onward to a secondary location

As of March 21, 2021, TFWs who will need to travel to a secondary location by public transportation upon arrival in Canada will be required to stay in a GAA and await the results of their COVID-19 test. This does not apply for workers continuing to their secondary location by private air or land travel. Employers of workers who will be required to stay at a GAA will need to make reservations in advance of the worker’s arrival in Canada using the current booking system available to all travellers.

Provided TFWs have a suitable quarantine plan and safe transportation arranged to their place of quarantine, the government intends to ensure employers and TFWs will not assume incremental costs associated with the three-day quarantine requirement at the point of entry. Workers will also be provided with supports on arrival and during their hotel stay. The Government of Canada is continuing to explore how best to support TFWs and employers to ensure that TFWs can arrive and remain in Canada safely for the duration of their work.

Upon receipt of a negative test result, TFWs could continue to the employer’s location to serve the balance of the 14-day quarantine period or up to another full 14-day quarantine upon entry into the provincial jurisdiction, depending on provincial post-travel requirements. As per changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations in April 2020, employers are required to pay TFWs throughout their quarantine period, including additional days of quarantine due to provincial requirements.

Strengthening measures to protect workers

In addition to the measures outlined above, the Government of Canada is also:

  • Working with provinces to help ensure employers have robust plans to safely quarantine and isolate workers
    • The government is working with provinces to strengthen existing approaches to help ensure employers are well prepared to safely quarantine workers. This includes suitable isolation options for positive/symptomatic workers throughout the season.
    • To complement this approach, ESDC is increasing its outreach and education efforts to employers on quarantine requirements and employer obligations.
  • Strengthening quarantine and post-quarantine measures once workers are on site. This includes:
    • Increasing the number of employer compliance inspections in agriculture.
    • Advancing partnerships with provinces to better target and coordinate inspection efforts during a worker’s quarantine and/or post-quarantine per existing practices since last year:
      • During an inspection, if informed of a potential outbreak or a TFW has COVID-19 symptoms, Service Canada investigators will immediately report this information to local public health officials who will take action as necessary.
      • Failure to comply with the quarantine conditions/regulations can result in significant penalties of up to $1 million, and a permanent ban from the TFW Program.
  • Funding migrant worker organizations to provide direct assistance to workers affected by COVID-19 for the 2021 season.
    • Leveraging new funding agreements with migrant worker support organizations to support workers through the arrival process and throughout their stay. This will include:
      • providing logistical support to TFWs through the COVID-19 testing and post-flight requirements on arrival;
      • directing them to their transportation organized by the employer,
      • supporting those who need to stay at a GAA for 3 days on arrival; and
      • providing TFWs information on the quarantine process and their obligations;
  • Improving the TFW tip line
    • This includes the addition of live agents able to offer services in multiple languages, who can help workers better communicate situations of mistreatment or abuse.
    • The government will also be providing additional education for workers on their rights;
  • Improving coordination with provinces to support timely response to emerging issues, including outbreaks.
    • ESDC is working with provinces to establish joint coordination teams that would include representatives from relevant federal, provincial and local authorities to coordinate timely responses to emerging issues by the responsible authorities on a case-by-case basis.
    • This builds on existing collaborative forums with PTs as well as other stakeholders including the Canada-Mexico Working Group established in April 2020.
    • This is in addition to ongoing work on a proposal for mandatory requirements to improve employer-provided accommodations. 

Published by Robert K Sephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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