Settling in Canada Amidst the Pandemic: Everything You Need to Know

Last updated February 19, 2021)

As the effects of the pandemic continue to leave its mark in 2020 and have progressed into 2021, many have become uncertain if now is the right time to move to and settle in Canada.

Although borders remain closed, Canada’s immigration department remains open and continues to process visa applications.

In fact, on average programs like the Express Entry system issue approximately 5,000 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for permanent residency every month. Canada continues to make strides in its battle against the COVID-19. On December 9, 2020, Canada rolled out its first trials for the vaccine and the Canadian Government has set out a detailed plan on how it intends to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. The most important fact is that Canada plans to distribute the vaccine for free to priority populations before distributing it to the general public who have been recommended to take the vaccine.

But before we delve into the details of the vaccine distribution in Canada let's take a look at everything you need to know before you move to Canada.

Moving to and Living in Canada During the Pandemic

woman-doing-grocery-shopping-wearing-a-mask | settle in Canada

Due to the fact that the first batch of vaccines released will be limited, the Government has had to create a detailed distribution plan based on urgency. This, however, does not mean that not everyone will receive the vaccine. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Every person in Canada will eventually have access to the vaccine whether they are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, at no cost.

It is also important to note that no one will be forced to take the vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccine will be free.

As mentioned earlier, Canada intends to make the vaccine available to everyone at no cost. A detailed distribution plan has been outlined as follows:

Priority populations will receive the vaccine first.

Priority populations in Canada have been defined as follows by the Government:

  • residents and staff of shared living settings who provide care for seniors;
  • adults 70 years of age and older, with order of priority:
  • beginning with adults 80 years of age and older
  • decreasing the age limit by 5-year increments to age 70 years as supply becomes available
  • health care workers who have direct contact with patients, including:
  • those who work in health care settings
  • personal support workers
  • adults in indigenous communities.

Thereafter, the following will receive vaccines as they become available:

  • health care workers not included in the initial rollout;
  • residents and staff of all other shared living settings, such as:
  • homeless shelters
  • correctional facilities
  • housing for migrant workers
  • essential workers who face additional risks to maintain services for the functioning of society.

The vaccine will then be made available to everyone in Canada, including those who are not citizens:

  • everyone in Canada, including those who aren't citizens and who are over the:
  • age of 16 for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
  • age of 18 for the Moderna vaccine
  • diplomatic staff and their dependants;
  • Canadian Armed Forces personnel that are on active duty abroad.

The federal government will then work closely with local governments to implement the distribution plan fairly and effectively.

To date (February 19, 2021), Canada has already administered 1.4 million vaccines countrywide. Below is a map indicating the cumulative number of CVOVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Canada so far.

cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Canada | settle in Canada


Below is a table indicating how many vaccines will be distributed in each Canadian province and/or territory.

Canadian Vaccine Distribution by Province/Territory (last updated February 19, 2021)
Vaccine DistributionPfizer/BioNTechModernaTotal
Total distributed in Canada779,025340,2001,402,139
Newfoundland and Labrador11.7004,80016,458
Prince Edward Island6,8252,40010,691
Nova Scotia21,4507,40025,032
New Brunswick16,5755,10021,182
British Columbia103,35041,200192,942
Northwest Territories014,40014,157
Federal allocation03,6003,600

Canada will need immigrants after the pandemic.

Canada’s immigration system has long been the key to driving its economy to new heights and will continue to do so well after the pandemic has been controlled and vaccines have been dolled out. In fact, the demand for skilled foreign workers has become so great that the Canadian Government has set new immigration levels for the next three years, planning to invite 1.2 million newcomers to join the Canadian community by 2023. The number of ITAs issued will be as follows:

  • 401,00 by 2021;
  • 411,00 by 2022;
  • 411,00 by 2023.

Certain foreign workers will be exempt from the pandemic travel restrictions in Canada.

nurse-putting-mask-on-girl | settle in Canada

There are certain occupations that have been deemed essential as well as those who do not need a work permit that has been permitted to enter Canada; such as:

  • Emergency Service providers;
  • Healthcare students;
  • Those making medical deliveries;
  • Technicians or specialists inspecting, repairing or maintaining equipment;
  • Commercial fishing-related activities and marine research.

You will either need a letter of invitation or a joining letter from the respective sector.

Key sectors in Canada that will urgently need international workers are:

  • The Agricultural Sector;
  • The Medical Sector;
  • Logistics and Transportation Sector;
  • The Information Technology (IT) Sector; as well as
  • Various Manufacturing and Development Sectors.

For more information about other industries where you’ll find in-demand jobs in Canada in 2021, visit our blog here.

International students are allowed to enter Canada.

As of October 20, 2020, foreign students are permitted to come to Canada to start or continue their studies as long as they meet 2 requirements:

  • have a valid study permit or a letter of introduction that shows you were approved for a study permit; and

  • are attending a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by its province or territory.

What if I’m a foreign graduate student and would like to stay in Canada to work?

Great news! If you are a recent graduate and intend to stay and work in Canada you may still be eligible to apply through the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program (PGWPP).

You may be eligible if you:

  • have completed your studies at a DLI with PGWPP-eligible programs;
  • your in-class courses in Canada are moved to an online-only format because of COVID-19, or
  • you had to put your studies on hold or study part-time because of COVID-19 during the winter, spring, or summer 2020 semesters

If you are currently already in Canada and have a PGWP that’s about to expire you may be eligible to apply for a new open work permit.

This new policy allows international graduate students to apply for a new work permit, which is valid for 18 months if their PGWP is going to expire. You will have until July 27, 2021, to complete and submit your online application.

What do I need to apply?

  • A PGWP that expired on or after January 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in 4 months or less from the date of application;
  • Be in Canada;
  • A valid temporary status or be applying to restore your status; and
  • A valid passport.

You will need a COVID-19 molecular test before flying to Canada.

Before being able to board a flight to Canada, it is now compulsory that all foreign nationals, five years or older, flying to Canada produce:

  • negative COVID-19 test
  • positive COVID-19 molecular test taken between 14 and 90 days prior to departure

You will be required to:

  • take the test within 72 hours of your scheduled departure time; and
  • keep proof of your test results for the 14-day period that begins on the day you enter Canada.

You will need to upload this information on the ArriveCAN app before boarding your international flight.nOnce submitted you will receive a receipt, which you will need to produce at the Canadian Border Services.

You will also need to meet the following requirements before being permitted to board your international flight:

  • have no symptoms of COVID-19 unless you have a medical certificate stating that your symptoms are not COVID-19 related or have been refused boarding in the past 14 days due to a medical reason related to COVID-19 or
  • are subject to a provincial or local public health order

As a foreign national, you will also not be allowed to board a flight to Canada if:

  • you’re travelling from a country other than the United States and are not covered by any of the exemptions in the Orders in Council; or
  • you’re travelling from a country other than the United States for an optional and discretionary purpose.

All air travellers must wear a non-medical mask while travelling, except:

  • children under 2 years old;
  • people who are unable to remove the mask without assistance
  • people who provide a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a face mask for a medical reason.

Flying within Canada

If you plan to travel between provinces or territories there are no travel restrictions provided you have not left Canada. This differs from province to province or territory. Visit the provincial government websites here for more information.

You will need to quarantine when you arrive in Canada.

Although the borders are still, for the most part, closed to most foreigners and travellers, the Canadian Government has made exceptions for certain individuals deemed as essential as well as international students enrolled at COVID-ready DLIs. When entering Canada, you will be required to:

  • isolate for 14 days if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you know you have COVID-19;
  • quarantine for 14 days if you do not have symptoms
  • comply with mandatory quarantine or isolation requirements – failure to comply will result in fines, penalties or imprisonment.

It is very important if you have been cleared to enter Canada that you can show that you have made plans for when you arrive in Canada as failure to do so may result in being denied entry to Canada, whether or not you have all other necessary documentation and visas.

For more information about regulations regarding travelling to Canada during the pandemic, visit the Government website here.

You will be able to reunite with your spouse

african-american-couple-with-consultant-wearing-masks | settle in Canada

Although Canada’s immigration department has slowed down on the processing of family sponsorship visas since the pandemic hit, in September 2020 it was announced that the Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada (IRCC) would be speeding up processing for those applying for spousal sponsorship. According to the Toronto Star, 14,816 applications were approved between October and December 2020, two-thirds of which were applications sent from outside of Canada.

Some countries have been restricted from entering Canada.

In a recent announcement on January 31, 2021, the Canadian Government announced that certain countries had been added to the restricted list and will be prohibited from entering Canada until 30 April 2021. These include but are not limited to:

  • Mexico;
  • The United States;
  • Caribbean countries; as well as
  • Central and South America.

“The safety of the travelling public and the transportation industry are top priorities. Our government continues to strongly advise against non-essential travel outside Canada and has implemented many measures to protect the health of Canadians in our transportation system. The expansion of the flight restrictions is based on decisive, public health rationale from the Public Health Agency of Canada to further protect Canadians from the health impacts of COVID-19.”

The Honourable Omar Alghabra

Minister of Transport

Top Tips Before You Travel to Canada During the Pandemic

  1. Do your research

Before you make the move to Canada be sure to find out which province or territory will be best for your specific career. Each province/territory has a list of its in-demand jobs and by choosing a place in Canada where your skills are most needed, you may have a higher chance of being successful in your visa application.

  1. Be Prepared for a new way of life and the weather

Canada has two official languages; English and French. If your skills are not up to scratch you may want to take a refresher course so that you can communicate freely and confidently with the locals. Canada's winters can also be particularly cold, depending on which province or territory you decide to settle in. Make sure that you bundle up.

  1. Use Newcomer Resources and Tools

Moving to a new country can be a tremendous task to undertake alone. Whether it be finding work in Canada, accommodation, or the best school for your children, Canada offers services to help you settle in both before and after you arrive.

  1. Have a Realistic Budget

Make sure that you not only have the required amount of settlement funds when moving to Canada but plan for unforeseen circumstances such as prolonged unemployment and healthcare needs (your healthcare will not kick in immediately as you will need to have lived in Canada for at least 3 months), funds to cover you during your quarantine, and so forth.

  1. Find employment before your leave

The job market at the moment is very competitive. The last thing that you want is to arrive in Canada and struggle to find work whilst also adjusting to your new way of life. Some great place to start your search in the government job website, JobBank.

Life in Canada in a Post-Pandemic World

Moving to Canada at a time where everything seems uncertain may seem like a risky decision, but as the government moves forward with plans to not only protect its citizens and permanent residents both healthwise and financially, you can rest assured that starting your application process now will benefit you and your family in the long run.

Although the border remains closed to most foreigners, Canada has made provisions for essential workers, international students who are registered at COVID-ready institutions and are prepared to distribute the vaccine, for free, to all Canadians and permanent residents according to a staggered distribution plan.

Ready to find out how you and your loved ones can settle in Canada?