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Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Old Aug 12th 2020, 9:44 pm
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Default Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Introduction

So we are finally here in sunny Toronto and have finally made it. I hope to give you a brief insight into our journey here from the day of travelling. I hope someone finds this blog useful.



The Covid Restriction

My wife had a Temporary Work Permit approved online before we travelled. Still, due to the current situation, my son and I were not allowed to go with my wife. We worked out that we were allowed, provided that we had travel exemptions. Travel exemptions are only offered to immediate family members, with a good reason for the travel.



The method of obtaining one is by emailing [email protected], attach copies of passports, work permit and reason why your immediate family members need to travel (e.g. relocation as a family for work). You will receive an automated reply with all the details of what additional documents they need you to send. If you are due to fly soon, add 'Urgent' in the subject heading.



They say it takes up to 5 business days, but we waited 8 days and had to contact the Canadian Embassy in London for an extra nudge.



The Journey

We booked a room in the Sofitel (at T5 of Heathrow) the evening before flying as we didn't want a mad rush on the day of travel. We were flying with British Airways, so this arrangement suited us.



Or so we thought.



Our flight was due to depart at 5 pm. So at midday, I went to the terminal to ask whether we could check in with more than the 3 hours before the flight take-off time. BA staff told me that it would not be possible and directed me to come back at 2 pm.



BA Check-in Desk

We arrived at the check-in gate and joined a queue, which laster only 10 minutes. Online check-in is not available, so the terminal appears busy because everyone is forced to check-in at a desk. It is not and when past security, it becomes noticeable with the lack of people and closed shops (such as M&S).



When we got the desk, we were met with a friendly BA staff member who began checking us in. She asked if my son and I had the authority to fly, and appeared confused when I showed her the exemption letters.



She made several phone calls and then disappeared to go and speak to a manager as a call had to be made with Canada to verify our exemptions. She returned and said we had to wait for 'Canada' to call BA back and confirm our existing exemptions. Two hours later, and with an hour to spare, she finally received confirmation that we were allowed to fly.



Not before her manager arrived around the same time she received the good news and said that we were not allowed to fly. The confusion was that he had received a call from a different department than that of the person serving us!



BA agreed to follow the advice which stated that we could fly, luckily for us.



Point to take away: I would fly with Air Canada or West Jet who appear to know what they are doing. We very nearly didn't fly, and we had to run from security to the gate for boarding.



The flight

The flight itself was excellent. There were 35 people on board, and we were sat in Premium economy. We were given what I would describe as the best coronation chicken sandwich I have ever tasted, ever. It was small, but the cabin crew gave us a second one each! All the food given to us was in a box.



The second meal was a chicken lattice slice. It was tasty, but lacking in size. Again, the flight crew were happy to distribute more than one per passenger, and we were offered lots of snacks and drink throughout our flight.



Immigration and Customs

You may be tempted, because of the 14-day quarantine to purchase food for your arrival while you wait for a food shop. If you do, don't buy any meat or cheese products. You have to declare it, and they will take it from you.



I lost 4 sandwiches...



We first came across CBSA agents handing out 14-day quarantine leaflets informing us that it was mandatory.



NOTE: Your quarantine ends on the 15th day after your arrival. Do not calculate it to the hour on the 14th day. This was confirmed by the CBSA.



We then moved on to the self-service declaration area, where we inputted our details and passports and were given a rectangular slip of paper with our pictures o it. DO NOT lose that slip of paper.



We then spoke to a CBSA official, who relieved me of my sandwiches and cheese products. The CBSA agent directed us to immigration where we waited while they issued us with work permits.



Open Work Permit

My wife asked a very polite and helpful CBSA agent if I could have an open work permit, despite not being on her online TWP application. After thinking about it, he agreed, and I was given an open work permit.



NOTE: It is down to the discretion of the CBSA agent and management. Usually, to get an open work permit, you either have to be on the TWP application, or apply for a spousal work permit when in Canada. Please see the wiki on this site for detailed information. Mine was the exception to the rule, and I consider myself lucky.



My biometrics and photo were taken, I paid $340 (for the work permit and biometrics), was given the work permit and was sent on my way!


We then went through to a department that deals with people who declare goods to follow. Because were TWP holders, we did not have to go through lists and were allowed to pass through with ease.




Quarantine

We are on day 5 of our quarantine and to be honest, it is a time for preparing things to come, such as (but not limited to):


  1. Finding a place to rent.
  2. Getting our Canadian debit cards, and cheque books (you cant purchase prepaid phone plans with a UK debit or credit card for example!)


My Top Tips
  1. Fly with an airline that won't risk you missing your flight, such as Air Canada or West jet (anecdotal evidence only).
  2. If you can, stay in a hotel the night before. Especially if you are carrying many suitcases.
  3. Hire a big car (class W and above), if you have many suitcases.
  4. Order shopping online to where you are going to stay.
  5. Get a Skype (or similar service) USA number and a subscription to make calls in Canada.
  6. Start speaking to a real estate agent from now. The property list because of COVID has shrunk significantly in the Toronto area, and rental amounts are higher.
  7. Regarding point 6, get your credit score, including any professional references you can get your hands on. Some landlords don't like renting to new immigrants and may take some persuading. Usually, this is not a problem, but with slim pickings in the rental market, it could become one!
  8. Be prepared to pay between 4 and 6 months in advance for rent. It's against the rules, but common for new immigrants.
  9. Get your Canadian debit cards and cheque books as soon as possible.
  10. Print out your DVLA driver's licence record online and carry it with you (for when you swap it).


Questions

If anyone has any questions, post them here, and I will do my best to answer them.



I hope you found this helpful.
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Old Aug 14th 2020, 2:29 pm
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Thanks for sharing! Good to know. My parents are coming to visit next month from ABZ via LHR into YYZ with BA. They are exempt from the travel restrictions as they are parents of a CDN citizen. We just had a baby and we have no other family in Canada so they are coming for an extended visit to help out.
I've told them to call BA to put a note in their booking to try and get ahead of any issues at check-in.

I wish they were flying with AC as they seem much more up on the exemptions for entry to Canada
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Old Aug 14th 2020, 4:32 pm
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

We then spoke to a CBSA official, who relieved me of my sandwiches and cheese products.

This is what happens when we forget to bring our lunch or have no money
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Old Aug 15th 2020, 12:06 am
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Originally Posted by Former Lancastrian View Post
We then spoke to a CBSA official, who relieved me of my sandwiches and cheese products.

This is what happens when we forget to bring our lunch or have no money

Approximately 25 years ago my now ex wife flew from Europe to Toronto via Chicago. In Chicago they confiscated her salami sandwich. We are in regular contact and so I am still hearing about that officer (she remembers his name, I do not) and how he ate her sandwich.

I so don't understand how people can travel for many hours carrying food and not eat it. What good is yesterday's salami sandwich?
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Old Aug 15th 2020, 10:19 am
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

In a positive step for the Vegan population, it would appear there sandwiches can cross international borders and through customs checkpoints without worry.
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Old Aug 19th 2020, 1:40 am
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Originally Posted by i_Seeker View Post
  1. Fly with an airline that won't risk you missing your flight, such as Air Canada or West jet (anecdotal evidence only).
Airlines can and do refuse boarding but they are far from the only/final arbiter. If immigration refuse boarding then it doesn't matter what airline you are using. My Canadian wife and I were booked on Air Canada in May and I was refused boarding on the basis that I was "just a tourist" even though we were moving to Canada, had sold our house, shipped our furniture and our money to Canada.
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Old Aug 19th 2020, 1:45 am
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Originally Posted by unobscure View Post
Airlines can and do refuse boarding but they are far from the only/final arbiter. If immigration refuse boarding then it doesn't matter what airline you are using. My Canadian wife and I were booked on Air Canada in May and I was refused boarding on the basis that I was "just a tourist" even though we were moving to Canada, had sold our house, shipped our furniture and our money to Canada.
Had you applied for a travel exemption, printed your exemption confirmation letter issued by the IRCC, and shown it to the airline?



If not,
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Old Aug 20th 2020, 11:38 pm
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Originally Posted by i_Seeker View Post
I
  1. Start speaking to a real estate agent from now. The property list because of COVID has shrunk significantly in the Toronto area, and rental amounts are higher.
  2. Regarding point 6, get your credit score, including any professional references you can get your hands on. Some landlords don't like renting to new immigrants and may take some persuading. Usually, this is not a problem, but with slim pickings in the rental market, it could become one!
Rental amounts are higher? In my neighbourhood a friend just rented a condo unit for $2000 that was $2400 4 months ago. It hadn't been viewed in 70 days.

With the the collapse of immigration and people jetting out of the City now the Bay street towers are shut indefinitely it's a renters market. I'd be lowballing like crazy personally.
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Old Aug 20th 2020, 11:44 pm
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Originally Posted by JamesM View Post
Rental amounts are higher? In my neighbourhood a friend just rented a condo unit for $2000 that was $2400 4 months ago. It hadn't been viewed in 70 days.

With the the collapse of immigration and people jetting out of the City now the Bay street towers are shut indefinitely it's a renters market. I'd be lowballing like crazy personally.
Properties (3+ bed detached house, 2+ bathrooms with double garage) in the municipality of Durham before Covid were between $2,200 - $2,800 max.anythibg above that was luxury style properties. There were around 40 to 50properties to view at any one time, and they disappeared off the market quite quickly.

For the same type of properties now, you're looking at $2,900+, and there are around 10 properties max at the moment in that specification.
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Old Aug 21st 2020, 12:08 am
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Originally Posted by i_Seeker View Post
Properties (3+ bed detached house, 2+ bathrooms with double garage) in the municipality of Durham before Covid were between $2,200 - $2,800 max.anythibg above that was luxury style properties. There were around 40 to 50properties to view at any one time, and they disappeared off the market quite quickly.

For the same type of properties now, you're looking at $2,900+, and there are around 10 properties max at the moment in that specification.
Where in Durham are you? We’re in Brooklin - the rental market is always very restricted and house prices are currently on a real ‘up’.
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Old Aug 21st 2020, 12:10 am
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Originally Posted by Twitcher1958 View Post
Where in Durham are you? We’re in Brooklin - the rental market is always very restricted and house prices are currently on a real ‘up’.
That seems to be the case. We are looking at properties tomorrow in the Whitby and Oshawa area. They were cheaper pre Covid, but have increased since then for some reason.

I found the same issue in Markham, North York, Vaughan and Richmond Hill (all areas out of Durham nearer Toronto).
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Old Aug 21st 2020, 12:23 am
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Originally Posted by i_Seeker View Post
Had you applied for a travel exemption, printed your exemption confirmation letter issued by the IRCC, and shown it to the airline?
No, (pretty sure) they weren't introduced until just after we tried to fly. Also, while we were at the airport providing documents to prove this was a permanent move we asked what would be accepted as proof and immigration made no mention of a travel exemption document. Neither did the consulate when we spoke to them the next day - it was never suggested as an option.

Didn't have one the second time we went on the 23rd (as we didn't know it existed) but didn't need it.

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Old Aug 21st 2020, 11:47 am
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Originally Posted by unobscure View Post
No, (pretty sure) they weren't introduced until just after we tried to fly. Also, while we were at the airport providing documents to prove this was a permanent move we asked what would be accepted as proof and immigration made no mention of a travel exemption document. Neither did the consulate when we spoke to them the next day - it was never suggested as an option.

Didn't have one the second time we went on the 23rd (as we didn't know it existed) but didn't need it.
The exemptions were set at the same time as the borders closed, back in March I think? Unfortunately, tourists aren't allowed in without an exemption as you've found out, being the spouse of a citizen is one of the permitted exemptions, but you do have to provide proof of that (both the marriage and the citizenship of your spouse).
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Old Aug 21st 2020, 2:30 pm
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

We nearly missed our flight out of Manchester a few weeks ago due to difficulty checking in. My wife was travelling to land with her COPR in hand. The check-in agent looked at the COPR and said you can't use this for travel pointing to what is clearly stated across the front in big letters ie "NOT VALID FOR TRAVEL" I said yes it's really fine it is actually OK for travel please check with your manager. The problem was the manager was absent as he was dealing with a disruptive and intoxicated passenger who had been refused travel. Eventually he returned and OKd everything but by the time we joined the queue for security it was 5.25am and our flight was at 5.55am. The queue was enormous so I asked if we could be fast tracked, no sorry. I found a supervisor and pleaded with him explaining we were held up at check in because the airline didn't understand my wife's visa. He took us to the front of security but by now it's 5.45am and the gates at least 10mins away. We all got through security quickly but now my wife's hand luggage was pulled for a random inspection! We left my wife and ran to the gate hoping we could still board and to be able to "hold" the flight somehow. Arrived at the gate just after 6.00am thankfully to find the final few passangers boarding. Explained to the gate that wife was having an extra check at security and they said we'll wait 5 minutes max - wife eventually arrives 10 minutes later, we all jump on and they close the doors. Dirty looks from other passangers as we take our seats. By the time the flight departed we had been at the airport close to 3 hours but it had nearly not been enough!
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Old Aug 22nd 2020, 1:59 am
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Default Re: Our Journey to Toronto (during COVID)

Originally Posted by christmasoompa View Post
Unfortunately, tourists aren't allowed in without an exemption as you've found out, being the spouse of a citizen is one of the permitted exemptions, but you do have to provide proof of that (both the marriage and the citizenship of your spouse).
Yep we had proof of marriage and of her citizenship.
We were then asked for proof that I wasn't a tourist (shouldn't be needed given the exemption) so we provided proof we had sold our home and shipped our furniture to Canada and moved our money. Still refused.

When we spoke to the consulate the next day her exact words were "that's st.... Err you should have been allowed to board".

When we returned to the airport 20 days later I was allowed to board.
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