Pandemic travel rules have nurse facing immigration to Canada without her child

·3 min read

Katie Hilton is about to move to Alberta from the United Kingdom to take a job as a nurse, but current COVID-19 rules on travel mean she'll have to leave her son behind.

Hilton and 10-year-old Ben have been granted permanent residency and she was issued special permission to travel as an essential worker to Canada during the pandemic, but she says the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Canadian High Commission in London told her that Ben doesn't qualify for that same travel exemption.

She is, however, allowed to bring her cat.

"In a pandemic situation when you're thinking about health-care, the two groups of people you need more than anything are going to be your nurses and your doctors … But if you want those licensed health-care professionals to come to Canada and to use the exemption, well, then you need to allow their families to come with them," Hilton told CBC News.

"At the moment, I just can't understand the rationale for not allowing my child to come with me."

Ben could come to Canada at a later date after Hilton has landed and gone through customs, thereby completing the family's permanent residence process. He could then apply for an exemption to the pandemic travel restrictions as the dependent of a landed permanent resident.

Until then, her options for childcare among relatives in the UK are limited.

Katie Hilton
Katie Hilton

COVID-19 travel rules

In March, the federal government changed travel rules in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. People who had been granted permanent residency after that date were asked to delay arriving in the country, unless they qualified for a travel exemption.

Currently, federal travel regulations do allow for family reunification with permanent residents already living in Canada. Because Hilton hasn't arrived in the country yet, she says officials have said her son doesn't qualify for that protocol.

The federal government and immigration department did not provide comment, despite multiple requests for one.

Because Ben is a minor, getting him to Canada to be reunited with his mother means one of three expensive options: A family member would have to fly the round-trip from the UK to Canada to accompany him, Hilton would have to return to get him or she would have to pay for an airline to escort him.

Hilton said increasing the number of people who have to make that trip elevates the COVID-19 transmission risk and increases the costs.

She has a plane ticket to Canada booked for the early days of December, a home, a car and a start date for work.

Ben also is registered to begin school in Alberta. She said she's concerned that delaying her arrival to stay with her son instead could cost her job offer or her visa could expire.

"I'm a health professional, I'm a specialist worker, I'm a key worker. I'm needed. Please, just let my child come with me," she said. Hilton has already given up her job and sold her home in the U.K.

She's called several federal politicians with her plight, who have informed her they're looking into the issue.

"I've never in all my life been so speechless. What kind of a government separates a mother and child?"