Woman flying home from U.K. says an expiring visa should be essential travel
Non-essential travellers forced to pay to quarantine
An Ottawa woman who's coming home as her U.K. visa expires says she's concerned about the cost of the mandatory hotel quarantine and wants clarity around support for what she considers essential travel.
Emma, whose name CBC News is withholding because of privacy concerns, moved to London, England in March 2019 on a two-year youth mobility visa, which allows people age 18 to 30 live and work in the U.K. for up to two years.
"I just came over to see a different part of the world, travel, get some more life experience under my belt," Emma said.
She said when the pandemic first hit, she decided against moving back home to Canada as she already had a job at a local pub and was only a year into her visa.
She later purchased a December flight home to Ottawa, but cancelled it as countries were urging people not to travel.
This January, Emma bought a new flight to Ottawa for March 5, a few days before her visa expires. She scheduled a rapid COVID-19 test for three days before the flight, as required, and was looking forward to quarantining at her family home.
"Then the announcement from Trudeau hits my family with the most stress any of us have endured throughout the entire pandemic," Emma said.
I'll be putting myself into debt even before I get home and lose all my savings.- Emma
To discourage non-essential travel, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced late last month that air passengers returning from non-essential trips abroad will have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel until they get back a negative COVID-19 test, at their own expense, starting Feb. 22.
It would cost about $2,000 for up to three days, the government said.
"It's just an insane amount of money," Emma said. "I'll be putting myself into debt even before I get home and lose all my savings. I'll just have no leg to kind of stand on when I get home."
"It's just kind of frustrating and frightening because I don't know what I'm walking into."
Lack of clarity from officials
She said she considers a visa expiring an essential reason to travel back to Canada and would like the government to provide some subsidies for people who are struggling to pay for the mandatory hotel quarantine and COVID-19 test.
She said she's called the High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom, the Public Health Agency of Canada and an international SOS line, but said no one could provide clarity around her situation.
"I am at my end of options and exhausted with trying to find answers."
Emma said her family in Ottawa is also feeling the stress.
"They want me home and safe with them," she said. "They also can't financially help me out … We're all a little upset by this situation."
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said earlier this week there should be "ways in which [the government] will find to manage" people who can't afford the quarantine bill.
CBC has contacted Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, but was told the government doesn't comment on specific situations. CBC is waiting for general information on what people should do if their visa is expiring abroad and cannot afford the cost of quarantine.
With files from Salma Mahgoub and Julia Sisler