Immigration attorney weighs in on border closure impact

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – At 12 a.m. Saturday, the U.S.-Canadian border shut down for all non-essential travel in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Peace Bridge Authority says the ban will cut down on 95 percent of cross-border traffic there, but trade will still flow.

One of the major exceptions to the new rules is for people who live in one country and work in the other, who are still allowed to travel.

“At our firm here in Buffalo, we represent a lot of people that are coming into the United States for work purposes whether they’re it developers, pharmacists, computer folks, anybody who has a work permit. We do tons and tons of work permits every year, thousands of them,” said Rosanna Berardi, of Berardi Immigration Law.

“So in Buffalo, particularly, we have lots of healthcare workers who live in Fort Erie, St. Catharines that work at Roswell, Children’s. They’re allowed to come in for work,” Berardi explained. “We also have eligibility for people who are necessary to the US economy. Truck drivers, any essential personnel, media, technical workers, are all allowed.”

Most of the usual cross-border traffic, though, is for non-essential travel, which is now banned. Tourism and recreation trips must be cancelled.

And, anyone in the country on time-sensitive travel documents must make their way home, if they can.

“We’ve seen the government in past scenarios like tornadoes and hurricanes say to individuals that can’t timely exit the United States that there would be a forgiveness period. That’s just a general concept. The government has not announced anything yet, but we are expecting it probably next week because people are not going to be able to complete their exit from the united states through no fault of their own,” Berardi says.

Berardi told News 4 what’s interesting about the current non-essential travel ban is the discretion the governments of the U.S. and Canada have for unique situations and humanitarian circumstances.

“So if you do have a family member in Canada that’s drastically ill, it sounds like the government would work with you on either side in order to make that visit happen,” Berardi said. “There is some flexibility. they’re just trying to shut down the number of people.”

The travel restrictions are in effect for 30 days. The Canadian Border Services Agency says it will post updates on its social media pages.

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