Financial Management for Canadians Stuck Abroad


Posted on Friday 14 May 2021


With vaccines becoming widely available, local restrictions on social gatherings, public spaces, and dining out are slowly starting to lift. That’s great news for folks living in Canada, but what about Canadian citizens outside of the country?

International travel has become much more complicated. Airlines have cancelled flights across the board, and restrictions vary from one country to the next. If you were unlucky enough to be traveling, studying, or working abroad when the pandemic hit, you might not have been able to return home.


For Canadians stuck abroad, travel restrictions may be the least troublesome. With fewer flights and less demand, travel costs are much higher during the pandemic. And with a global decline in job availability, finding the financial means to return home can be a huge burden.


Thankfully, there are options for Canadians stuck abroad! In the sections below, we’ll outline a few key steps to take if your international stay has been unexpectedly extended due to COVID-19.

Will the Canadian government help me find financial assistance?

No matter where you are, chances are that you’re never too far from a Canadian consulate. That’s great news if you’re stuck abroad for longer than planned and are running low on funds (That's why they say start saving and investing as soon as possible).

Canadian embassies can provide much-needed financial guidance while stuck abroad – especially if you happen to be in a country where you aren’t familiar with the local language.


Finding a nearby wire transfer service can be tricky if you haven’t gotten a chance to familiarize yourself with the surrounding area. An embassy can give you a list of local fund transfer services to help you wire funds from one account to another. And as long as you give permission to do so, they can also assist with contacting family, friends, employers, and even banks or credit companies to request a money transfer.


Keep in mind that a wire transfer doesn’t mean you’ll immediately have access to funds. The embassy won’t be able to help you with issuing pension or social security funds, and you’ll have to give your permission before they start making financial requests on your behalf.

Once your transaction is scheduled, it may take two business days (or more) for your money to arrive. There may also be a $75 consular fee – but in a financial emergency, the fee is well worth it!

Can I get a loan from the Canadian government while stuck abroad?

If you are a Canadian citizen who is stuck abroad during COVID-19, you may be able to get an emergency loan from the Canadian government.

This service has always been available for Canadian citizens who find themselves in an emergency situation while staying abroad – but even during a pandemic, you’ll want to try other avenues first. Your first option should always be to get financial assistance from sources outside of the government, like a short-term loan from a private lender.


You can transfer funds from your own bank account, apply for a private loan, tap into insurance benefits, or ask family and friends for a loan. If these options aren’t available, you could be eligible for the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad.


This loan program is an emergency loan designed to cover the purchase of an airline ticket back to Canada. In order to apply, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a Canadian citizen
  • Are currently located outside of Canada
  • Have no other source of funds
  • Have had plans in place to return to Canada that were disrupted by the pandemic


Note that this is not a service that is widely available to anyone; just like any other financial product, a loan from the government is subject to its own rules and requirements. It is only available in certain scenarios, such as a dire emergency or an exceptional circumstance.


For example, you may need to show proof that you had intended to return home before the pandemic. That might mean showing a prior travel itinerary or a temporary tourist, student, or employment visa with a clear end date.


If you are granted an emergency loan by the Canadian government, you may need to pay a $75 fee. You’ll also need to be prepared to pay back the loan amount within 30 days. Also keep in mind that there are lots of opportunities that have been created due to Covid-19. So just hang in there and do your best. Eventually you'll be taken advantage of those too. We are not just talking about remote jobs here either. So keep your head up for now.

What types of expenses can be covered with the COVID-19 Emergency Loan?

The COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians living abroad is available in amounts up to $5,000. Each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and your unique circumstances will determine how much you are eligible to receive.

Of course, there are some rules to how you can use the COVID-19 Emergency Loan. You can’t use it to bring a pet back home with you, and it also can’t be used to ship your personal belongings back, either. It’s designed to cover short-term living expenses and the cost of returning home, which could include:

  • Local transportation or airline transportation related to getting back to Canada
  • Essential needs while you work toward getting home, like food and shelter
  • Medical costs related to COVID-19 that fall outside of what insurance or local health services will pay, such as testing and treatment, translation of medical notes or history, or prescription drugs required for COVID-19
  • Additional costs related to hospitalization or quarantine as a result of COVID-19


One additional thought to keep in mind: you can’t use your loan for any expenses that might be related to quarantine or self-isolation once you get back to Canada. This is true even if it’s a mandatory quarantine or self-isolation, so make sure you plan accordingly for your return back home!

Being stuck outside of the country without the resources to come back home can be frustrating, especially when your plans were interrupted by COVID-19. Use the resources that are available to you as a Canadian citizen! Reach out to the nearest Canadian embassy to explore your options and see if you might qualify for an emergency loan from the Canadian government – and start planning your trip back home.