Canada updates immigration instructions amid coronavirus response

Shelby Thevenot, Alexandra Miekus, Kareem El-Assal
Published: March 23, 2020

Canada has refined the special coronavirus prevention measures made last week affecting immigrants and their families.

Despite the calls to stay inside, Canada is still working to get residents home, and keep families together.

At the same time, Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is still processing immigration and citizenship applications, taking measures to avoid delays in processing and refusals. The immigration department has refined the following measures for citizenship, permanent residence, and temporary residence applicants:

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More time for immigration and citizenship applications

All immigration applicants can expect to see delays with some IRCC offices operating with essential staff only.

There will be no expedited processing for the time being, except for special circumstances which will be decided at the discretion of the Migration Program Manager of the responsible IRCC office.

IRCC may also continue to request additional documents necessary for all citizenship and immigration applications. These may include police certificates, biometrics, passports, medical examinations, and any documents that must be issued by Chinese, Iranian, or South Korean authorities.

Applicants will have 90 days to respond to the request letter for additional documentation. If IRCC sent a request for additional documentation previously, but the applicant was unable to comply, they will be given an additional 90 days to respond.

Even though the biometrics instruction letter will continue to say applicants have 30 days to give their biometrics, officers are instructed to allow the applicant 90 days to complete this step.

More immediate family members exempt from travel restrictions

Canada is restricting non-essential international travel in an effort to protect the health and safety of residents.

During the coronavirus outbreak, only Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and protected persons may board an aircraft to Canada, as long as they pass health screening measures. Foreign nationals have been prohibited from boarding an aircraft destined for Canada from any country except the U.S.

However, some foreign nationals may be exempt under the interim order, such as accredited officials, people whose presence in Canada has been deemed to be in the national interest, and immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Canada has expanded the definition of immediate family members from spouses, common-law partners, dependent children of the resident or their partner, and any children of those dependent children. Now immediate family members include parents, step-parents, the parents and step-parents of the spouse or common-law partner, as well as their guardian or tutor.

“Dependent child” is defined as the parent’s biological child, who has not been adopted by any person other than the spouse or common-law partner or is the adopted child of the parent.

There are two types of dependent children, according to Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. They may be younger than 22 years old and not married or in a common-law partnership, or they can be age 22 or older and have been financially dependent on their parents since before turning 22 and are unable to be financially self-supporting due to a physical or mental condition.

There is no age requirement to sponsor a parent or step-parent.

The location of the Canadian resident’s family member is not a factor.

If travellers are exempt from the travel ban they are expected to self-identify to airlines at the point of boarding by presenting documentation to establish their family member’s status in Canada and their relationship to them.

IRCC recommends showing immediate family members’ Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status documentation such as:

  • Canadian passport
  • Canadian permanent resident card
  • Canadian permanent resident travel document (visa counterfoil)
  • Visa-exempt foreign passport and IRCC Special Authorization for Canadian Citizens

In addition, travellers should provide documentation showing their relationship to that family member such as a marriage or common-law status certificate, birth certificate, a Confirmation of Permanent Resident for Family Class, or other documents supporting an immediate family connection. These documents will be accepted in paper and electronic copies.

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Family reunification

The interim order also exempts foreign nationals whose travel to reunite family members has been authorized by a consular officer in writing.

The same definition of “immediate family” applies, only the foreign national in Canada does not have to be a citizen or permanent resident. They may be in Canada as a worker, student, visitor, or protected person.

Instructions for Temporary Residence applicants

Temporary residence applicants who have an urgent travel request and are in China are asked to submit an online application and then flag the application to IRCC Beijing for urgent processing. Those in Iran and South Korea are asked to submit an online application using the web form for urgent processing.

Migration Program Managers have the delegated authority to exempt applicants from the requirement for biometrics abroad on urgent or humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Applicants in China and Iran who are unable to provide their biometric data, submit travel documents due to the closure of visa application centres or a travel ban can still submit their applications online.

Applicants in South Korea who experience delays in obtaining immigration medical exams due to lack of access to doctors will be given an additional 90 days to respond to this request.

Temporary residents who wish to withdraw their application for temporary residence and who reside in an area where travel restrictions are imposed are asked to follow the normal procedure for withdrawal requests.

Temporary residents who are unable to leave the country have several options depending on their current status:

  • Foreign nationals whose temporary resident status may soon expire may apply online for an extension to maintain their temporary resident status in Canada.
  • Foreign nationals who have an extension application currently in progress may remain in Canada under what’s called implied status until a decision is rendered on their application.
  • Foreign nationals whose temporary resident status has expired may apply for restoration.

Canada still approving permanent residence applications

IRCC will continue to process new applications for permanent residence. Files with missing documents will be retained in the system and reviewed within 90 days.

Complete applications will be processed according to normal procedures.

New applications with missing supporting documentation will need to include an explanation that they are impacted by service interruptions due to the new coronavirus.

IRCC will take into account processing delays that may occur for principal applicants who are in Canada and have dependents abroad in China, Iran or South Korea who are unable to travel at this time. These applicants will not be granted permanent residence until travel is possible and they will be informed of the next steps.

Applicants for permanent residence who are in possession of a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) and a Permanent Resident Visa (PRV) and who inform the IRCC that they are unable to travel will be able to maintain the validity of their documents.

Flexible citizenship appointments

IRCC citizenship officers will reschedule missed citizenship appointments (e.g., knowledge tests, retests, interviews, hearings, and oath ceremonies) once it has learned that an individual has returned to Canada. IRCC is responsible for rescheduling the appointments within a reasonable timeframe to avoid delaying processing times.

IRCC’s citizenship officers are also required to provide applicants with an additional 30 days to send their documents to IRCC once applicants have notified IRCC they have returned from China, Iran, or South Korea.

Applicants who have returned to Canada will have an additional 45 days to submit their request for medical opinion forms.

Finally, permanent residents applying for citizenship upon return from China, South Korea, or Iran must still meet Canada’s physical presence requirements as per normal procedure.

Click here for more information about the coronavirus and Canada immigration.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs

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