New Canadian immigration instructions during coronavirus pandemic

Shelby Thevenot, Kareem El-Assal
Published: March 16, 2020

Click here to find out everything you need to know about the coronavirus and Canada immigration.

Canada is taking exceptional measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, and help immigrants and travellers affected by service disruptions.

The following is a summary of policies that were just announced by the federal government:

Restrictions on foreign travel to Canada

On March 18th, the federal government announced the closure of the Canada-U.S. border to all "non-essential travel."

On Monday, March 16, Canada had already announced it is closing its borders to most people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Exceptions will be made for immediate family members of Canadians, U.S. citizens (now also restricted by new measures), aircrew members, and diplomats.

Border restrictions will not apply to cargo and goods transportation.

In addition, airlines have been instructed to check all boarding passengers for symptoms of COVID-19, and no one who presents symptoms will be allowed to fly to Canada.

Starting Wednesday, March 18, only four Canadian airports will be open to international flights: Toronto Pearson International Airport, Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, Calgary International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport.

For now, flights from the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, as well as Saint-Pierre and Miquelon will not be affected by this measure. Domestic flights within Canada will also be unaffected.

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Special IRCC measures

Canada’s immigration department also released new instructions for officials and immigrants affected by COVID-19, on Sunday, March 15.

IRCC announced they will be cancelling all citizenship ceremonies, citizenship tests and retests, and itinerant service trips until further notice.

The new program delivery instructions are an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, and to help those whose immigration applications are affected by service disruptions, including people who are applying for temporary residence, permanent residence, and Canadian citizenship.

In-person permanent resident landing appointments and pre-scheduled in-person refugee claim appointments will be cancelled until April 13. In-person refugee claims can still be submitted until further notice.

Under new general processing measures, IRCC says applications will not be refused for non-compliance and all those currently in progress at IRCC offices abroad at case processing centres and within the Domestic Network will continue to be processed. There may be delays as some visa application centres are closed until further notice, and some IRCC offices are operating with essential staff only.

Expedited processing for those in special circumstances will continue to be at the discretion of the Migration Program Manager of the responsible IRCC office, and the manager of the responsible processing office in Canada.

IRCC may continue to request any additional documents necessary for processing all citizenship and immigration applications. These might include police certificates, biometrics, passports, medical exams, and any documents that must be issued by authorities in China, Iran or South Korea.

When additional documentation is required, immigration officers will send a request letter allowing the applicant 90 days to respond. If a previous request for additional documents was sent, but the applicant could not meet the deadline, applicants will be given an additional 90 days to respond.

Though the biometric instruction letter will continue to say that applicants have 30 days to give biometrics, they will actually be allowed to complete this step in 90 days instead.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs

More time for permanent residence applications

IRCC is being more lenient for those unable to submit a complete application for permanent residence before the deadline, allowing an additional 90 days in some cases.

If applicants must submit an incomplete application before the allotted 60 days are up, they must include an explanation as to why they do not have all the required documents. They must also pay all associated fees in order to have their deadline extended an additional 90 days.

In addition, those who hold confirmation of permanent residence, and permanent residence visas may be eligible for an extended deadline, as long as they inform IRCC of their situation via the web form.

Chinese nationals are being asked to take another medical exam if their previous one has expired or is about to expire.

Earlier this month, IRCC announced that it would be extending special measures first implemented for Chinese nationals to residents of Iran and South Korea as well.

Temporary residents may apply for extensions

Foreign nationals who are in Canada and whose temporary resident status will soon expire may apply for an extension to maintain their status.

Temporary residents wishing to extend must apply online, meet all requirements, and pay associated fees.

Those who have extension applications currently in progress will receive implied status and can stay in Canada until a decision is made on their application.

Citizenship ceremonies and knowledge test cancelled

Canada is temporarily cancelling all citizenship ceremonies, as well as knowledge testing and retesting events.

These events will be rescheduled “in the near future” but IRCC has not given a date as to when they will reopen.

Those who are affected by cancellations will be provided with a new date and time in the coming weeks.

IRCC will consider urgent processing on a case by case basis. Those who feel their case is urgent can contact the immigration department at IRCC.Rescheduling-RVreporteCOVID.IRCC@cic.gc.ca.

IRCC will also reschedule missed appointments for citizenship-related appointments such as interviews, hearings, oath ceremonies, as well as knowledge tests and retests. Once applicants notify IRCC that they have returned to Canada the responsible office has been instructed to ensure that they are rescheduled within a reasonable time frame so as to not delay processing times. Applicants will receive a new notice to appear that will be treated as their first notice.

Officers will provide applicants an additional 45 days upon their return to Canada to comply with requests for Medical Opinion forms.

It is also important to note that applicants must still meet the physical presence requirements as per the normal procedure. Extra days spent in China, Iran or South Korea will not count as days in Canada.

Click here to learn more about Canada’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here for more information from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

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