The Canadian government has made sweeping changes affecting travel and immigration services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Canada has implemented travel restrictions and modified immigration policies to both help contain the spread of the coronavirus while at the same time serving the needs of immigrants, foreign workers, international students, and Canadian employers.
Here is an overview of major immigration-related developments since the federal government began rolling out changes in March 2020.
Who is exempt from Canadian travel restrictions?
The following are among the list of people allowed to enter Canada by land or air while the travel restrictions are in place until June 30, 2020:
- Canadian citizens
- Permanent residents
- Immediate family of Canadian citizens and permanent residents
- Permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence prior to March 18 and who had not yet travelled to Canada
- Temporary foreign workers
- International students who held a valid study permit or who had been approved for one before March 18
- Transiting passengers
Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders who are unable to travel because of coronavirus-related disruptions can contact IRCC via its web form to explain their situation. They can expect IRCC to advise them about the next steps.
It is also mandatory for all travellers to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival to Canada. As of today, April 15, all new arrivals to Canada must wear a mask or face covering before they can proceed to their final destination. They must also have a credible quarantine plan, or they will be forced to stay in a hotel.
What do Canada’s special measures mean for immigrants?
Economic class: Express Entry and PNP draws continuing
Four Express Entry draws have happened since March 18. Two of them happened on the same day last week. In addition, Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have held Provincial Nominee Program draws.
Last week, B.C. also invited 18 entrepreneurs to take the next steps toward obtaining permanent residence.
IRCC has confirmed that Express Entry draws will continue, and they will also continue to process applications for permanent residence. However, IRCC has indicated there may be delays in processing for those who are approved for permanent residence after March 18. These applicants will likely not have their application processed within six months.
Family class least impacted by special measures
Family class immigration has been the least affected by the travel restrictions. Immediate family members of citizens and permanent residents are still allowed to enter the country, spousal and common-law sponsorship applications are being processed as usual, with IRCC allowing some flexibility in submitting incomplete applications. However, Canada has postponed the opening of the 2020 parents and grandparents immigration program.
Canada considers the following to be immediate family members:
- spouses and common-law partners
- dependent children
- dependent grandchildren
- parents or step-parents
- a parent’s or step-parent’s spouse or common-law partner
- a guardian or tutor (same legal concept)
Travellers who fall into one of these categories must self-identify to airlines by presenting documented proof of their relationship to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
Refugee class significantly affected during coronavirus response
Canada has temporarily paused its refugee resettlement programs.
In addition, Canada will no longer interview refugee claimants in person or process refugee protection claimant document renewals in person. IRCC will contact refugee claimants, who had scheduled interviews, to let them know when the new interview will be.
Refugee claimants who need to update their contact information can use the IRCC web form.
Immigration loan collections are also being suspended until September 2020. IRCC offers these loans to eligible immigrants, mainly refugees, providing them access to funding that would otherwise not be available to them. Questions pertaining to immigration loans can be forwarded to IRCC by calling 1-800-667-7301.
Temporary foreign workers exempt from travel restrictions
Foreign nationals are still allowed to travel to Canada for work, even with the travel restrictions in place.
The worker may not be required to obtain a work permit if they are:
- Providers of emergency or medical services for the protection or preservation of life or property (such as firefighters);
- Students in a health field, including as a medical elective or clinical clerk at a Canadian medical teaching institution, if they have written approval from the body that regulates that field;
- Foreign nationals seeking to enter and remain in Canada solely to become a member of a transportation crew, including a vessel engaged in international transportation.
These foreign nationals can self-identify to airlines by presenting documents such as a letter of invitation from a relevant Canadian organization. This letter may come from a federal, provincial, or municipal government entity for emergency services providers, teaching institutions for medical students or shipping agents for people joining vessel crews.
Canada is also easing the process for employers to hire foreign workers in critical industries such as agriculture, food processing and trucking. Employers hiring for 10 occupations from these industries can skip past the advertising requirement for their Labour Market Impact Assessment.
International students who were approved for a study permit on or before March 18 are exempt from travel restrictions.
If in-class courses were moved to an online-only format in response to the coronavirus outbreak, international students will still be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) program.
This includes students who have a study permit, or who were approved for a program that is starting in May or June, but who are unable to travel to Canada amid travel restrictions. International students in this situation can begin their classes while outside Canada and may complete up to half of their program while abroad if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.
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