As part of its response to COVID-19, the Canadian government has implemented several measures which will impact the processing of immigration applications and the travel of temporary foreign workers. Most recently, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released new instructions relating to the travel restrictions impacting foreign nationals. This has included adding further restrictions, including a temporary pause on the processing of certain temporary resident applications with immediate effect until April 29, 2020.
Temporary pause on processing select temporary resident applications
Effective immediately, IRCC has announced that they are putting in place changes to the processing of all work permit, study permit, visitor visa, and eTA applications. Specifically, IRCC has put a pause into effect on the processing of select applications, including visitor visa and eTA applications, which will remain in effect until April 29, 2020. The pause is designed to allow for priority processing of applications from individuals who fall under a travel restriction exemption and are entering for an essential purpose. During this time, applications will not be processed until the pause is lifted if individuals do not meet one of the exemption criteria or if an officer determines that the travel is not for an essential purpose.
In its latest program delivery instructions, IRCC has also advised that all work permit applications filed from outside of Canada during the pause must be applied for online and, before travelling to Canada, workers must have the following:
· Work Permit approval letter
· Confirmation that the job is still available / physical presence is still required in Canada
· Self-isolation plan (see below)
ESDC prioritizing LMIAs for occupations in agriculture and agri-food sectors
In an effort to further support Canada’s COVID response, ESDC has announced some key changes to its processing of LMIA applications. Specifically, ESDC will now be prioritizing applications for key occupations related to the agriculture and agri-food sectors. In line with this approach, the government has similarly relaxed requirements for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in these identified occupations and critical industries, which has included the following:
· Recruitment requirements are waived for key occupations related to the agriculture and agri-food sectors until October 31, 2020
· As part of a 3-year pilot, employers seeking to hire foreign nationals in the low-wage stream may now obtain LMIAs to authorize employment for up to 2 years
Reunification of family members of temporary residents
Following confusion regarding the documentation needed for family members seeking to join a temporary resident in Canada, the government has now implemented a clear process to facilitate the entry of family members of temporary residents, including temporary foreign workers. While family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents do not require written authorization from the government to travel, family members of temporary residents do require authorization. In order to be eligible to travel to Canada, family members of temporary foreign workers will require the following:
· Written authorization from IRCC confirming their exemption to the travel restrictions
· A valid visa or eTA
· A valid passport
· Clear indication of health (i.e., no visible symptoms)
In addition, as part of the Canadian government’s efforts to support the reunification of families during this time, the definition of immediate family members for the purposes of immigration has temporarily been expanded to include: parents or step-parents, a parent’s or step-parent’s spouse or common-law partner, or a guardian or tutor. The interim order applies to dependent children obtaining visitor records to accompany their parents in Canada.
Mandatory self-isolation plan
Now entrenched in IRCC’s program delivery guidance, and in line with the introduction of a mandatory 14-day isolation period for all international travellers under the Quarantine Act, together with actions that have been taken by other ministries and some provinces, is the requirement that international travellers provide evidence of their self-isolation plan on entry. Only those who provide essential services - for example truck drivers who regularly cross the border to maintain the flow of goods - are exempt from the isolation requirements.
All travellers and foreign nationals seeking entry to Canada during this time are recommended to have evidence of their self-isolation plan, including details on how they will get to their residence / accommodations from the airport without using public transport as well as how they will secure food or groceries.
Additionally, the Province of British Columbia has introduced a mandatory self-isolation plan requirement for all travellers who are in-bound to Vancouver International Airport. Travellers must either complete a self-isolation plan online in advance of their travel or complete a written plan upon arrival in Vancouver.
Other updates you may have missed
It has been a busy few weeks in the world of Canadian immigration, with changes happening by the minute! Here is a summary of some other changes, you may have missed:
1. Canada increases application fees for several immigration processes - effective April 30, 2020, government processing fees for applicants and their family members applying for permanent residence to Canada, including Quebec investor/entrepreneur/start-up business and self-employed persons classes, as well as the Right of Permanent Residence fee, will increase.
2. International Students - As of April 8, 2020, IRCC has announced that students transitioning to online classes as a result of COVID-19 will not forfeit their eligibility to apply for a post-graduate work permit. In addition, the interim orders also exempt from the travel restrictions the following foreign nationals: valid study permit holders or students who were issued a letter of introduction on or before March 18, 2020. The exemptions only apply to international students already enrolled in a designated learning institution in Canada or have been accepted by a DLI prior to the travel restrictions coming into effect.
3. International Experience Canada suspensions - Rounds of invitations for the International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit program are currently on hold due to COVID-19. This program is widely used by youth looking to gain work experience in Canada through a Working Holiday Program, Internship, or Young Professionals arrangement.
4. Automatic Extensions for Requested Documentation, Medical Examinations and Biometrics Collection - Applicants affected by Visa Application Centre and Service Canada office closures will be granted an automatic extension for a total of 90 days for the submission of requested additional documents, biometric collection and completion of medical examinations.
As the situation around the impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve, both employers and employees alike are advised to remain abreast of the immigration developments to determine the possible impact to their businesses and travel arrangements. Where travel is essential, applications may still be processed, however certain service suspensions may impact processing and timing. With the enforcement of travel restrictions being managed by multiple parties (including visa officers, airline carriers, and border agents), it is recommended that all travellers be well documented both to facilitate their travel, as well as their entry and self-isolation on arrival.
***From PwC website