Important note: This is a “living” article and will be updated as the new regulations of the Canadian government are introduced to contain Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country. The opinions expressed in this article are personal observations and analysis of the current situation and should not be accepted as legal advice or as representations by the Canadian authorities. If you have a specific immigration legal question, please consider obtaining legal advice from licensed Canadian immigration lawyers.
The world will not be the same again when countries successfully defeat COVID-19. Canada as a nation accepting more than 300,000 permanent residents annually is not an exception.
The COVID-19 situation in Canada and accompanying travel restrictions have many people and businesses worried and they want to know how this situation may affect immigration in 2020 and possibly beyond. Foreign workers, international students, foreign businesses with a presence in Canada, Canadian businesses and those who would like to make Canada their home have many questions in these uncertain times.
We will try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and predict possible changes in Canada’s immigration policy in the post-COVID-19 world.
We recommend checking this article regularly as we follow the latest developments on this subject and necessary corrections to the article will be made.
1. Can I travel to Canada if I have a valid Canadian visa (work, study, immigrant visa, etc.)?
At the moment, the Canadian immigration authorities have clarified that you will be allowed to travel to Canada between now and June 30, 2020, if you fall into one of the categories below:
- a Canadian citizen
- currently hold permanent resident status in Canada
- an immediate family of a Canadian citizen and permanent resident and you also hold a permanent resident status or other applicable visas to come to Canada.
- An immediate family member includes a spouse or common-law partner, dependent child, grandchild, parent or stepparent, guardian or tutor who also hold permanent resident status in Canada.
- a permanent resident applicant whose permanent residence has been approved before March 16, 2020, and you have not yet travelled to Canada.
- seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers.
- an international student who holds a valid study permit or had been approved for a study permit as of March 18, 2020.
- a transiting passenger. However, we suggested that you check with your travel agents, airlines and the country of final destination regarding your intended travel.
Also, earlier last week the Canadian government had already approved a list of other people who are allowed to travel to Canada as an exception to travel restrictions:
- foreign nationals traveling at the invitation of the Canadian government for a purpose related to the containment of COVID-19
- a person who is authorized, in writing, by a consular officer of the Government of Canada to enter Canada to reunite immediate family members
- a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act
- accredited diplomats and family members (including NATO, those under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement, other organizations)
- any foreign national, or group of foreign nationals, whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Minister of Public Safety
- members of the Canadian military, visiting forces and their family members
Note: As of March 26, 2020, the Canadian government has made an announcement allowing the Temporary foreign workers, some international students and approved permanent residents who haven’t yet landed to enter Canada.
2. Can I still apply for a tourist visa, student visa and work visas or to other immigration programs?
Yes, you can still apply.
The Canadian immigration authorities continue to accept and process new applications for temporary residence and permanent residence. Please note that due to certain similar restrictions in other countries of the world, those who are required to submit their biometric data may have difficulties in providing their biometrics at designated places, such as VFS centres. Please check with the responsible VFS or VAC centres in your region or country.
Also, please note that when you obtain your temporary residence or immigrant visa you will not be able to travel to Canada until the government-imposed COVID-19 travel restrictions have been lifted. Please also check the restrictions imposed by the governments in your country of citizenship or current residence. Those restrictions may also affect your ability to travel to Canada.
3. Will the visa and immigration processing times be affected by the COVID-19?
We expect that there will be delays in processing times at the processing centres in Canada and the embassies and consulates outside of Canada. Service disruptions and travel restrictions may affect both the visa applicants’ ability to provide required documents as well as the Canadian side when processing completed visa applications. Therefore, we recommend to allocate extra time for your applications and start working on your visa/immigration application early.
4. What should I do if I am a visitor, worker or international student in Canada and my status expires soon?
Those who are currently in Canada, they should apply online to extend their status before the expiration date. Once you do that you can stay in Canada until a decision is made on your application.
5. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my classes are now being delivered online. Will I be allowed to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) after completing my studies?
The fact that your originally in-class studies are now delivered online because of the COVID-19 pandemic will not affect your eligibility for the PGWP. You can still apply following the usual PGWP process.
6. Can I enter Canada via land borders from the US?
If you are not in one of the exempted categories noted above, you will not be able to cross the US-Canada borders at the moment. Canada and the U.S. have agreed to stop non-essential travel between the countries. Please monitor the Canadian federal government website for updates.
7. Can I still apply to change my status in Canada using “flagpoling”?
“Flagpoling” is a way to change your immigration status when you cross the Canadian land border at the Canada-US border and turn back to Canada with or without entering the US territory. Many people use “flagpoling” to change their statuses to permanent residence, from tourist status to a study permit or work permit.
At the moment “flagpoling” is considered as non-essential travel and you are not allowed to do so while the COVID-19 travel restrictions are active. Instead, if you are in Canada on a temporary status, you can apply online on IRCC’s website to update your status.
8. My application for a work permit through the Intra-Company Transfer (or the Owner-Operator LMIA)was approved and I have a worker visa in my passport. Can I travel to Canada and obtain my work permit at the port of entry?
You are considered a temporary foreign worker if you’ve applied for a work permit through these programs. As such and based on the exceptions noted above, you will be allowed to travel to Canada.
9. Will the Express Entry draws be suspended for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic?
We do not expect any suspension of any immigration program to Canada, including a very popular program –the Express Entry program. In fact, on March 23, 2020 (that is after imposition of the COVID-19 travel restrictions) the Express Entry draw was held and 3,232 candidates with a minimum of 467 CRS score were invited to apply for permanent residence.
10. My business relies on foreign workers. Can I still hire foreign workers for my Canadian business?Or as a foreign business with an office in Canada, can I still send have my workers to Canada to work in our Canadian offices?
The Canadian government realizes the importance of foreign labour force for the agricultural and food processing sectors. Therefore, a temporary modification is being made to the Labour Market Impact Assessment process for agriculture and food processing employers. The usual required 2-week recruitment period to hire workers within Canada will be waived for the next 6 months.
Also, the maximum allowable employment duration for foreign workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is being increased from 1 to 2 years. This will improve flexibility and reduce the administrative burden for employers, including those in food processing and allow for a longer employment commitment between the Canadian employer and the foreign worker.
So, you can still hire foreign workers for your business and your hired workers will be allowed to travel to Canada. The same is true for foreign businesses with a presence/office in Canada where they can transfer workers by obtaining necessary work authorizations.
11. Do you expect significant changes in the Canadian immigration policy/procedures in the future due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
At this stage, it is difficult to predict what exactly will change in the Canadian immigration policy and procedures. However, we believe that:
- Canada will continue accepting new immigrants through well-established immigration programs, which have proved to be very efficient ways to select the best and brightest individuals from around the world.
- There might be certain adjustments made in some immigration programs after the COVID-19 pandemic and the government may prioritize certain programs that serve the Canadian interests the most.
- It is reasonable to expect that obtaining an LMIA to hire a foreign worker (by proving that an employer could not find a Canadian for the same job) could be scrutinized more by the Canadian authorities. Therefore, having solid legal advice and preparing a strong LMIA application could become more critical.
- Those immigration applications that have the potential to create new jobs in Canada will probably be more welcomed by the Canadian authorities after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. For example, the Intra-Company Transfer to strengthen the Canadian operations of a foreign company or establishing a new business or purchasing an existing Canadian business and applying for a work permit as an owner-operator, as well as “significant benefit” applications could be processed faster by the Canadian authorities.
- The Express Entry CRS scores could go down as the Canadian government may decide to accept more candidates through Express Entry to meet the immigration goals for 2020. Therefore, it is advisable to create an Express Entry profile as soon as possible so that you could be in the candidates’ pool to be selected.
- While the processing times may be affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should not delay or postpone your visa or immigration applications so that you don’t be at the end of the queue. We believe that once the COVID-19 pandemic is stabilized, many waiting candidates will start submitting their applications and there might be a backlog of visa applications. At that time, you want to be ahead of the queue to realize your immigration goals in 2020.
- If you are from certain countries where COVID-19 was widespread or you have recovered after being infected by COVID-19, you should expect stricter medical check requirements and medical inadmissibility issues being raised by the Canadian immigration authorities. We recommend to document and keep all your medical records secure if you plan to immigrate to Canada in the future.
Sobirovs Law Firm is a Canadian business immigration law firm based in Toronto, Canada with a representative office in Santiago, Chile. We help entrepreneurs, business owners, investors and high-skilled professionals to become Canadian fast. Our multilingual team of licensed professionals offers holistic and straightforward legal advice on how you and your business can relocate to Canada. For more individualized immigration advice, contact our team today.