Canada – Covid-19 – Immigration update

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Update: August 28th, 2020

COVID-19: Under temporary policy, visitors may apply for work permits without leaving

What is the change?

Canada has implemented a temporary policy that allows certain visitors to apply for an employer-specific work permit without having to leave the country.

Key points:

  • In order to be eligible for a new employer-specific work permit, applicants must:
    • Have a valid visitor status in Canada on the day they apply (visitors include super visa holders, business visitors and those who entered Canada through the Global Skills Strategy work permit exemption);
    • Have been in Canada on Aug. 24 and remained in Canada;
    • Have a job offer;
    • Submit an application no later than March 31, 2021 for an employer-specific work permit that is supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or an LMIA-exempt job offer; and o Meet all other standard admissibility criteria.
  • Applicants who meet these requirements who also had a valid work permit in the last 12 months are allowed to start working for the new employer before their work permit application has been fully approved. Instructions for this process are here.
  • Foreign nationals arriving as visitors after Aug. 24 are not eligible.

The new policy is intended to support employers in Canada seeking workers and help temporary residents find jobs.

Update: June 25th, 2020

Some VACs resuming operation, offering limited services

What is the change?

Canadian Visa Application Centres in some parts of the world have begun resuming services, even as COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place.

Key Points:

  • More than three dozen VACs have reopened, including VACs in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia; Paris, France; Berlin, Germany; Rome, Italy; Madrid, Spain; Abu Dhabi and Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and a number of locations in China, including Beijing and Shanghai. Up-to-date information on which VACs are open is available here.
  • Services remain limited, even at VACs that have reopened. Applicants are encouraged to visit the relevant VAC’s website to determine which services are available before traveling to a VAC.
  • New safety measures have been put in place at VACs that have reopened. Such measures may include limiting the number of people allowed inside VACs, checking temperature of applicants and staff and use of hand sanitizer, gloves, face masks and face shields.
  •  VACs that remain closed will contact applicants, if necessary, to reschedule appointments that have been cancelled.

Background

While some services have resumed at VACs, applicants should note that COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place. Currently, most foreign nationals are not allowed to travel to Canada, even if they hold a valid visitor visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA). Only those who fall under an exemption or are coming for an essential purpose are permitted entry. All travelers must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Although travel restrictions remain in place, some VACs are not offering services, such as biometrics collection, that will help expedite the travel process once restrictions are lifted. Applicants are encouraged to check this website and the website of the VAC they intend to visit to determine which services are available at this time. Canada’s response to COVID-19 continues to develop, and more information will be provided as it becomes available.

Update April 17th, 2020

Current Travel Restrictions and Exemptions

What is the change?

As part of its response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Government of Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have released additional measures to manage the outbreak of COVID-19 resulting in travel restrictions to Canada.

All travel has been restricted with the exception of the following:

  • Canadian citizens;
  • Canadian permanent residents;
  • Persons registered under Canada’s Indian Act;
  • Protected persons;
  • United States (US) citizens or foreign nationals travelling from the US for an essential reason who have been in the US or Canada for at least 14 days before entering Canada (unless exempt); and,
  • Certain foreign nationals (see full list here)
    • Temporary foreign workers –
      • Holders of a valid work permit; and,
      • Holders of a written work permit approval (issued at any time).
    • Some international students
      • Holders of a valid study permit; and,
      • Holders of a written study permit approval issued before noon EST on March 18, 2020.
    • Some approved permanent residents –
      • A person whose application for permanent residence was approved before 12 noon EST on March 18, 2020.
    • Immediate family members of a Canadian citizen or Canadian permanent resident.
    • Immediate family members with written authorization from the Government of Canada to reunite with a non-Canadian citizen or permanent resident living in Canada (see Newsflash regarding Family Reunification for Temporary Residents in Canada).

All passengers will need to pass a health check conducted by the airlines before being permitted to board. Travellers who are symptomatic of COVID-19 will not be allowed to fly, regardless of citizenship.

With few exceptions, all persons must undergo a mandatory self-isolation period of 14 days and must have a credible isolation plan (i.e. how they will get to their residence/accommodation from the airport without using public transport, as well as how they will secure food or groceries) upon arrival in Canada, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. This does not apply to non-symptomatic travelers who are transiting through Canada to their final destination, or to those delivering an essential service.

Please note that on Wednesday April 15 at 11:59 p.m., service hours at low-traffic border crossings will be reduced.

It is important that all travellers plan ahead and seek advice before beginning their travel to Canada.

Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic

What is the change?

The Canadian Government has provided for exemptions from the travel ban for US citizens and foreign nationals if they are deemed to be entering Canada to provide ‘essential services’. Prioritization of new work permit applications of foreign national workers who are deemed to be providing an essential service will also occur.

On April 9, 2020, the Government of Canada (Public Safety Canada) specified what constitutes “essential” work (see full list here). While this list is indicative of what might be considered an essential service by IRCC or CBSA, it is not necessarily determinative.

The list focuses on “critical infrastructure” which is essential to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians and the effective functioning of government:

  • Energy and Utilities
  • Information and Communication Technologies
  • Finance
  • Health
  • Food
  • Water
  • Transportation
  • Safety
  • Government
  • Manufacturing

By considering the “essential” work list, in addition to exempting the individual from the travel ban requirements, employers may benefit from faster processing times and prioritization of work permit applications if the work is “essential.”

Additional supporting documentation is recommended for new work permit applications for those who will provide ‘essential services’, and those seeking entry on existing work permits to provide essential services.

Temporary Processing Changes

What is the change?

As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has implemented temporary processing changes for specific immigration applications in order to focus resources on critical services. The temporary processing changes will be effective until April 29 and may be extended.

The temporary processing changes apply to:

  • Work permits –
    • If applying for a work permit from outside Canada, all persons must apply online.
    • If approved and before travelling, temporary foreign workers must have the following:
      • Work Permit approval letter;
      • Confirmation that the job is still valid and the employer is still operating and not subject to the mandatory closure of non-essential businesses; and,
      • Self-isolation plan (the plan must cover the mandatory self-isolation period of 14 days and must be a credible isolation plan, i.e. how they will get to their residence/accommodation from the airport without using public transport, as well as how they will secure food or groceries).
  • Study permits –
    • If applying for a study permit from outside Canada, all persons must apply online; and,
    • IRCC will continue to process study permit applications to the extent possible.
  • Visitor visas (including transit visas) and electronic travel authorization (eTA) applications –

IRCC has suspended processing of non-essential visitor visa applications and some eTA applications, unless exempted (see Newsflash regarding Current Travel Restrictions and Exemptions).

Canadian immigration authorities are processing applications, and approvals are being received.

We recommend that employers continue to apply for work permits for key foreign workers, and support permanent residence applications. Applications for temporary work permits for those providing essential services may be prioritized. Applying now will enable employers to have key foreign nationals in place when business fully resumes

Family Reunification for Temporary Residents in Canada

What is the changes

The Government of Canada has updated its policy to clarify the eligibility of family members accompanying temporary residents (i.e. work permit holders, study permit holders, etc.) to Canada. Under the present rules, accompanying family members will require the following:

  • Written authorization from IRCC confirming their exemption to the travel restrictions;
  • A valid visa or eTA;
  • A valid passport; and,
  • Clear indication of health (i.e., no visible symptoms).

Per the policy, principal applicants will need to travel to Canada first before accompanying family members are eligible to travel.

With few exceptions, all persons must undergo a mandatory self-isolation period of 14 days and must have a credible isolation plan (i.e. how they will get to their residence/accommodation from the airport without using public transport, as well as how they will secure food or groceries) upon arrival in Canada, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms.

Update April 10th, 2020

Important information regarding Canada and COVID-19

What is the change?

As has been the case for the past several days, the situation remains very fluid and circumstances can change with little notice. Moreover, the interpretation and application of what is being announced is not being consistently applied and interpreted by various officials and front line officers.

Key developments today are:

The closure of the Canada-US border to all non-essential travel (effective date unclear but likely no later than Saturday March 21)
Confirmation in writing that Temporary Foreign Workers and Student Visa holders who are outside of Canada as of 12 noon EDT on March 18, 2020 are unable to return to Canada unless they are the immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or meet another exception.

Travel Restrictions

By Air

Late on March 18 an “Order in Council” was published which gives some additional details as to the previously announced prohibition against some people entering Canada by air.

The order is effective March 18, 2020 until noon EDT June 30, 2020.

Foreign nationals (those who are neither Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada) are prohibited from entering Canada by air unless they fall within one of a number of specified exceptions, including:

  • A person who has been in only the United States or Canada in the fourteen days before arrival;
  • An immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • A person authorized in writing by a Canadian consular officer to enter Canada for family reunification;
  • A person who in the opinion of the Chief Public Health Officer does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health or will provide an essential service while in Canada.

With regards to foreign national work or study permit holders, on March 18 the Minister of Public Safety said in an interview that those with work permits and study permits would be allowed to enter Canada. Earlier today Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) provided written instructions that international students and workers would not be allowed to enter Canada by air unless they are the spouse, common law partner or dependent child of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.

By Land

Both the Canadian and US governments have announced their intention to close the border to those seeking to cross for non-essential travel. Earlier today Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada confirmed in writing that the ban on entry includes US citizens, green card holders or those that have a visa in hand if the purpose of entry is considered ‘non-essential travel’, or if they have been in a recent ‘hot spot’ in the past 14 days, or if showing symptoms on arrival.

In spite of the closure, Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be permitted to enter Canada (likewise for US citizens and green card holders returning to the US).
Earlier today the Prime Minister had advised that the border closure provision for non-essential travel would not take effect until Friday evening or Saturday. In the IRCC announcement today, there is a suggestion that the prohibition is currently being applied.
General

Foreign national immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents seeking to travel to Canada should travel with proof of relationship to the Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and proof of that individual’s status in Canada.

The 14 day self-isolation period applies to all individuals entering Canada from any country.

Update : March 19, 2020

Borders close, US citizens exempt

The Canadian government continues to make announcements further to the ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19.

What is the change?

The situation remains very fluid and circumstances can change with little notice. As well, given that announcements are not readily being accompanied by written policies and procedures, the interpretation and application of what is being announced is not being consistently applied and interpreted by various officials and front line officers.

That being so we wish to advise you of what we know at this time.

Travel Restrictions Between Canada and the United States

  • On March 18, both the Canadian and American governments announced that they agreed to temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the Canada-US border. They did not announce when it would take effect;
  • Prime Minister Trudeau did say that essential travel will continue. Thus far there has been no elaboration on what is considered essential travel but Trudeau specifically mentioned supply chains including trucking would not be affected by the new measure;
  • Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada will continue to have the right to enter Canada although they will be required to self-quarantine for fourteen days after entering Canada.

Travel Restrictions That Were Effective March 18

  • As previously announced as of noon (EDT) March 18, Canadian borders closed for those arriving by air to most people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents; there are exceptions for US citizens, diplomats, immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and personnel providing essential services
  • Foreign nationals (not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or other exempt categories), who have been outside of Canada but in the US for at least 14 days prior to attempting to enter Canada from the date of effect of the travel restrictions, would be permitted to fly to Canada. However, given the impending closure of the Canada-US border for non-essential travel, the purpose of entry of these individuals must align with ‘essential travel’;
  • On March 18, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety said in an interview that foreign workers and international students living in Canada will be able to return to Canada. Like others entering the country, they will have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada. This is a significant improvement to the situation of temporary foreign workers who were unable to board flights to Canada after 12 noon EDT on March 18.
  • We are continuing to closely monitor the application of these developments around the world as individuals seek to board flights or cross the land border to enter Canada. We will continue to keep you informed.

Our upcoming actions

We will continue to review our in-process applications, and connect with those we know intended to travel to Canada in the coming weeks, to identify individuals that might be affected and recommend next steps.
We will also be monitoring all available sources of information to confirm the situation related to temporary status holders, and other developments.

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