Published on: Apr 22, 2020
As part of Canada's ongoing effort to combat the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, the border between Canada and the United States will remain closed until May 20. This announcement comes as the US continues to impose new immigration restrictions and Canada seeks to control infection rates while maintaining the flow of goods and labor necessary for the health of its economy.
The original border closure between Canada and the United States came into effect on March 20. At the time, both nations were trying to prevent new cases of Covid-19 infection from entering the country. When the restrictions were imposed, the term was set at 30 days, with possible extensions to be renewed every month. With the first review out of the way, the two governments have now agreed to extend the closure for a further month until May 20 at the earliest. This date may see the border closure lifted, maintained, or modified, depending on how the Covid-19 situation develops in May.
However, not all travel between the United States and Canada is affected by the border closures. Workers who travel regularly between the two nations, such as delivery drivers, who often cross the border several times a day, may still enter Canada as long as they don't show symptoms of Covid-19 such as a fever or cough. The regular flow of goods and essential workers across the border is a vital part of both nations' economies.
The border closures have had some impact on immigration to Canada. Prior to the closures, people with temporary visas or travel permits, such as students or temporary workers, could apply for renewal more quickly by a process known as "flagpoling." Flagpoling simply involved crossing the border from Canada to the US and then immediately returning to file the application at a border crossing. This process was faster and simpler than the process of applying for renewal from inside Canada. Since routine border crossings have been suspended, this is no longer possible; applicants will have to use the longer application procedure.
The extension of the border closure comes against a backdrop of increasing restrictions on immigration to the United States. President Donald Trump announced on April 21 that he would be using an executive order to suspend immigration to the United States as a protective measure. Critics allege that Trump is merely using the Covid-19 crisis as cover to advance his own political agenda and shore up his low approval ratings ahead of November's election.
By contrast to its southern neighbor, Canada continues to advance a more open immigration policy. A steady supply of new immigrants is a key feature of the Canadian government's plan for the nation's future. With a low birth rate and ageing population, Canada needs new arrivals to work in the nation's industries, fill key roles in society, and contribute to the tax base. As a result, current plans are for Canada to welcome more than one million new immigrants over the next three years.
Covid-19 has slowed some aspects of Canadian immigration policy, but the overall plan remains the same. Travel restrictions for new arrivals have been slightly eased, although most new travellers to Canada are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period to ensure that they don't spread the coronavirus. And immigration activities such as Express Entry draws to invite permanent residence applications continue unabated.
That's not to say that the pandemic hasn't had some impact on immigration to Canada. As the disease affects certain sectors of Canadian industry, offers to workers in those areas have been correspondingly reduced. For instance, the April 16 draw carried out in British Columbia saw applicants in a number of different National Occupational Codes (NOCs) excluded from the draw. These NOCs included jobs in fields such as travel, advertising, cleaning, and more.
While applications are being reduced in some fields, however, the government seeks to encourage other forms of immigration or temporary work travel, with measures ranging from increased invitations to permanent residence applicants in the Canadian Experience category to relaxing some requirements for hiring temporary foreign workers in the food and agriculture sectors. The goal of these measures is to make sure that the roles vital to Canada's economy continue to be filled and that those who can apply for permanent residence without having to travel to Canada remain able to do so.
The global effects of Covid-19 are affecting every aspect of life, and immigration is no exception. Changes to travel rules, both in Canada and in neighboring countries, can have a significant effect on immigration, as can the ever-shifting demands of the labor market. In complicated times, staying up to date with changes in immigration rules and procedures is more important than ever.