Canada prepares for post-Covid immigration

Published on: Jul 10, 2020 | Tags: Canada Immigration, COVID-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in changes in every aspect of society, and Canada's immigration system is no exception. As the system adapts to this ongoing situation, some aspects of immigration procedure are changing, while others are beginning to return to normal. No matter what temporary -- or even permanent -- changes occur, the crisis has demonstrated the Canadian government's commitment to its immigration policy goals.

All-program Express Entry draws resume

July 8th's Express Entry draw issued invitations to apply (ITAs) for permanent residence to thousands of potential applicants. By itself, this is not unusual -- Express Entry draws have been held throughout the pandemic period. However, this draw included applicants from the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). The last such draw was in early March; in the intervening four months, Express Entry draws have focused on candidates from the Provincial Nominee Program and Canadian Experience categories. Since Canadian Experience candidates are mostly already in Canada, focusing on them allowed the system to continue inviting applications despite the travel restrictions put into place to reduce the Covid-19 threat.

Other parts of the immigration application process that were negatively affected by the pandemic but are beginning to return to normal include the supporting documents necessary to make an application. Candidates who need to complete an IELTS or CELPIP English language test are now much more able to find a testing centre; similarly, Educational Credential Assessments are now resuming. For many candidates, being unable to access these vital steps was a major obstacle to applying.

Adaptations continue

Although some parts of the immigration system are returning to their pre-Covid procedures, others are still taking necessary precautions. To reduce the risk of transmission, many processes that once involved in-person submissions have shifted to postal or online methods. For instance, temporary residents seeking to extend their stay in Canada must now apply online. In cases where this is impossible, other methods are available, but the vast majority of applications will now be online.

Travel restrictions remain in place

Perhaps most significantly, travel restrictions remain in place, preventing applicants outside the country from travelling to Canada. Even though these applicants are now much more able to complete their applications -- and many new ITAs are being issued to overseas candidates -- travel to Canada still remains impossible for many. Some essential workers, including delivery drivers, are able to cross the US border, but most international travel is highly restricted.

Reasons for optimism

However, the fact that the government is once again issuing ITAs to overseas candidates suggests that IRCC is banking on the situation changing over the remainder of 2020. The application process for permanent residence can be time-consuming, and many of those who receive invitations to apply won't need to travel to Canada until early 2021. The government is apparently working on the assumption that at least some of the travel restrictions will be relaxed by then. Nothing is certain, but that seems to be the current operating assumption.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided another sign that the government is anticipating the immigration situation returning to something like normal in remarks made to reporters on July 2. Trudeau stated that Canada would be investigating ways to welcome an increased number of immigrants from Hong Kong. In response to the passage of a new national security law which critics say infringes on Hong Kong's freedoms, other nations including the United Kingdom have taken steps to welcome Hong Kongers who they believe may be motivated to relocated. High immigration from Hong Kong in the 1980s and 1990s created a substantial community of Hong Kong-born Canadians; there are more than 200,000 Canadians of Hong Kong origin, as well as hundreds of thousands of people living in Hong Kong who hold Canadian citizenship or permanent residence. Trudeau's statement indicates that Canada may anticipate welcoming even more in the future.

On November 1st, Mario Mendicino is set to announce the Immigration Levels Plan for 2021 to 2023. This plan will obviously need to address the effects of Covid-19 on Canadian immigration. However, there's little to suggest that even the difficulties currently involved in international travel will cause the minister to scale back his plans for increasing Canada's numbers of new arrivals. Indeed, the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the many sectors of Canada's society and economy, from food to healthcare to technology, that rely on immigration. Mendicino has consistently stated his support for a steady but significant increase in immigration levels, including in recent articles written since Covid-19 measures came into effect.

As with everything related to the coronavirus pandemic, Canada's immigration situation remains fluid, and the future is not perfectly clear. However, all indicators are that the government is attempting to adapt its systems to meet its ambitious immigration targets and that those targets themselves are likely to remain in place.