Canada's lenient approach to immigration during COVID-19

Published on: May 27, 2020 | Tags: COVID-19, Canada Immigration, Canada Visa

Mendicino reaffirms support for immigration despite U.S. and Canada border restrictions

The United States and Canada have decided to renew the restrictions on travel between the two nations for another month, and the impact of Covid-19 is causing increased unemployment. Despite these circumstances, Canada's federal government remains committed to maintaining its high immigration targets, which it sees as vital both to the future of the Canadian economy and to Canada's national identity. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino has reaffirmed Canada's commitment to welcoming large numbers of new immigrants between 2020 and 2022, although the exact figures may be revised later in the year.

Changes to immigration processes

Whether new immigration target numbers appear in November or not, Mendicino's commitment to sustaining immigration can be seen in a spate of recent changes to Canadian immigration procedures. These changes are intended to help simplify the application process during a period when many services may be unavailable.

One challenge for many temporary residents can be the need to obtain documents supporting their claims. For instance, many temporary foreign workers are eligible to receive Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This $2000 payment is intended to help mitigate the financial impact of the coronavirus; each payment covers a four-week period, and an individual can apply up to four times. However, foreign workers have sometimes found their applications stymied by the difficulty of getting proof of temporary work permits in a period when many offices are closed. The government has now waived this requirement, although applicants may be asked to provide the documentation at a future date when it is easier to obtain.

Leniency on Student Visa Applications

Similarly, international students may currently be struggling to provide necessary documentation for their student visa applications. Applicants for a study permit or post-graduation work permit (PGWP) must provide the government with biometric data, undergo a medical examination, and provide original copies of their travel documents. However, many of the facilities that would normally handle these tasks are currently closed in response to the spread of Covid-19. Because of the difficulties these applicants face, the government will no longer automatically reject applications that lack these documents as long as the applicant can demonstrate that they are attempting to get them but are unable to.

Another component of many immigration applications is language proficiency. For example, skilled worker candidates who want to gain permanent residence need to demonstrate their proficiency in English or French. However, many testing centers around the world are closed as a safety precaution during the pandemic. As lockdown restrictions ease in some parts of the world, some have begun to reopen. For example, IELTS testing centers in Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba are already open once more; applicants can now book their tests at these centers during the application process itself.

These and other changes to immigration application procedures demonstrate the government's efforts to make immigration and related services accessible to those whose lives have been disrupted by the global pandemic. This applies not only to potential applicants for permanent residence but to temporary foreign workers and international students, both those who plan to come to Canada in the future and those who are already here.

New immigration draws focus on critical sectors

As the federal and provincial governments work to respond to the challenges of Covid-19, immigration draws have tended to focus on offering permanent residence to workers in critical areas such as food production, healthcare and more. For instance, Nova Scotia carried out a Provincial Nominee Program draw on 22 May targeting registered nurses as applicants for provincial nomination. Similarly, Prince Edward Island has released figures from its last three draws. The province chose to focus only on candidates within critical industries such as health and transportation; as a result, it issued only 29 invitations to apply over the course of three draws.

During the period of special measures, different provinces have focused on different economic sectors. Health care and agriculture have obviously been important, but other provinces have also chosen to issue invitations to workers in the technology sector, which is seen as crucial both to the functioning of society during the pandemic and to a post-coronavirus economic recovery.

As with every aspect of government response to Covid-19, immigration procedures and rules are continually evolving. However, all the government's measures so far seem aimed at a consistent goal: to ensure that those who wish to settle in Canada are able to apply with a minimum of disruption and that the nation continues to benefit from immigrants and travellers who provide essential services.