Canadian immigration reacts to coronavirus

Published on: Apr 01, 2020 | Tags: Canada Immigration, Canada Visa


During the global Covid-19 pandemic, many government services, including some immigration services, have been altered or disrupted. However, some aspects of Canada's immigration system continue to function as normal, while others are returning to normal in the wake of earlier restrictions. This article provides a brief overview of the most recent developments in Canada's immigration system during the pandemic. However, as with everything related to Covid-19, the situation is developing rapidly.

PNP draws continue

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) has been one of the major success stories of Canada's regionalised immigration system over recent decades, and despite the restrictions imposed by Covid-19, provinces continue to issue invitations to apply to qualified candidates. Manitoba conducted a draw on March 26, issuing invitations to 226 potential applicants. Saskatchewan's draw on the same day resulted in 205 invitations, while British Columbia's draw on the 30th produced 311. The stream of skilled immigrants created by the PNP is vital to the health of provincial economies, and continuing the process means keeping the flow of future new immigrants steady.

Pilot programs postponed

Not every part of Canada's immigration system continues as normal, however. New pilot programs that were due to begin in the spring of 2020 have been postponed until later in order to devote more resources to containing the spread of Covid-19. The government's Agri-Food Immigration Pilot was designed to make it easier for workers in the crucial agricultural sector to immigrate to Canada. Workers in many agricultural sectors, especially meat and mushroom production, would have been able to apply to the pilot program for permanent residence. Applications were originally intended to open on March 30; however, the launch of the program has now been delayed until May 15. The pilot will run for three years, ending in May 2023.

In addition to new programs, some longer-running programs have also been rescheduled. For example, the 2020 Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) was scheduled to open in March, allowing Canadians to sponsor the immigration of a parent or grandparent from another country. 21,000 spaces were allocated to this program, which always receives high levels of interest; it received over 100,000 applicants in 2019. No information is currently available about when the PGP will launch in 2020 or what exact form it will take, but IRCC have stated that this is only a temporary rescheduling which should not change the date at which successful applicants will actually arrive in Canada.

Travel restrictions loosen

When travel restrictions to Canada were announced, some work permit holders who were outside Canada at the time feared that they would not be able to enter the country. New travel rules will now allow these workers to enter Canada as long as they are not showing symptoms of coronavirus, which can include fever and a dry, persistent cough. Even symptomatic travelers can enter Canada by land (although not by air) as long as they enter self-isolation for 14 days immediately after arriving. These rules apply not only to work permit holders but to anyone entering Canada from abroad; the only exceptions are for workers such as truck drivers who are helping to maintain the flow of goods between Canada and the United States.

International students who received their study permits before the travel restrictions went into effect will now also be able to travel to Canada, as will temporary workers who had made their travel arrangements prior to the restrictions starting. Temporary workers in some critical sectors are also exempt from travel restrictions.

Employment regulations change temporarily

As Canada's new coronavirus regulations rolled out, employers in some industries, including agriculture, were concerned that the travel restrictions would prevent them from getting the workers needed for coming harvests. In response to these concerns, the government has temporarily relaxed some regulations, making it easier to hire foreign workers. In addition to exempting workers in key sectors from travel restrictions, the government has also waived required notice periods in industries such as agriculture and food processing. The maximum employment period for some jobs has also been extended, making it easier for employers to retain foreign workers.

The government is also giving higher priority to Temporary Foreign Worker applications in fields that affect Canada's food security. Other steps include allowing employers to submit Labor Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) by email, postponing compliance reviews, and extending the validity of LMIAs from six to nine months. These not only make it easier for employers to get the foreign workers they need, but cut down on the risk of virus transmission from in-person submissions and reviews.

All of these changes to Canada's immigration and employment systems aim either to make it possible for employers to get the workers they need to supply Canadians with food and other necessities or to help future immigrants begin the process of coming to Canada. More changes may be announced in the future as new strategies are developed.