Covid-19 vaccination developments reveal future of Canadian immigration

Published on: Jan 08, 2021 | Tags: COVID-19, Canada Travel Restrictions, Canada Immigration

The global coronavirus pandemic has had a significant effect on immigration to Canada, leading to significant drops in the numbers of new arrivals to the country. However, developments in the fight against Covid-19 a potential return to the government's high immigration target numbers. The government has also extended existing policies aimed at retaining temporary residents, which will make it easier for these people to continue to live and work in Canada despite the disruption of the pandemic.

Vaccination hopes suggest possible reopening

One of the most important developments in the ongoing coronavirus crisis is the introduction of new vaccines. Canada has engaged in an aggressive vaccination strategy, with two vaccines already approved for use. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau projects that a majority of Canadians will be vaccinated by September 2021.

Travel restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic have kept travellers out of Canada since early 2020. Because of the risk of travellers from outside the country bringing infection, the government has restricted unnecessary travel and imposed quarantine restrictions on those who do. If the risk of infection declines, travel restrictions will be relaxed, finally making it possible for more new arrivals to enter Canada.

In order for this to happen, the country will need to achieve what public health experts call herd immunity: a situation where immunity to a disease is so widespread that even if an infected person enters the population, the risk of illness and transmission is greatly reduced. In addition to people who gain immunity from vaccination, the approximately 500,000 Canadians who have already recovered from Covid-19 will also be immune. Estimates of the percentage of the population that needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity at between 50 and 90 percent, implying that Canada could achieve herd immunity at some point in the second half of 2021.

Because high immigration levels are central to Canada's economic recovery, the government is expected to increase immigration levels significantly. 2020 was scheduled to be a year of record immigration, and 2021's target numbers are even more ambitious. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada projects 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021, increasing to 421,000 in 2023.

Despite the limitations, both the federal government and provincial governments have not completely stopped welcoming new permanent residents. For the most part, these Invitations to Apply have gone to immigrants in industries considered critical to the economy and the fight against coronavirus, as well to those who are already in Canada, allowing them to become permanent residents without international travel.

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the important role played by immigrants in Canada's economy, including in critical sectors like health care and agriculture. Increased totals in coming years will reflect the importance of these new arrivals to the nation's recovery. In order to heal the damage the disease has done to Canada immigration levels must return to, or even surpass, their earlier levels as soon as possible.

Renewal period for temporary residents extended

In addition to travel restrictions reducing the number of new arrivals to Canada, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected Canada's immigration in other ways. For example, closed offices, personnel shortages and a lack of in-person services made it impossible for many would-be immigrants to complete applications in a timely manner. In response to this, IRCC has adjusted some of its procedures to accommodate those affected by the pandemic.

One of the most important changes to immigration procedures was the extension of the residency status renewal requirements for temporary residents such as international students or those on work permits. Normally, temporary residents whose status expires have 90 days to apply to restore it. However, because of the delays which affected these residents during the pandemic, the government extended the deadline to December 31, 2020. Temporary residents whose status expired while they were in Canada could pay their application fee and apply within the extended deadline.

As the pandemic continues, IRCC has extended the deadline yet again. Applicants who were in Canada and lost their temporary resident status between the end of January 2020 and May 2021 will be able to apply to have their status renewed by August 31, 2021.

Additionally, applicants who previously held a work permit may still be able to work while their applications are being processed. Temporary workers who meet the program's requirements will be able to apply for an interim work authorization, allowing them to work in a specified role while they wait for their work permit to be approved.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Canada's immigration policy has been characterized by flexibility as it responds to the changing needs both of immigrants and of the nation's economy. Changes to the temporary residence process are just one of the ways in which IRCC has adapted to the changing circumstances.

These two points represent a two-part approach to dealing with the future of Canadian immigration. By adapting its policies, the government helps those already in the process of applying for residency, while changes to future immigration plans demonstrate commitment to stated policy goals even in the face of changing circumstances.