A Summary of the COVID-19 Measures That Could Affect Immigrants in Canada
As the COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, continues to spread around Canada and across the globe, the federal government announced it would be taking exceptional measures to help prevent further spread of the virus and help immigrants and travelers affected by service disruptions caused by the virus.
With that being said, here are some of the measures put in place that you should be aware of as a newcomer to Canada:
On March 16, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in a press conference that Canada would be closing its borders to anyone that isn’t a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. However, there will be some exceptions for immediate family members of Canadians, U.S. citizens, aircrew members, and diplomats.
As of right now, all domestic flights from within Canada along with flights from the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon will not be affected by this measure.
However, airlines are now required to check all flight passengers for symptoms of COVID-19, and anyone who presents symptoms will not be allowed to enter Canada
The federal government has also said that it would keep the public updated regarding the status of study and work permit holders who are currently overseas. It is not yet known whether or not individuals that meet this criteria will be able to return to Canada for the time being.
These measures are deemed necessary by the Prime Minister but they can also give rise to serious problems. Firstly, with respect to the refugees, who are obviously also affected by this international crisis, compounding their own fears of return, many of them with families and kids. We should not be shutting them away particularly because this crisis is not going to be dealt with in 2 weeks and it does not justify our obligations to protect those at risk. There can be rules put in place for them to also go into quarantine for 2 weeks, just as we are recommending for Canadians returning to Canada from abroad.
Secondly, the temporary residents have a legitimate expectation because they relied on their valid visas and ability to return when they left Canada. They are going to be stranded now with severe consequences. There needs to be carefully crafted exemptions to the broad sweeping rules being imposed by the Prime Minister.
Special IRCC measures
On March 15, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada released instructions for officials and immigrants affected by COVID-19, along with special measures to follow regarding immigration applications and processes. These measures were designed to help prevent the spread of the virus, while also helping to ensure that prospective newcomers are affected as minimally as possible. This includes those who have applied for temporary residence, permanent residence, and Canadian citizenship.
Postponed Citizenship Testing and Ceremonies
All citizenship ceremonies, citizenship tests and retests, and itinerant service trips will be cancelled until further notice. In-person permanent resident landing appointments and in-person refugee claim appointments will also be unavailable until April 13.
According to IRCC, these events will be rescheduled in the near future, but there is not yet a firm date as to when they will reopen. Anyone who has been affected by these cancellations will be contacted with a new date and time in the coming weeks.
If you have applied for temporary residence, permanent residence, or Canadian citizenship., don’t worry as the measures indicate that no application will be refused for non-compliance. Furthermore, any applications that are currently in progress at IRCC offices abroad at case processing centres and within the Domestic Network will still be processed. However, there may be delays as some visa application centres have been closed until further notice, and certain IRCC offices are operating with limited staff. Expedited processing may also be made available for those in special circumstances.
However, for permanent residence applications, IRCC will extend the application deadline for those who are unable to submit a completed application for permanent residence before the deadline. In some cases, this can allow for an additional 90 days.
Extensions Made Available to Temporary Residents
Foreign nationals living in Canada with temporary resident status that will soon expire will also be able to apply for an extension in order to maintain their status. In order to obtain an extension, you must apply online, meet all requirements, and pay the associated fees.
Those with extension applications currently in progress will receive implied status and be granted the ability to remain in Canada until a decision is made on their application.
Providing Additional Documentation
During this time of uncertainty, IRCC may continue to request that you provide any additional documents necessary for processing your citizenship or immigration application. This could include police certificates, biometrics, passports, medical exams, etc.
If additional documentation is required for your application, immigration officers will notify you with a letter that you have 90 days to respond to. And if you had previously received a request to provide additional documentation but were unable to meet the deadline, you will be given an additional 90 days to respond.
Also keep in mind if you receive a letter asking you to provide biometrics within 30 days, you will, in fact, have 90 days instead to complete this.
As of right now, these are the only measures in place that will affect immigrants and prospective newcomers. But as things are changing rapidly with the COVID-19, additional measures or further changes could be implemented in the coming weeks. So, if you are in the process of submitting an immigration application, or are waiting to hear back about your application status, be sure to keep an eye on the news and the IRCC website for further updates.