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Canada immigration and COVID-19 during 2020: Part two | Colin Singer

Friday, November 27, 2020 @ 8:39 AM | By Colin Singer


Colin Singer %>
Colin Singer
In this, the second of a two-part series, we look at how Canada immigration has been affected by COVID-19 in 2020.

Quebec immigration

Quebec continues to accept applications for permanent residence but says processing times are likely to be affected by the coronavirus crisis. The province was an important driver behind the decision to offer asylum seekers working in Canada’s care homes a pathway to permanent residence.

Early in the crisis, Quebec’s immigration Ministry moved to extend the stay of international students whose Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) expired as of April 30, allowing them to apply to stay in the province until the end of 2020.

Quebec welcomed 18,155 new immigrants in the first eight months of 2020, compared to 25,550 during the same period of 2019. The governing Coalition Avenir Quebec says it plans to increase immigration levels in 2021 to offset the drop in immigration seen in 2020. It was to welcome a maximum of 30,500 newcomers in 2020, rising to a maximum of 47,500 in 2021.

Provincial immigration

Canada’s provincial immigration programs have reacted in different ways to the coronavirus crisis.

Measures were implemented by most provinces to help applicants affected by the pandemic. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced in September that Provincial Nominee Program candidates who lost their employment offers due to coronavirus have a year to find a new job and still qualify for Canada immigration.

While most provinces have worked to get back to issuing Invitations to Apply and provincial nominations on a regular basis, only Alberta has announced it plans to limit immigration to help provide jobs for locals during the recovery.

Citizenship

The number of people becoming Canadian citizens has effectively ground to a halt during the pandemic. Citizenship confirmation ceremonies and citizenship tests were initially completely suspended. While a limited number of ceremonies are now taking place online, language and knowledge tests are yet to resume.

In the first six months of 2020, a total of 62,696 people became Canadian citizens, compared with 127,580 in the same period of 2019.

Temporary workers

Canada quickly introduced an exemption to travel restrictions for temporary workers, soon after the travel restrictions and border closures were put in place in March. This was in recognition of the vital role temporary workers play in keeping Canada’s economy ticking, including working on farms to maintain the food supply.

Temporary workers coming to Canada are exempt from travel restrictions provided their travel is essential. They are considered essential if they have a valid work permit and normally live in Canada, or if they have a letter of introduction for a work permit, a valid job offer and are ready to start work after their 14-day quarantine.

As a result of the exemption, temporary worker numbers did not fall as dramatically as numbers of new permanent residents. Through the International Mobility Program, 127,230 temporary workers arrived in the first eight months of 2020, compared to 193,860 in the same period of 2019. Through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, 66,175 temporary workers arrived in the first eight months of 2020, compared to 78,195 in the same period of 2019.

International students

International students have been the subject of a number of policy changes during the COVID-19 crisis. As of Oct. 20, 2020, international students have been allowed to travel to Canada provided they are attending a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by their provincial or territorial government. They must still quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Initially, international students were allowed to travel to Canada provided their Study Permit was granted before March 18, 2020. A new two-step process was introduced for students starting in fall 2020 who had to begin their courses online. The process involved approval in principle for candidates beginning their studies online, with full approval to be granted at a later date when the candidate arrived in Canada. Changes were also made to the Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) for students who needed to switch to taking their courses online.

Students in one of the following categories remain eligible for the PGWP if at least half of their program is completed in Canada:

  1. Study permit holders who had already begun their studies in Canada, but left Canada and are continuing their courses online.
  2. Candidates approved for a study permit for a program starting in spring, summer or fall 2020, who will begin their program online instead of trying to travel to Canada.

The future

Canada’s federal government, as well as Quebec, have announced plans to increase immigration in 2021 and beyond, once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided. The important question is: when will that be? Case numbers are currently on the increase in Canada, meaning there is no sign of international travel restrictions being eased or the Canada-U.S. border opening.

With recent positive vaccine news, it is possible to start thinking of when the pandemic ease and normal life can resume. The soonest that could happen looks like spring or early summer 2021. When it eventually does happen, expect Canada immigration numbers to increase quickly, as the immigration-fuelled recovery strategy is put into practice.

This is the second in a two-part series. The first article: Canada immigration and COVID-19 during 2020: Part one.

Colin R. Singer is immigration counsel for www.immigration.ca. He can be reached via Twitter: @immigrationca.

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