Spotlight On: the COVID-19 Situation and Foreign Nationals  

As you are probably aware, the Government announced the shutdown of all non-essential services across the provinces to take effect at 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, March 24, and continue for at least 14 days. Several provincial Premiers and Local Governments may also take action soon on case to case basis to deal with a state of emergency.

Outside Canada, embassies are still operational and dealing with applications on case to case basis, and so as the VAC centers.

`` COVID-19 is affecting business at IRCC? ``

Workers, students and approved permanent residents who haven't landed should not travel yet. IRCC has announced exemptions, but they're not in place. Travel restrictions are still in effect for these groups.

Only Canadian citizens, and permanent residents, and some foreign nationals travelling from the United States (US) who have been in the US for at least 14 days and are asymptomatic, are able to enter Canada by air at this time.

Implications of travel restrictions on RCIC clients:

On March 16, 2020, the Prime Minister announced travel restriction measures that will restrict air travel to Canadians, permanent residents, and families of Canadians to protect Canada from the outbreak of COVID-19.

This Specific Q & A page is created by the Can-College Administration to educate public and related individuals/organizations to get a clear and factual picture. (Several sections of this page have been quoted from the 'IRCC" website.

Q-1: Are Visa offices outside Canada or in Land operations open or processing applications?

As announced, there are travel restrictions in place. IRCC is continuing to accept and process applications at this time, although foreign nationals, unless exempt, will have their travel restricted until these measures have been lifted.

Q-2: What is the impact on application processing times?

While IRCC continues to serve clients, service disruptions and restrictions due to COVID-19 may have an impact on processing times, and the current posted processing times may not be accurate.

Q-3: What happens to people trying to apply for a visa or status in Canada?

As announced, there are travel restrictions in place. However, no application in progress will be closed or refused due to a lack of documentation or inability to complete the application process in time, such as giving biometrics or completing an immigration medical exam, when travel reopens.

Q-What should foreign nationals who are in Canada with valid temporary status as a visitor, worker or student do if their status is about to expire?

Temporary residents who are currently in Canada are able to apply to extend their status online if they need to extend their status. A temporary resident who has applied to extend their status is allowed to remain in Canada until a decision is made on their new application, even if their initial status expires while they are waiting for that decision. This is called implied status.

Q-3: What is the impact of the restrictions on international students?

Workers, students and approved permanent residents who haven't landed should not travel yet. IRCC announced exemptions, but they're not in place. Travel restrictions are still in effect for these groups.

As announced on March 20, 2020, international students who hold a valid study permit or had been approved for a study permit when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020, will be able to travel to Canada by air or land. They will be exempt from air travel and border restrictions. This exemption is to accommodate students who are in the middle of their course of study or who have just been approved to study in Canada but were outside Canada when the travel restrictions took effect. Those affected by these exemptions should not try to travel to Canada immediately. We will announce when the exemptions are in place, which we anticipate will be early during the week of March 22, 2020.

Like all travelers, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents, international students who are exempt from air travel restrictions, will undergo the necessary health checks and must isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.

Q-What about international students who are concerned about restrictions on distance learning to be able to apply for a post-graduation work permit?

Courses of study being delivered online on an exceptional basis due to COVID 19 will not affect

Q-4: When will the exemptions be in place? Should people be exempt from the rush to Canada immediately?

Workers, students and approved permanent residents who haven't landed should not travel yet. We've announced exemptions, but they're not in place. Travel restrictions are still in effect for these groups.

With travel restrictions in place in many countries around the world and international air travel reduced during the COVID-19 outbreak, we don't recommend that those who are exempt from travel restrictions immediately try to travel to Canada. Implementation of the exemptions will take a few days. We expect to announce the implementation of these exemptions early in the week of March 22, 2020.

Q-5: Are licensed legal professionals and their offices open for related services?

Yes;

ICCRC and several regulatory bodies have directed their members (Lawyers, Paralegals and Licensed Immigration Consultants (RCIC)) to implement a work at home plan effective March 16, encouraging all law offices and paralegal offices to do the same by operating remotely and virtually wherever feasible. 

Since the onset of this unprecedented event, the legal community responds as leaders in innovative and creative ways by adapting their practices to ensure continued access to justice for clients. These important measures contribute to collective efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The Government of Ontario has deemed law offices as essential workplaces. As such, law offices and paralegal offices are permitted to remain open, to address instances when remote business practices are not feasible. Further information and a full list of businesses that are permitted to stay open can be found on the Government website.

Q-6: How does the Government (Immigration Law) define "immediate family members" under these restrictions?

In the Interim Order to Prevent Certain Persons from Boarding Flights to Canada due to COVID-19, immediate family member, in respect of a person, means

(a) the spouse or common-law partner of the person

(b) a dependent child of the person or of the person's spouse or common-law partner

(c) a dependent child of a dependent child referred to in paragraph (b)

(d) the parent or step-parent of the person or of the person's spouse or common-law partner

(e) the guardian or tutor of the person

Will I be allowed to re-enter Canada if I am a permanent resident?

Asymptomatic landed permanent residents will be allowed to re-enter Canada. If a permanent resident is exhibiting symptoms, they will not be allowed to travel to Canada by air, but they will be able to re-enter Canada at a land border and must isolate for 14 days. The same applies to Canadian citizens, people registered under the Indian Act and protected persons.

Q-8: Will I be able to remain in Canada if I am already in the country legally?

Yes.

Q-9: Can a foreign national with a valid visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA) but no study or work permit come to Canada?

While some exemptions apply, most foreign nationals who hold a valid visa or eTA are not able to travel to Canada by air at this time.

Q-10: What is the impact on temporary foreign workers?

Workers, students and approved permanent residents who haven't landed should not travel yet. IRCC announced exemptions, but they're not in place. Travel restrictions are still in effect for these groups.

Only Canadian citizens, and permanent residents, and some foreign nationals traveling from the United States (US) who have been in the US for at least 14 days and are asymptomatic, are able to enter Canada by air at this time.

Like all travelers, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents, temporary foreign workers who enter Canada by air or land, will undergo the necessary health checks and must isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.

In addition, a temporary modification is being made to the Labour Market Impact Assessment process for agriculture and food-processing employers, as the required 2-week recruitment period will be waived for the next six months. IRCC is also increasing the maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program from 1 to 2 years. This will improve flexibility and reduce the administrative burden for employers, including those in food processing.

They should not travel to a port of entry (POE) to apply directly to a border services officer. Traveling to a POE from inside Canada for the purpose of getting immigration services is not considered essential travel, and they will not receive these services.

Q-11: What is the impact on refugees and asylum claimants?

On March 17, 2020, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced that they, along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), are temporarily suspending resettlement travel for refugees.

Canada relies on referrals from the UNHCR, other designated referral organizations and private sponsorship groups to identify refugees in need of resettlement.

The IOM and the UNHCR will make alternative arrangements for those refugees currently in transit and who are no longer able to continue their journey to Canada at this time.

We continue to accept asylum claimants in Canada, consistent with our international human rights obligations.

On March 20, 2020, Canada and the US also announced collaborative and reciprocal measures where we will now be returning irregular migrants who attempt to cross anywhere at the Canada–US border, including those who attempt to make an asylum claim at a land POE.

Q-12: What about our domestic IRCC operations?

Domestic IRCC operations are reduced to critical services. We have canceled all citizenship ceremonies, tests, and retests, as well as all in-person permanent resident landing appointments and refugee claimant appointments. We are looking into alternative means to provide permanent resident landing services, including possibly by telephone. Clients will be contacted directly to reschedule their appointment.

We are also suspending non-essential settlement services and biometrics collection services at 58 Service Canada locations.

IRB measures related to COVID-19

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In addition to the above measures, the IRB will be considering all COVID related motions and applications with flexibility and other operational practice flexibilities are being considered and will be announced as required.

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Study & Visa Applications in Canada Affected by COVID-19  Q & A