How the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is affecting immigration, refugees, and citizenship and passport services

“The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has affected everyone. Countries around the world have had to redraw and rethink how they manage the movement of people across their borders.”

By Max Singh

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has affected everyone. Countries worldwide have had to redraw and rethink how they could manage people’s movement across their borders and institute new travel restrictions to control the virus. Meanwhile, Health authorities have also issued new guidance and regulations to stop containing the virus. The result of these rules means countries such as Canada that need new immigrants for their economy and handle humanitarian and refugees have to be both diligent and vigilant.

Canada is a young country made up of immigrants, so people’s movement across borders is significant. Currently, annual immigration to Canada amounts to around 300,000 new immigrants per year—one of the highest rates per population of any country in the world. As of 2019, there were just under eight million immigrants with permanent residents living in Canada—roughly 21.5 percent of the total Canadian population.

Canada’s Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said in an interview with the CIC website that the Canadian government could have paused or reduced immigration during the Covid 19 pandemic but instead chose to welcome immigrants during and after the pandemic to support its prosperity. Canada is still aiming to welcome over 400,000 immigrants per year in the future, which are the highest targets in its history. A projected target of 1.2 million over the next decade. Mendicino said this is necessary since immigrants are crucial to job creation in Canada and help fill vital labor market needs, including essential services.

In terms of refugees, Canada welcomed 30,000 resettled refugees in 2019, issued over 2,000 study permits and 404,000 temporary work permits. Measures to keep immigration, refugee claims, and citizen services progressing include new pilot programs enabling eligible permanent residents to complete their Canadian citizenship application online. Mendicino said his vision for the immigration system and its processes to be virtual and contactless beyond the pandemic.

“The Canadian government could have paused or reduced immigration during the Covid 19 pandemic, but instead chose to welcome immigrants during the pandemic to support its prosperity. Canada is still aiming to welcome over 400,000 immigrants over the coming years.”

Minister Mendicino has also mandated a letter to waive Canadian citizenship fees. Mendicino said that he is optimistic about reducing barriers for newcomers and continuing to select immigrants from abroad and processing their applications to arrive after the pandemic, and gradually facilitate travel restrictions so that those with approvals will eventually be able to move to Canada. At present, critical delays are the safety of front-line staff in government offices that mean more minor team and public contact points and a shift to online applications and reviews still resulting in long wait times.

Information on the rules and regular updates are posted on the government of Canada website and updated regularly, and should always be consulted for any changes. Here is the most recent guide to how the Coronavirus 19 is affecting Canadas’ immigration, refugees, and citizenship and passport services.

Immigration

The government of Canada is still accepting most applications for permanent resident applications.    Unfortunately, there are delays in the ability to review and process them due to COVID-19. And there is no estimate for any processing times at present. Canada Immigration and citizenship services currently focus on priority applications like Canadians and permanent residents returning to the country, vulnerable groups, and work permits for people who perform or support essential services. Suppose you are already approved for the permanent resident application, and you’re outside Canada. In that case, you can’t come to Canada to validate your COPR ((Certificate of permanent residence) and land as a permanent resident right now. You may be able to go only if your COPR was issued on or before March 18, 2020, or you are exempt from the travel restrictions. If you have been granted immigration status, you cannot come to Canada and leave to go live in another country, even if it’s temporary.

Refugee claims 

The ability to resettle refugees is restricted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention measures in Canada and worldwide. It is expected more refugee departures to Canada will continue as s these measures are lifted. Canada will keep working with its resettlement partners, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the International Organization for Migration to facilitate refugee resettlement safely. As of December 14, 2020, there is a new application process for refugee claimants working in Canada’s health-care sector to apply for permanent residence. You can apply if you meet the eligibility requirements and you’re a pending or failed refugee claimant who made a refugee claim in Canada before March 13, 2020, and who still lives in Canada…

Citizenship tests and interviews

Due to COVID-19, Canada has canceled all in-person citizenship tests and interviews and now offers online citizenship tests and interviews. However, this is also limited due to the pandemic. If you can’t or don’t want to do the test online, you may wait until in-person tests resume (date to be determined).

Passport Services

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the Government of Canada has reduced passport services for public safety and staff safety. If your passport expired on or after February 1, 2019, and if you need: passport services, refugee travel documents, or certificate of identity services, they may be issued. (Available for urgent travel only). Walk-in services at Service Canada Centres and passport offices (Service Canada Centre – Passport Services) are still unavailable. You can even apply to renew your passport at any time. Once you renew your passport, it will always be valid for 5 or 10 years. It is recommended you don’t finalize any travel plans until you get your passport.

Please note that government rules and regulations may change at any time, and it is highly recommended that you check the government of Canada website for continuous updates at www.canada.ca

Sources: statscanada/Cicnews.com/canada.ca/governmentofcanada.ca/ircc.ca

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