Coronavirus restrictions measures have made the first half of 2020 a major challenge for Canada’s immigration system.
With Canada-U.S. border closed and international travel restricted in effect since mid-March, permanent resident arrivals have slowed down to a fraction of the figures seen in the first two months of the year.
Canada’s pre-coronavirus immigration target level of 341,000 new immigrants in 2020 is increasingly unlikely to be achieved the longer restrictions continue.
With coronavirus cases increasing in certain U.S. states such as Texas and Florida it seems likely the current border closure to non-essential travels will continue beyond the current July 21 expiry.
Canada’s federal and provincial governments are cautiously trying to find the appropriate timing for reopening economies without causing a second wave of the coronavirus, which has caused restrictions to be reimposed in many parts of the United States.
Any recommencement of Canada’s immigration system or program can only come after international travel restriction have been removed.
So what could Canada’s immigration system look like in the remainder of 2020?
What Is The Current Situation?
The federal government of Canada is imposed sweeping international travel restrictions and shutting down of the border with the U.S. in mid-March as it took strict measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Canadian citizens, permanent residents, those registered under the Indian Act and protected people Act can travel to Canada.
Exemptions were also put in place for:
- Certain foreign workers vital to Canada’s supply chain
- Certa in international students approved on or prior to March 18, 2020.
- New permanent residents approved on or prior to March 18, 2020
A further exemption launched in June saw immediate family members of permanent residents and citizens allowed to travel, provided they are residing in Canada for at least fifteen (15) days.
Anyone travelling to Canada must quarantine for fourteen (14) days on arrival and be able to present a viable quarantine plan to Canada Border Services Agency officer on arrival.
The stringent measures imposed the government meant a reduction in the number of permanent resident admissions to 4,140 in April 2020, compared to 25,930 in Feb. 2020 and 26,900 in April 2019.
How Have Canada’s Federal and Provincial Programs Responded?
At the federal level, via the Express Entry System, Canada has set up two-weekly draws, sending 0ut upwards of 3,500 Invitations to Apply each time.
IRCC officials have changed to program-specific draws targeting Provincial Nominee Program and Canadian Experience Class candidates, both more likely to already be in th e country, and therefore not be affected by travel restrictions.
An ITA is the start of the process for the Express Entry system, after which candidates must submit full applications for Canada immigration. IRCC admits that it resentingly cannot estimate what the processing time will be once that full application s is Places, due to the impact of COVID-19.
At the provincial level, draws have not stopped, with many provinces changing their procedures to account for the debilitating impact of the coronavirus.
As a general response, Canada’s immigration system has demonstrated its ability to endure and react during a crisis that has gripped the world.
Canada Expects a Rise in Immigration Applications in the Rest of 2020
In the week before coronavirus restrictions swept the nations in March, Canada Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino released an immigration levels plan to parliament calling for about One million new arrivals between 2020 and 2023, including 341,000 this year.
Mendicino has reiterated that Canada remains committed to welcoming increased immigration numbers in the next three years.
“At its core, immigration is about people coming together to build a stronger economy, which is what we have experienced throughout our history, throughout this coronavirus pandemic and, I am confident, what we will see in the future,” the Minister said earlier in the pandemic.
His deputy, Catrina Tapley, has since affirmed that the 2020 target is unlikely to be reached, although Canada is preparing for a rise in applications in the second half of 2020.
A tender document released on the government website in June said an increase in applications was expected to put a ‘great demand’ on government resources.
In preparation for the post-COVID-19 situation, IRCC must consider a range of updates to processes including paper applications, a computer system overhaul, and immigration interviews, the document said. Only then will it be ready to cope with the expected increase in applications.
The ‘urgent’ tender request said: “IRCC needs to act quickly to develop (i) updated and newer strategies, and (ii) processes and digital systems to cope with the dynamics it is undergoing.”
It added: “When travel restrictions begin to ease, a great surge of applications and support requirements is expected, putting high demand on our global operation and supporting branches.”