Changes in Canadian Immigration Since the Pandemic

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Canadian Immigration

 To control the spread of COVID-19, the Canadian government, on March 18th, 2020, instituted a multi-layered system including travel restrictions and robust quarantine measures. However, it has since recognized that its decision to shut international borders had caused difficulties for citizens with loved ones and family outside the country. In this blog, we will discuss the changes in Canadian Immigration since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having acknowledged the need for Canadian citizens to be close to their loved ones, especially those who are grappling with extreme misfortunes, such as critical injury, life-threatening conditions, and grieving the death of a loved one, the government had to relax some of its COVID-related restrictions announced in March.

  Here are the top immigration stories that made headlines this year in Canada.

Canada Unveils New Immigration Levels Plan for 2021-2023

On October 30th, Marco Mendicino announced the government’s 2021-2022 immigration levels plan. The plan highlighted how the government plans to increase immigration targets responsibly to help Canada recover from the economic strains occasioned by COVID-19.

The pandemic has highlighted the role immigrants play in boosting Canada’s economic growth and the well-being of its communities. Sectors such as health, education, information technology, manufacturing, and agriculture rely on immigrants to maintain supply chains, promote entrepreneurial aptitude, and create job opportunities for many Canadians.

COVID-related travel restrictions had led to the shortfall in IRCC’s capacity to admit talents from abroad. To make up for the shortfall, the government plans to continue welcoming foreigners at a rate of roughly 1 percent of Canada’s total population. This includes a whopping 421,000 permanent residents in 2023, 411 000 in 2022, and 401000 in 2021.

This ambitious 2021-2023 immigration plan will cement Canada’s position as a top destination for world talent, strengthen its base for economic growth and development, fulfill its humanitarian commitments, and reunite Canadians with their family members living abroad.

The Immigration Levels Plan pronouncement is perhaps the government’s most vital of the year. It laid the framework for the number of immigrants Canada targets to welcome under the individual refugee, economic, and family classes.

Canada makes massive changes to accommodate International students.

Until the government’s announcement on October 2, only international students with study permits approved before March 18 were allowed entry into Canada. However, only schools or institutions with a fully approved COVID readiness plan could accept international students into their premises. Moreover, the two-week quarantine period requirement remained in effect.

On 2 October, Marco Mendicino, the minister for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, also announced that beginning October 20, the Canadian government would relax travel restrictions for international students. International students could now enter the country if they attend a DLI (designated learning institution) that the relevant territorial or provincial government has approved as having a robust COVID readiness plan.

The government acknowledged that COVID-19 has continued to create uncertainties for international students studying in Canada. Moreover, the global coronavirus crisis has had devastating effects on the IRCC’s capacity to issue study permits. The new changes were to help international students begin their studies virtually at a DLI.

It allowed students to begin their Canadian studies online, hence protecting their safety and health and enabling them to attain their various study, immigration, and career objectives. This was a big win for international students, as most of them want to study in Canada for its excellent but affordable education programs.

Additionally, Canada offers international students an opportunity to work part-time during their studies and full-time after graduating. Moreover, they can possibly get permanent residence and apply to become Canadian citizens.

The IRCC’s October pronouncement stressed that international students could attend their classes at Canadian universities and colleges online until 31 December 2020 and not have such study lessons affect their eligibility for PGWP (Post-Graduation Work Permit).

Immigration to Canada via the Express Entry program impacted significantly

Before the COVID-19-related restrictions, foreigners gained entry to Canada mainly through the Express Entry system. The system could conduct draws after roughly every fortnight and send up to 4000 immigration invitations to successful candidates per draw.

The March 16 travel restrictions threw the Express Entry into disarray, leaving many unsure whether eligible nominees who were abroad would be considered and whether the draws would continue soon.

Although the scheduled Express Entry draw happened on March 18 as normal, the only candidates considered were from the PNP (Provincial Nominee Program). In another rare occurrence, the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) held another draw on March 23. In this second draw, IRCC considered the CEC (Canadian Experience Class) applicants only. This was bad news for FSWP (Federal Skilled Worker Program) applicants who ordinarily would make up the bigger percentage of Express entry candidates but now had to wait and hope for the best.

On July 8, however, IRCC included FSWP candidates once again and has continued to invite applicants from all programs since 2nd September.

To compensate for the low immigration experienced in 2020, IRCC is currently issuing more than 5000 invitations per draw, the largest since the launch of the system in 2015.

Major exemptions and travel restrictions.

 On October 2nd, Canada exempted extended family members to permanent residents and citizens of Canada from travel restrictions. The extended family members who were now allowed entry to Canada included grandchildren, grandparents, siblings, non-dependent children, and persons in exclusive dating relationships with a Canadian permanent resident or citizen for not less than 12 months.

Before that date, the only family members who were outside Canada that were allowed entry were immediate family:

  • The spouses
  • Common-law partners
  • Dependent children
  • Grandchildren
  • Parents or stepparents of Canadians
  • Tutors or guardians of Canadian citizens and permanent residents

Canada shuts its international borders.

On Monday, March 16, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadian citizens abroad to travel home quickly as the country was shutting its borders to foreigners to contain the spread of the novel COVID-19. The travel restrictions were set to take effect on March 18th.

While diplomats, Canadian citizens, aircrews, close family members, and US citizens were exempted from travel restrictions, anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus would not be allowed entry into Canada. However, nonessential American visitors were denied entry. Moreover, anybody allowed entry was ordered to self-isolate for two weeks.

Trudeau’s announcement had far-reaching effects on Canadians abroad intending to travel back home and also on all the Canadian Immigration stakeholders. The travel restriction for nonessential visits has since then been extended continuously every month, and the trend is expected to be maintained for the whole of 2020.

The successful development testing and rolling out of the coronavirus vaccine in the UK and the US paints a clear of when Canada is likely to start opening up its borders to all foreigners. By the second half of 2021, international travel normalcy is likely to have resumed.

We can say that the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced Canadian Immigration policies and procedures that lead to temporary changes.

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