The Coronavirus pandemic has affected every corner of our lives, from the way we conduct business to how we interact with strangers on the street. Since international borders are closed and travel is highly restricted (if not outright prohibited), here’s what it all means for Canadian immigration and travel.

Travel restrictions

In light of COVID-19, an official advisory was issued by the Canadian government to avoid all-non essential travel, period. As countries fight internal battles against the proliferation of Coronavirus cases, international travel has essentially ground to a halt in order to curb the virus’s spread. If a Canadian goes abroad, not only do they risk transmitting the virus to foreign populations if they are infected, but they also risk bringing it back with them should they catch it during their stay.

As of the time of this writing, the U.S–Canada border will be closed for all non-essential travel (leisure, tourism, entertainment) until at least May 31, 2020. This rule applies to all foreign nationals, including immediate family members such as spouses, parents, and children. Immediate family members are not allowed to enter Canada for reasons that are optional or discretionary, such as tourism, recreation or entertainment.

The following may constitute essential travel:

  • work and study
  • critical infrastructure support
  • economic services and supply chains
  • shopping for essential goods, such as:
    • medication
    • items necessary for the health and safety of an individual or family
  • health, immediate medical care, safety and security
The following people may be exempt from the international travel ban:

  • Health care workers, as long as they will not be providing care for people over
  • 65 years of age in the two weeks following their return to Canada.
  • People making essential health care deliveries, including cells, organs, blood transfusions, and other lifesaving body parts.
  • Truck drivers or airplane crews who are important for the movement of goods and people.
  • People who regularly cross the border to go to work.
  • People who have to cross the border to provide or receive essential services.

For more information on Canadian travel restrictions, click here.

What are the New General Processing Measures of the IRCC?

On March 15, Immigration, Refugees, and CItizenship Canada (IRCC) put new processing measures into place to ensure the health and safety of new immigrants, their families, and IRCC employees. These new rules also try to avoid creating inconveniences for people with pending immigration applications.

To respect social distancing measures, gatherings like citizenship ceremonies and knowledge tests have been suspended.

Expedited processing may be granted in special cases, but in general, it will not be happening as many IRCC offices are operating with essential staff only.

People applying for permanent residence who are unable to meet the initial application deadline will be granted an additional 90 days in some cases.

Applications will not be refused for non-compliance at this time.

Applications currently in progress at IRCC offices and case processing centres abroad, as well as within the Domestic Network, will continue to be processed as normal.

Foreign nationals in Canada may apply to extend their temporary residence status, and anyone with an extension request in progress will be granted implied status until a decision is made.

Applicants may still be asked to provide additional documents as required, including police certificates, biometric information, passport scans, medical exams, and any documents that must be issued by China, Iran, or South Korea. If IRCC requires any documents or information from you, you will receive a letter that requires a response within 90 days. If you cannot provide the necessary documents by the deadline, 90 more days will be allocated.

Will You Get More Time For Permanent Residence Applications?

The Canadian government will continue to take in permanent residence applications while COVID-19 measures are in place.

If you submit an incomplete application, it will be retained for 90 days, during which time you may submit the missing documentation. To be granted these additional 90 days, you must include a note describing why you submitted an incomplete application, and how the Coronavirus prevented you from filing a complete application on time. Incomplete applications without an explanation, or ones with an explanation that does not cite the Coronavirus as the source of the delay, may be rejected. Complete applications will be processed as normal.

For more information about permanent residence provisions during COVID-19, click here.

Can Temporary Residents Apply for Extensions?

Temporary residents who are unable to leave Canada due to border closures may apply to extend their status. All applications are being processed online, and no paper applications are being accepted at this time. Once an extension application is in progress, foreign nationals will have implied status and will therefore be able to legally remain in Canada.

If your temporary resident status has expired, you may apply for it to be restored: if you are eligible, an officer will mail you a visitor record or permit document that stipulates the conditions for your status restoration. If you are not eligible, there is a chance you will still be able to remain in Canada, but you may also be subject to an admissibility hearing or departure order.

Uncertain times require expert help

In such an unprecedented situation, seeking legal advice from an experienced professional is the best way to ensure you remain on the right side of immigration law. You can start with our Coronavirus travel advice for foreign workers, or contact us.

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