In the month of March we have seen an unprecedented change to immigration processes and policies in Canada and the United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a series of announcements covering restrictions on travel to Canada, the Canadian government has now provided some clarity on their website, which states: "The basic rule is that foreign nationals are prohibited from boarding an aircraft for a flight to Canada when the flight is departing from any country other than the United States and the foreign national is not covered by any of the exemptions in the Orders." Exemptions to the travel restriction include immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents (including spouses, children and parents), and those who travel for work or study, or are providing support for economic services and supply chains, critical infrastructure support, health, immediate medical care, safety and security and shopping for essential goods (medication and other).
Additional screening of travelers bound to Canada is in place and international flights have been redirected to one of 4 international airports (Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto Pearson and Montreal PET).
This is a constantly evolving situation, with logistical considerations involving availability of international flights, limitations imposed by airlines and domestic travel restrictions in other countries.
At Babel Immigration Law, we are providing our full suite of services to individuals and businesses throughout this challenging time. We are fully functional and able to meet with clients over the phone, video conferencing and by email. Please reach out to us at any time.
For additional information from IRCC and CBSA please click the link below.
There have been 3 rounds of invitations under the Express Entry system in the month of March. On March 4, 2020, IRCC issued 3900 invitations to candidates with a CRS points of 471 and higher. On March 18, 2020, there was a very small round, with only 668 invitations issued to candidates CRS points of 720 of higher (which would include Provincial Nominees and Executive level applicants with Arranged Employment). Finally, a third round just occurred on March 23, with 3232invitations being issued to candidates with CRS points of 467 or higher.
IRCC has announced that no Express Entry applications will be closed or refused because of documents missing due to COVID-19. An automatic 90 day extension of time is provided to allow applicants to obtain documents such an employment reference letters, police clearances and others. Currently, it is not be possible to complete an immigration medical exam or to provide biometrics from within Canada. Applicants can continue to file applications for permanent residence and expect to have them processed, although completing the process may be delayed until biometrics and medical exams become available inside Canada. Applicants should be prepared to provide reasonable explanations for any missing documents.
Travel Restrictions US
As of March 21, 2020 there is a 30-day restriction on all non-essential travel at the Canada-U.S. border. In the days since that announcement, both countries have updated and revised their instructions on key terms, including 'optional and discretionary' or 'non-essential travel' and have announced exemptions to the travel restrictions, including foreign workers.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security currently defines non-essential travel as 'travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature". This same notification states that travel of 'Individuals traveling to work in the United States' is considered 'essential', however, it appears that adjudications at the US Ports of Entry are resulting in mixed results for travelers. For more information, please click on the link below to go to the Department of Homeland Security page on COVID-19.
There are also updates coming on a regular basis for Visa Waiver nationals who are currently in the US and unable to depart dues to COVID-19 related travel restrictions in the destination country. For more information please click on the link in the box below.
With official government instructions on social distancing, self-isolation and travel restrictions changing on a nearly daily basis, what additional considerations are there for Canadian employers of foreign nationals?
Employer-specific work permits have up to twenty-one (21) conditions attached to them, most of which can trigger compliance concerns for the employer. Some key elements to consider when managing a foreign work force are the location of work, and the foreign worker’s compensation (wages, working conditions and benefits). These become especially important as social distancing, working from home and layoffs become more common.
Plan ahead for inland extensions of work permits – Expect processing times to climb
With the current travel restrictions and the inability to 'flagpole' to request a new/extended work permit employers and employees need to consider all options to maintain valid temporary status. Employers should take a careful look at the foreign national population and consider filing work permit extension applications in Canada for workers whose status is expiring shortly. This may result in employees remaining in-country for longer than anticipated and can cause implied status situations, travel interruption and impact provincial health coverage.
Immigration Non-Compliance and Justifications
In these unprecedented times, how do we know where an employer could be offside on compliance as a result in changes to the conditions of work for foreign nationals? One thing to consider would be the list of justifications for non-compliance which include a change in federal or provincial law (R203(1.1)(a) the implementation of measures by the employer in response to a dramatic change in economic conditions that directly affected the business of the employer, provided that the measures were not directed disproportionately at foreign nationals employed by the employer (R203(1.1)(c) or force majeure (R203(1.1)(g)). It remains to be seen how the relevant agencies will assess these situations in the weeks and months ahead.
This is a selection from the article that was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily (www.thelawyersdaily.ca), part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.”