COVID-19 March 21 2020 Update

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Canada and U.S. Provide Some Additional Clarity on the Status of Work Permit Holders and the Definition/Criteria of Essential Travel

In advance of the travel restrictions to be implemented at midnight tonight, there are more positive signs as to how these restrictions will be managed.  We already know the Canadian government has defined non-essential travel as that which is undertaken for tourism or recreational purposes. Such travellers are forbidden from travelling across the border for at least the next 30-days starting at midnight tonight.  After this 30 day period, both Canada and the U.S. will review and re-assess the agreed upon travel restrictions.  It appears now that additional guidance has been offered as to what constitutes “essential” travel.  
It appears now that work permit holders will be able to travel between Canada and the US during this time.  Further, exemptions to the air travel restrictions have been laid out to possibly facilitate the travel to Canada for foreign nationals abroad who are essential workers of vital importance to the Canadian economy.  Below is an announcement from the Minister of IRCC.

SOURCE:  https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2020/03/canada-provides-update-on-exemptions-to-travel-restrictions-to-protect-canadians-and-support-the-economy.html

Canada provides update on exemptions to travel restrictions to protect Canadians and support the economy

From: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

NEWS RELEASE – IRCC

The Government of Canada is providing an update on travel restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Exemptions to the air travel restrictions will apply to foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home, and travel by these individuals will be considered essential travel for land border restrictions.

The exemptions include

  • seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers
  • international students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020
  • permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 16, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada

In addition, a temporary modification is being made to the Labour Market Impact Assessment process for agriculture and food processing employers, as the required 2-week recruitment period will be waived for the next 6 months.

We are also increasing the maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program from 1 to 2 years. This will improve flexibility and reduce the administrative burden for employers, including those in food processing.

To safeguard the continuity of trade, commerce, health and food security for all Canadians, temporary foreign workers in agriculture, agri-food, seafood processing and other key industries will be allowed to travel to Canada under exemptions being put in place to the air travel restrictions that took effect on March 18.

In addition to health screening protocols before travel, all individuals entering from abroad must isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.

Allowing foreign workers to enter Canada recognizes their vital importance to the Canadian economy, including food safety and security for Canadians and the success of Canadian food producers. The arrival of farm workers and fish/seafood workers is essential to ensure that planting and harvesting activities can take place. There will always be jobs available for Canadians who wish to work on farms and at food processing plants.

Those affected by these exemptions should not try to travel to Canada immediately. We will announce when the exemptions are in place, which we anticipate will be early next week.

These exemptions follow others announced earlier this week, for: 

  • foreign nationals travelling at the invitation of the Canadian government for a purpose related to the containment of COVID-19
  • close family members of Canadian citizens
  • close family members of Canadian permanent residents
  • a person who is authorized, in writing, by a consular officer of the Government of Canada to enter Canada for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members
  • a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act
  • accredited diplomats and family members (including NATO, those under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement, other organizations)
  • air crews
  • any foreign national, or group of foreign nationals, whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Minister of Public Safety
  • members of the Canadian military, visiting forces and their family members
  • transiting passengers

This announcement further expands on Foreign Minister Freeland’s statement earlier today suggesting that existing Canadian work permit holders will be deemed as essential travellers at Land POE’s.  However, at this point in time it would not be prudent to simply interpret this as a blank statement or exhaustive waiver for all types of work permit holders.  If you have any concerns in this regard, you should contact our office immediately to seek guidance as to whether or not your foreign worker would qualify for any of the exemptions to the travel restrictions in place at the POE.  However, on the whole, this is a very positive development and we anticipate it will facilitate the entry of our client’s foreign workers currently on work permits and seeking entry/re-ntry into Canada to perform essential work.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also released a draft notice earlier today for pending publication on the Temporary Travel Restrictions Applicable to Land Ports of Entry and Ferries Service between the UnitedStates and Canada.

Temporary Travel Restrictions Applicable to Land Ports of Entry and Ferries Service between the United States and Canada

This notice suggests that Canadians will be able to travel to the U.S. for work purposes.  However, this notice has not been published as of yet and it appears to be only in draft form.   This material was found online and so our US Partners are reaching out to US CBP for confirmation and to seek additional clarification.  Do not rely solely on this information at this time.  Further updates will be provided on this.  

Canadian Port of Entry (POE) Work Permit Processing Suspended Until Further Notice

We believe the CBSA is on the verge of temporarily suspending the processing of work permit applications at the POE until further notice.  It is unclear if any exemptions will be made for certain types of emergency or essential workers in order to facilitate the expedited processing of their new work permit applications at the POE.  We continue to work with the CBSA and other government agencies in order to obtain more information on this breaking development.  However, we are currently formulating strategies designed to possibly mitigate this temporary suspension of POE processing for new work permits.

Canada Will Continue to Accept Both Permanent Residence and Temporary Residence Applications 

IRCC has indicated a recognition of the enormity of the present circumstances.   We believe that Canada will provide more time for certain Applicants to submit immigration documentation if the same have been requested.  We believe extensions of time/status will also be a central focus of IRCC and we expect them to deal with such matters in a compassionate and understanding manner.   
Canada is also taking steps to continue its efforts to attract the best and most skilled global talent from around the world, even during the massive global efforts undertaken to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak.  Canada currently offers more than 64 economic pathways to immigrate to Canada, both Federally and Provincially, including many streams for those who arrive under the family class, as international students, foreign workers, and refugees. 
The Federal government will continue to announce special measures to help those interested in moving to Canada as permanent residents or remaining in Canada as temporary residents depending on their circumstances.  More information on this is expected to come in the days/weeks ahead.  

Extensions May Be Available to Temporary Residents inside Canada

Temporary residents already in Canada can also apply to extend their stay during Canada’s coronavirus response.  We can use the online application process until such time as the POE process resumes.   This applies to individuals who wish to remain in Canada longer on study, work, or visitor permits.  By submitted an extension application through the IRCC inland process, Applicant’s will still receive implied status and will be able to stay in Canada continuing their work or study while their application is being reviewed by IRCC.  Again, we fully anticipate special processing measures will apply in these instances.  

Canada’s Aggressive Immigration Strategy will Welcome Over 1 Million Immigrants Over the Next 3 Years

The coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly creating some challenges but it is important not to lose sight of the big picture. Canada remains open to attracting the world’s leading global talent and recently announced its 2020-2022 Immigration Levels Plan.  Canada has announced it will target the admission of over 1 million new permanent residents over the coming 3 years.  This strongly indicates that once COVID-19 concerns have been addressed and this public health crisis has resolved itself, Canadian immigration will play an even more important role in Canadian society.    

Self-Isolation

As it pertains to Self-Isolation, many clients have reached out to our office today for clarification on this.  Please see the following recent government of Canada announcement pertaining to self-isolation and the COVID-19 outbreak.   

SOURCE:  https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/canadas-reponse.html

As of March 16, 2020, all travellers entering Canada are being asked to self-Isolate for 14 days upon entry with exceptions for workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people. Individuals should avoid contact with other people for 14 days, while monitoring themselves closely for symptoms.
The following questions are now being asked at electronic kiosks and by all border services officers at the primary inspection line at all air, land, ferry and rail ports of entry:

  • Do you currently have a cough, difficulty breathing, or feel you have a fever?
  • I acknowledge that I am/we are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

Press Release Summary

Border services officers remain vigilant and are highly trained to identify travellers seeking entry into Canada who may pose a health and safety risk. All travellers (no matter their country of origin) are assessed on arrival to Canada.  These measures complement routine traveller screening procedures already in place to detect and respond to the spread of serious infectious diseases into and within Canada.  As indicated from the beginning of this crisis, Kadri Law has always maintained that should your employee show any signs of illness or has disclosed coming in contact and potentially being exposed to the COVID-19 virus, we advise you NOT to send that employee to Canada at this time.  Have the employee seek immediate medical attention and to follow the direction advice of their health care professional.  

Today was an active day for updates, and we expect more updates to come over the weekend and into next week.  As far as the IRCC Minister’s announcement this evening, I would recommend heading his advice and not sending your workers through the border under the exemptions announced tonight until perhaps early next week once the proper guidance has been sent through the chain of command and the CBSA front line officers are ready to process.  

I will provide further guidance on this matter next week once the Minister’s office provides sufficient clarity.    
As always, stay safe and healthy

Respectfully, 

Eddie H. Kadri, BA, JD, Esq.
Kadri Law Professional Corporation 

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