As COVID-19 continues to affect business operations at IRCC, Kadri Law will continue to monitor this situation and provide you with all available updates as they become available. Today there are some important updates.
Land Travel Restrictions/Exemptions
As of midnight on March 20, 2020 Canada and the US agreed to temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the Canada–US border in a collaborative and reciprocal manner. As I have provided in previous updates, all essential and business travel will continue unimpeded.
The practice of “flagpoling” has been suspended at this time. Essentially, flagpoling is the practice of leaving Canada and entering the US only to turn around and re-enter Canada for the purposes of applying for a work permit or other immigration service. IRCC has announced that travelling to a POE from inside Canada for the purpose of getting immigration services is not considered essential travel, and so they have suspended these services in order to stem the practice of flagpoling.
While the practice of flagpoling has been suspended, the CBSA will continue to process new applications for work permits and allow them to be made at the POE by US citizens entering Canada directly from the US.
IRCC is Still Working on Plan For Exemptions to be Put in Place
As announced on March 20, 2020, all temporary foreign workers will be able to travel to Canada by air or land. They will be exempt from the air travel restrictions announced on March 16, 2020, as well as border restrictions.
IRCC has announced that Workers, Students and approved Canadian Permanent Residents who haven’t landed should not travel to Canada as of yet. As of the date and time of this update, IRCC continues to work on putting the announced travel exemptions in place.
IRCC has asked that those affected by these exemptions should not try to travel to Canada immediately. IRCC has indicated that they will announce when the exemptions are in place sometime this week. We continue to await the necessary guidance from IRCC on this issue and we anticipate a further update like on Wednesday.
All travelers, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents, temporary foreign workers who enter Canada by air or land will undergo the necessary health checks and must isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Canada. This policy of self-isolation also continues to remain in effect with no changes as of the date and time of this update.
IRCC is making a temporary modification to the Labour Market Impact Assessment [LMIA] process for agriculture and food-processing employers, as the required 2-week recruitment period will be waived for the next 6 months. IRCC will be 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 should improve flexibility and reduce the administrative burden for employers in the food processing industry.
Domestic IRCC operations have effectively been reduced to critical services at this time. IRCC has cancelled all citizenship ceremonies, tests and retests, as well as all in-person permanent resident landing appointments and refugee claimant appointments. IRCC will be announcing in the days to come possible alternative means to provide permanent resident landing services, including possibly arranging this process by telephone communication with IRCC. IRCC has also now suspending non-essential settlement services and biometrics collection services at 58 Service Canada locations.
Notwithstanding, IRCC continues to accept and process applications despite service disruptions and restrictions due to COVID-19. However, we advise all of our clients to expect that the government of Canada’s response to COVID-19 will have an impact on application processing times. Therefore, do not expect that current posted processing times will be accurate at this time.
Further, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) published and Advisory Notice extending the initial suspension of all in-person hearings and mediations, other than detention reviews, until at least Monday May 4, 2020. The IRB will continue to monitor this and further updates will be provided as needed. In addition, the IRB will consider possible measures to provide increased flexibility concerning the requirements of the various IRB rules, once hearings resume.
Air Travel Restrictions/Exemptions – Summary of Updates as of Today.
On March 20, 2020, the Government of Canada provided an update on travel restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19. It was announced at that time that foreign nationals who have committed to working, studying or making their home in Canada will be permitted to enter Canada by air or land. They will be exempt from the air travel and border restrictions and will be allowed to enter Canada.
As you know, Canada is currently denying boarding to all foreign nationals, unless they are exempt, on flights to Canada coming from all countries. With some exemptions, only Canadian citizens, permanent residents, as well as some foreign nationals travelling from the US who have been in the US for at least 14 days and are asymptomatic, will be able to enter Canada by air. The language “already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home” has no specific meaning to cause concerns for both existing status holders or new applicants seeking status. We believe it is the intention of IRCC to allow all foreign workers in and not subject them to the current travel restrictions. We will continue to update our clients in this regard.
Canada will deny boarding to any foreign national coming from the US who has resided outside Canada or the US in the last 14 days, unless that foreign national is exempt.
If a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, person registered under Canada’s Indian Act, protected person or exempt person is exhibiting symptoms, they will not be allowed to travel to Canada by air. They will, however, be able to enter Canada at a land border, but must isolate for 14 days.
Temporary foreign workers, as well as international students who have a valid study permit or who were approved for a study permit before March 18, 2020, and foreign nationals who were approved for permanent residence before March 16, 2020, but who hadn’t yet travelled to Canada, will be exempt from these restrictions. IRCC will announce this week when these exemptions will be put in place.
For now, most foreign nationals are consequently prohibited from entering Canada from a foreign country other than the United States, whether or not their travel is considered essential. However, certain exempt foreign nationals are still permitted to enter Canada from a foreign country other than the United States. Many of these exempt foreign nationals will need to demonstrate that their travel is essential before they will be permitted to enter. As always, stay safe and healthy.