The coronavirus pandemic has significantly influenced the immigration system in Canada. There have been many problems impacting immigrants themselves, including their challenges in obtaining language training, certification programs, biometrics, or other government services.
Immigration professionals are also working round the clock to adjust to all changes in policy and programming that impact Canadian immigration.
The good news is that we will see things start changing in the second half of 2020, and hopefully by 2021 they should normalize. Immigration applicants can now book and complete an English language examination, and get an Educational Credential Assessment.
Maybe the main reason we will all remain hopeful is that we continue to receive constructive messages and signals from the federal government and the immigration minister from Canada.
Right now the federal government has many flexible policies in place to help candidates for immigration. Applicants have more time to apply their applications and will not be rejected if they are unable to complete application due to COVID 19 disruptions.
During the pandemic, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has repeatedly confirmed that Canada is as committed as ever to accepting immigrants to sustain its economy. Here are some of the key problems that we will be looking at in the remaining six months of 2020.
Restrictions on Travel
The biggest issue in everybody's mind is when Canada, with the US and the rest of the world will lift its travel restrictions.
The response to this question eventually depends on how effective the COVID-19 would be in containing Canada and other countries. Maybe it's safe to say that the sooner the pandemic gets under control, the sooner Canada can start exempting more individuals and then lift the restrictions altogether.
Another major question mark is whether Canada will be accommodating international students in time for the semester in the fall of 2020.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has said it will process study permits to the best of its ability, but international students who did not have a valid study permit prior to March 18 are unable to come to Canada under current travel rules.
So it seems likely that Canada will exclude new study permit holders later this summer who wish to start their studies in Canada by September.
Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)
The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) is the primary route to securing permanent residency for Express Entry applicants. Nevertheless, since the start of the pandemic, Express Entry draws have concentrated exclusively on applicants from the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). The justification for IRCC is to grant invitations to apply (ITA) to candidates in Canada because they are less likely to undergo coronavirus disruption than candidates in other countries. Nevertheless, it is important to note that some of the CEC and PNP candidates who are now earning ITAs are also overseas.
In fact, it is fair to assume that we will be in 2021 by the time qualified applicants apply their applications for permanent residence and IRCC process them. Hopefully at that point, Canada's border rules would be relaxed.
A common concern right now is whether IRCC is going to extend the Open Work Permit Pilot before it expires i.e. on July 31.
The pilot offers an unrestricted work permit to spouses and partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents pending the approval of their spousal sponsorship application.
Given how valuable to Canadian families and the economy this pilot is, we would expect it to be updated.
As for the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP),it was postponed while IRCC was evaluating how to develop this, and then COVID-19 began. IRCC has confirmed its intention to announce specifics about the implementation of the system later in 2020.
One obstacle noted by the Minister Mendicino is that parents and grandparents are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Therefore, IRCC is seeking to determine how these people can be accepted into Canada in a way that protects their health.
By November 1st, Mendicino will tell us to what degree COVID-19 will affect the short- and medium-term immigration targets for Canada. We all know immigration is important to the economy and culture in Canada, but at the same time COVID-19 has generated a great deal of confusion..