2020-04-01 – Canada’s immigration system remains operational despite the impact of the unprecedented global battle against the spread of coronavirus.
Canada moved to dramatically restrict entry to try and stop the spread of a virus that has killed many thousands of people worldwide. The latest information suggests Canada U.S.A. port of entry border restrictions will remain in place until June 30, 2020.
There would have been few objections had Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) suspended draws through the Express Entry system, nor if the Provincial Nominee Programs had followed suit.
But they did not. Since March 15, some 3,920 candidates have received invitations through Express Entry. Further, provincial draws have recently been conducted by British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
This is the policy of governments viewing the coronavirus as a serious but temporary development in a long-term immigration strategy designed to boost the Canadian economy and welcome more than a million immigrants between now and 2022. This policy will likely remain in place. But it may undergo periods of adjustment to these global developments.
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Entry restrictions are certain to limit immigration numbers in the short term, meaning Ottawa is unlikely to reach its target of 341,000 new permanent residents in 2020.
However, even within the restrictions there lay a clear nod to importance of both permanent and temporary immigrants to Canada, with exemptions put in place by Ottawa.
Exemptions are in place for permanent residents approved before March 18, but had not yet travelled to Canada.
A further exemption targets seasonal agricultural worker, fish/seafood workers, caregivers under the temporary foreign worker stream. But even this group of foreign nationals poses challenges to Canada. The Canadian food supply relies on the return of trained foreign workers particularly from Jamaica and Mexico, during the upcoming spring planting season. Measures must be taken to contain the spread of coronavirus by ensuring workers undergo 14-days of quarantine.
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, can also still travel and will be required to quarantine.
Canada’s Fast and Flexible Immigration System
Canada is known around the world for its cutting-edge, flexible and responsive immigration system, from Express Entry at federal level, through to its many provincial programs.
The system has already shown how quickly it can respond to crises such as the coronavirus.
Both Express Entry draws that have taken place since March 18 have been program-specific, aimed at provincial nominees and Canadian Experience Class candidates respectively. These are candidates more likely to already be in Canada. We can expect more draws targeting candidates who will give immediate benefits to the labour market, which despite serious rising unemployment, still faces pockets of chronic shortages.
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The same can be said for the provincial draws. British Columbia adjusted its procedure so that it did not issue invites to semi-skilled workers, workers in tourism, hospitality and retail, nor occupations where it had recently approved a high volume of applicants.
In doing so, the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program issued a statement that sums up the national attitude towards immigration, even in a time of crisis.
“Notwithstanding the uncertainty in our current economic situation, B.C. faces a demographic reality that over the next 10 years we will continue to need new immigrants to help fill the jobs so B.C.’s economy can continue to grow,” the statement said.
“Now, it is even more important that we do not lose sight of our long-term objectives and the role that immigration plays to support quality economic growth across all regions of B.C.”
Just as the immigration system has reacted quickly to the coronavirus pandemic, it will react just as quickly when the crisis is brought under control.
Immigration numbers can be quickly ramped up, possibly in the third quarter of 2020, as Ottawa could look to make up ground with the Canadian economy moving towards a sustained recovery mode.
Federal Government Financial Support
Federal and provincial governments have kicked into action to help citizens and permanent residents who were employed and impacted by the coronavirus response.
Measures include the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), providing $2,000 per months to workers who have lost their income due to coronavirus. Employment Insurance is also available to those who have lost their job through no fault of their own.
Furthermore, the Canada Child Benefit has been increased, the income tax filing deadline delayed and banks have committed to helping those with mortgages, with many offering payment deferrals of up to six months.
Small businesses also have government backing, with an unprecedented 75 per cent wage subsidy for qualifying businesses, for up to three months, retroactive to March 15. The move is designed to help businesses keep and return workers to the payroll instead of laying them off.
Immigrants Can Help Canada’s Recovery
All of these measures are intended to put the Canadian economy in the best place possible to recover as quickly as possible once the coronavirus pandemic is brought under control.
Immigration is set to be a central part of that economic recovery.
Canada and its provinces have a stated commitment to draw on robust immigration to meet long-term economic growth. Canada will continue to feature robust immigration policies and it remains an important destination for those wishing to become part of its landscape.