The Government of Canada continues to impose strict travel restrictions in response to the ongoing pandemic and with the aim to protect public health. Although Canadian citizens, permanent residents, protected persons and persons registered as an Indian under the Indian Act are permitted to enter Canada by right, subject to health screening measures, all other foreign nationals must be fully vaccinated to enter the country as of January 15, 2022. Exemptions to these restrictions have been significantly limited as noted by this guidance from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”). Contact Green and Spiegel LLP for specific information about travel restrictions applicable to your circumstances and how you should prepare before attempting to enter Canada.
IRCC has implemented many new online portals and tools, reflecting a concerted effort to transition a wider array of services online. These portals and other tools change the way temporary resident, permanent resident (“PR”) and citizenship applications are not only submitted and processed but also how IRCC communicates relevant information associated with pending applications. For example, IRCC’s new “PR Landing Portal” allows for certain foreign nationals to be granted PR status by way of an email after uploading into their portal basic information about themselves and a photograph, which has for the most part although not always led to faster processing times to finalize PR applications. There have undoubtedly been growing pains; technical issues have surfaced with most of these new portals and online tools. However, IRCC has committed to resolving these issues and increasing the scope of services provided online for an even wider range of applications.
TEMPORARY PUBLIC POLICIES
Since the outset of the pandemic IRCC has introduced several new temporary public policies, three of which still effect are listed below:
- Public policy exempting certain visitors in Canada from immigration requirements – in effect until February 28, 2022, this public policy allows certain temporary residents in Canada with valid visitor status to apply for a job offer-supported work permit from inside Canada. Former temporary foreign workers who presently hold visitor status may also be eligible to work while a decision on their new work permit application is pending if certain criteria are met.
- Public policy on exemptions to work permit conditions when changing employment– some temporary workers already in Canada may be able to use this IRCC policy to change their employment more quickly in advance of a final decision on their work permit application. This is only possible if the job offer has been secured under the Temporary Foreign Worker or International Mobility Program.
- Temporary public policy to further facilitate access to permanent resident status for out-of-status construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area – this policy gives a limited number of construction workers and their dependents a pathway to permanent residence status. It is in effect until January 2023 or once 50 principal applicants (plus their dependents) have been granted PR status. Applicants must have current and past work experience in the Greater Toronto Area (i.e., Durham, Halton, Peel, or York).
- Temporary public policy creating two pathways to permanent residence to facilitate the immigration of certain Hong Kong residents– in response to deteriorating human rights circumstances in Hong Kong, IRCC launched two new pathways that offer a pathway to permanent residence for Hong Kong residents in Canada who are workers or recent graduates. These pathways will be in place until August 31, 2026. If you are a Hong Kong resident in Canada or are interested in the other temporary public policies noted above, please contact our office.
Canadian Experience Class (“CEC”) and Federal Skilled Worker (“FSW”) program candidates in the Express Entry pool are eagerly waiting for IRCC to initiate new rounds of invitations. Although there have been recent draws for the Provincial Nominee Programs, the most recent round of invitations for either the CEC or FSW programs occurred on September 14, 2021, at which point Invitations to Apply (“ITA”) for permanent residence were issued to only CEC candidates with a minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (“CRS”) score of 462. A round of invitations has not occurred for FSW candidates for even longer; last year was the first in the history of Express Entry where no FSW candidates were issued an ITA.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the processing of almost all types of applications. IRCC has broadly stated that accurate processing times for most applications cannot be provided amidst widespread processing backlogs. Additionally, there remain Canadian visa application centers (VACs) around the world that are not fully open, offering only limited services, or they are closed completely. Contact Green and Spiegel LLP to determine if there are any options available to facilitate a final decision on your application.
At the end of 2021, the Federal Court announced that there are delays with the issuance of orders dismissing applications for leave and judicial review in immigration proceedings. The backlog covered decisions issued by the Court between July and December 2021. Broadly speaking, however, the Immigration Refugee Board (IRB) and the Court of Canada continue to accept the electronic service of documents and administer hearings remotely.
PARENT AND GRANDPARENT SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM
Last year, IRCC announced a record number of applications for the 2021 intake of the Parents and Grandparents Program. Using a lottery system, the IRCC randomly selected 30,000 applicants from those who submitted an Interest to Sponsor form under the 2020 PGP. Recognizing the financial difficulties caused by the pandemic, IRCC also confirmed that a more lenient income requirement for the 2020 tax year would be applied. As of now, IRCC has not yet confirmed the specific 2022 program requirements. Ensure you have signed up for Green and Spiegel’s e-lerts to stay up to date with new information about this program.
There have been many changes to the law since the pandemic began and many more are expected to happen soon. If you wish to discuss how these changes will impact you, your family, or your business, please schedule an appointment with us to discuss.