One of the most obvious legal effects of COVID-19 is on immigration matters. We have all heard much discourse in the media concerning border restrictions but these restrictions are ever-evolving as are other immigration-related measures. As these measures continue to change, Pitblado lawyers are working hard to stay abreast of the changes in order to provide you with accurate and timely advice. What follows is some brief information concerning some of these measures.
This is one of the most fluid areas. Generally speaking, Canadian citizens and permanent residents continue to be permitted to enter Canada, subject to health screening measures. However, as of March 21, 2020, pursuant to an agreement between the United States and Canada currently in place until April 20, 2020, “non-essential” travel between Canada and the United States by land is restricted. This restriction covers all travel of an optional or discretionary nature, such as:
Some examples of essential travel purposes are:
- work and study
- economic services and supply chains
- critical infrastructure support
- health, immediate medical care, safety and security
- shopping for essential goods such as medication or goods necessary for the health and safety of an individual or family
Some Canadians and Americans, such as truck drivers, firefighters and nurses, cross the border every day to work or study. They will not be impacted by the new border measures.
The entry of foreign nationals (i.e. those persons who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents), however, is subject to greater restrictions. On March 26, 2020, the government implemented its most recent Orders in Council concerning the entry of foreign nationals to Canada:
First, no foreign national will be granted entry to Canada if exhibiting specified symptoms of illness (with limited exceptions for certain foreign nationals claiming protection) or if seeking entry for optional/recreational purpose, such as tourism, recreation or entertainment.
Further, if seeking entry directly from the US, their entry is barred if they have been outside of Canada or the US in the past 14 days UNLESS they are seeking protection in limited circumstances OR if they fall under one of the exceptions listed in section 3(1) of the Order in Council known as Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States), which include the following:
- An immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or of a permanent resident. For these purposes, “immediate family member” has been defined as:
(a) the spouse or common-law partner of the person;
(b) a dependent child of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;
(c) a dependent child of a dependent child referred to in paragraph (b);
(d) the parent or step-parent of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner; or
(e) the guardian or tutor of the person.
- Holders of valid work or study permits.
- A person whose who has received written notice of approval of a work permit application but who has not yet been issued the permit;
- A person whose who received written notice of approval of a study permit application before noon, Eastern Daylight Time on March 18, 2020, but who has not yet been issued the permit;
- A person whose who received written notice of approval of an application for permanent residence before noon, Eastern Daylight Time on March 18, 2020, but who has not yet become a permanent resident;
- Protected persons (i.e. persons upon whom Convention refugee status has been conferred).
- Persons who will provide an essential service in Canada in the opinion of the Chief Public Health Officer.
Employment Insurance for foreign workers
We understand that, at this difficult time, many workers have been or are being laid off. In many circumstances, temporary foreign workers are entitled to employment insurance benefits. If you are a temporary foreign worker and are having difficulty being approved for such benefits, we may be able to assist.
General information concerning employment insurance and the government’s response to COVID-19 can be found here: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html
Implications of lay-offs and termination on immigration applications
Applications for permanent residence in Canada by foreign nationals inside of Canada are often premised on employment experience. As such, lay-offs and termination can affect such applications. The implications must be assessed on a case by case basis and appropriate communications made to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and/or the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program in certain circumstances. This is something with which we can assist.
Labour Market Impact Assessments
If you are an employer who has applied for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) and that application is approved presently, it will likely be granted for nine rather than the usual six months, owing to the difficulties related to present circumstances. Correspondingly, if you have an LMIA that was issued with usual six-month validity prior to current temporary measures being put in place, you may be able to obtain an extension.
Extensions of time for deadlines in pending applications
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is extending deadlines for provision of documents and information that have been requested. In some cases, there are set extensions and, in others, extensions must be requested but are being readily granted.
Federal Court and Immigration & Refugee Board matters
At present, all hearings have been cancelled, and deadlines for filing and submission of documents have been modified. Detailed notices on these measures have been published on the Federal Court’s and the Immigration & Refugee Board’s websites and we can assist in obtaining and interpreting the information contained in them.
Students and work
While university students (and some other post-secondary students) are entitled, during regularly scheduled school breaks, to work more than their usual 20 hours per week, some have been wondering whether the cancellation of classes at this time qualifies as such a break. At present, our understanding is that it does not. However, further guidance on this issue is being sought.
Please do not hesitate to contact your relationship partner or lawyer if you have any questions or if we can be of assistance in guiding you through these new challenges.
This article was prepared by:
This article represents general information and is not legal advice. Please contact us if you would like legal advice that is tailored to your particular circumstances. We would be happy to help.