Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada working to protect immigration amid COVID-19 pandemic

Canada is a country built on welcoming immigrants, but with the current health and travel restrictions in place, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has had to implement several new policies to keep immigration flowing as smoothly as possible. 

Immigrants help support Canada’s economic growth by filling skill shortages in the labour force. Because of the importance of immigration to the Canadian economy, Canada’s 2020-2022 Immigration Levels Plan set high targets for immigration over the next three years. The plan was to admit 341,000 permanent residents in 2020, 351,000 permanent residents in 2021, and as many as 390,000 permanent residents by 2022, which is an immigration level of nearly one per cent of Canada’s population. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these numbers may be revised when the government announces their expected immigration levels update in November. Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino is hopeful that Canada will continue to welcome immigrants saying that “it’s vitally important that we continue to immigrate today in a manner that is safe and orderly and also to drive that future that we all believe will be underpinned by immigration as it has been in the past,” in an interview on May 15, 2020 with The Canadian Press.      

In order to contain the spread of COVID-19, the government has placed travel restrictions on all non-essential travel, meaning that even those with valid permits may not be able to travel to Canada. Non-essential travel includes travel for tourism, recreation, entertainment or any other optional travel purposes.

The IRCC has updated policies to reflect the difficulties caused by the necessary health and travel restrictions. Workers with employer-specific work permits who need to change employers due to COVID-19, can now apply for a new work permit and begin working for their new employer while their permit is being processed. This will cut down on the wait time between jobs because the IRCC intends to send emails within about 10 business days to the applicants confirming that they can start working while their permit is being processed. 

Students authorized to work with a study permit can continue working even if their studies have been interrupted by COVID-19. During academic sessions they can work up to 20 hours per week and during scheduled breaks in the academic year they can work full-time. In addition, if they are working for an essential service, they are allowed to work more than 20 hours per week. This change is in effect until August 31, 2020. 

The IRCC has also considered the future of Canadian immigration. In light of on-going health and travel restrictions, international students are now allowed to begin their studies online. Students will not lose Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) eligibility for time spent studying outside of Canada up to December 31, 2020.     

The important role that immigrant workers fill for the Canadian economy is being highlighted by COVID-19. Front-line workers, food supply chains, hospitals, long-term care facilities and many other essential services rely on their support. Because of their important role and Canada’s immigration history, Mendicino believes that immigration will continue to be an “enduring value” for Canadians.  

Sources: CIC News

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