In the current state of the world where travel is essentially non-existent, employers who rely on any foreign workers are lost in a sea of unanswered questions. Field Law’s Immigration lawyers have many of the same queries and in an effort to help their own understanding and that of their clients, have gone right to the sources: Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) and Employment and Social Development Canada (“ESDC”).
Here is what we found out:
1. Are Express Entry Draws still occurring?
Anyone may continue to submit profiles to the Express Entry portal and update them as frequently as necessary. IRCC has not yet determined if it will continue to do Express Entry draws since many applications submitted will likely be incomplete as applicants who are in quarantine, self-isolation, or who are practicing social distancing don’t have the ability to obtain all necessary documents. While there have already been multiple draws this year, if draws continue, or when they resume, is still up for debate.
2. What about my Permanent Resident Application or Renewal?
All new and renewed Permanent Resident (“PR”) cards are being mailed inland. If an in-person interview is required in order to issue a PR card, for example to confirm eligibility, these are being postponed until further notice. If a current PR has a card with an upcoming expiry, we would advise them to submit a renewal application sooner rather than later due to the lengthened processing times. As a reminder, the card expiry must be within 9 months in order for the application to be submitted.
As we have discussed in a previous blog, IRCC is continuing to process all applications, including Confirmation of Permanent Residence (“COPR”). If a COPR was issued prior to March 18, 2020, the new PR may travel to Canada for landing – keeping in mind, travel for this purpose may not be authorized by airlines. For those who are issued a COPR and are in Canada, IRCC is advising against any “flag polling” (in fact both Customs Border and Protection in the US and Canadian Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) will not allow it) and is looking to alternative options to land new permanent residents without the in-person interview requirement. More to come on this.
3. What if I have an approved work permit?
Any applicants who have a work permit application approved and had plans to move to Canada prior to March 18, 2020, are still eligible to enter Canada. This has been confirmed with both IRCC and CBSA. With this confirmation, we still urge travellers to carry with them an abundance of documentation confirming their eligibility to enter. As the rules and exemptions are frequently changing, we cannot guarantee all CBSA officers have been fully briefed nor have an accurate understanding of the most up-to-date information.
In order to pass through customs successfully and qualify under an exemption, the work permit holder should carry: (1) copy of the approved work permit; (2) a letter from the company confirming the job is still available; and (3) a self-isolation plan. We would recommend including a confirmed short or long-term housing arrangement and a plan on how the traveler expects to obtain food and other necessities. Additionally, if at all possible, obtaining a letter from the Canadian Consulate that issued the valid permit explaining the person falls within an exemption and is able to travel is an asset. This letter is helpful in demonstrating to CBSA, and more importantly, airline personnel, the person is authorized to travel and enter Canada.
4. What if I have a new work permit or qualify under an exemption?
For those who were hoping to enter Canada under a work permit exemption, IRCC and CBSA have not yet determined how they will adjudicate these entries, if allowed at all. The offices are in frequent communication and will provide guidance on such issues once available.
Your Field Law Immigration Team is watching this closely and will publish an article explaining the intricacies of such exemptions as soon as more information is known.
5. My passport is expiring and so is my permit, what should I do?
Anyone holding a permit set to expire because its validity is tied to their passport expiry currently has limited options. IRCC has heard the concerns of those who cannot extend permits because they are unable to renew their passports during the closure of consulates and embassies within Canada. IRCC is looking to publish a policy bulletin for those finding themselves in this situation. No timing for publication has been provided.
6. Is my application still being processed or will it be processed if I can’t provide documents due to social distancing?
It is reasonable to submit incomplete applications, as IRCC is aware certain aspects of applications (such as photos) may not be feasible under the current quarantine and social distancing guidelines. It is important to include explanations of why a document was not included when submitting incomplete applications to ensure applications are only missing unattainable information. Officers will retain all applications and review them (approximately) 90 days from receipt. Further actions, including extensions for supplying documents, will be taken after the first review at either the 60 or 90 day mark.
7. I am an employer, how to I manage my foreign workers?
ESDC is in the midst of creating policies and procedures for this “new normal”. The government agencies are sympathetic to the challenging and quick decisions employers must make during these unprecedented times. ESDC is working on a list of what does or does not need to be reported in terms of wages, changes of employment locations (including work-from-home initiatives), and changes in duties, accommodations, benefits and other requirements. Any updates will be posted online once a policy is issued.
8. Can I do my biometrics at the Port of Entry?
Some are asking if new employees can complete work permits and biometrics at the Ports of Entry (“POE”) when they enter Canada for business. IRCC has not yet determined if they will allow biometrics to be conducted at the POE but has not completely ruled it out. Once again, more to come.
9. Is IRCC working from home?
Much like many employers across the country, IRCC is minimizing the number of employees working in offices and mailrooms. This is creating a backlog of applications, which will lead to a delay in processing for all types of paper applications. If you have the option to file online, doing so is recommended.
10. How do I get more information?
Both IRCC and ESDC will be updating their websites with the most up–to-date information regarding any changes, policies and answers to questions. IRCC has posted a Special Measures page in order to provide easy access to all changes and new policies.
Our Take Away:
It is evident that the Canadian government, much like many employers, is working toward implementing policies, processes and new best practices in this uncertain time. It is likely there will be concessions made for employers and foreign nationals acting in good faith, with the best of intentions to keep all those in their purview safe and healthy.
Stay tuned for more updates and reach out to Field’s Immigration Team for any further questions or concerns.