Special Edition: COVID-19 (August 2020)

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In this special edition of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Newsletter, read about recent announcements and developments at IRCC during the COVID-19 pandemic. This issue includes the following:

Settlement and resettlement services continue to be available during COVID-19 pandemic

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provides funding to more than 500 service provider organizations across Canada (outside of Quebec) to deliver pre- and post-arrival settlement and resettlement services. These organizations provide free information to eligible newcomers about life in Canada and the community in which they will settle, as well as language training, help finding a job, and help setting up connections with established immigrants and Canadians. The needs of refugees are addressed by resettlement service providers.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, IRCC is taking measures to ensure the well-being, safety and security of newcomers and the people working for service provider organizations. To mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, IRCC has asked organizations across the country to follow public health and provincial guidelines. This means that these organizations have been resuming in-person services at different times, depending on their location. Until service providers have clear guidelines for safely reopening their offices, they will focus their efforts on delivering critical services. This includes providing income support and immediate and essential services to government-assisted refugees, as well as interpretation services and short-term counselling.

Service providers have also quickly adapted to provide many non-critical services by telephone, by email or online. Many language classes, for example, are now being delivered entirely online.

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Extension for temporary residents applying to restore their status

The COVID-19 pandemic has sometimes made it difficult for temporary residents to provide complete applications to renew their work or study permits. It has also had an impact on IRCC’s ability to process those applications. In addition, with air travel now limited around the world, many temporary residents have had a challenging time finding flights home.

Recognizing the challenges that applicants have been facing, a new public policy was implemented to provide more time to allow temporary residents to apply to restore their status. Previously, there was a 90-day timeframe for foreign nationals in Canada. Under the new temporary policy, workers, students and visitors whose status expired after January 30, 2020, and who remained in Canada, now have until December 31, 2020, to apply to restore their status, provided they meet the requirements for the type of status and authorization they are applying to restore.

Under the same public policy, former work-permit holders applying for an employer-specific work permit may also work while waiting for a decision on their application to restore their status. To do so, they must have a job offer, submit a work permit application that is supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or an LMIA-exempt offer of employment, and notify IRCC through a special process set up for eligible applicants.

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COVID-19 pandemic calls for innovative approach to IRCC announcements

The pandemic may mean that in-person events are limited and physical distancing is par for the course, but IRCC is undeterred. The department has adapted to using new-to-us technology to deliver ministerial and other events like never before.

A case in point was the announcement of the change to the definition of “parent” under the Citizenship Act.

Several branches of IRCC worked together to host the department’s first-of-its-kind virtual news conference. The online media event was led by the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and incorporated a split screen to include participation by the Caron / van der Ven family.

This couple sought a lasting solution through the court system to address situations where some children who did not have a biological link to their Canadian parent did not qualify for automatic Canadian citizenship at birth. Until recently, a child born abroad in the first generation, whether through assisted human reproduction or not, was only automatically recognized as a citizen at birth if the child shared the genetics of the Canadian parent or if the Canadian parent had given birth to the child.

Under the new interpretation of “parent”, children born abroad are eligible for Canadian citizenship at birth if they have a parent who can pass on citizenship (that is, a parent who was born in Canada or naturalized in Canada before the birth of the child, other than by way of an adoption grant) and they meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • they have a Canadian legal parent at birth
  • they have a biological connection to a Canadian parent (genetic or gestational)

The announcement was ground breaking for the department not only in terms of the technology used, but also for its integration of the Government Teleconferencing Service. Going forward, we will adopt this model to mark significant days and make interdepartmental and intergovernmental announcements. IRCC continues to explore technology and adapt to the changing times amid the COVID-19 pandemic to keep providing Canadians with services and information during these unprecedented times.

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Biometrics collection exemption for temporary residence applicants who are applying from within Canada

IRCC collects biometric information (photo and fingerprints) from people (excluding US citizens) applying for visitor visas, work permits, study permits, permanent residence, refugee status or asylum, and some stay extensions for workers, students or visitors who are already in Canada. Here, biometric information is collected at Service Canada centres through a partnership between Service Canada and IRCC.

Service Canada closed its centres on March 27, 2020, due to ongoing public health concerns related to COVID‑19. Centres have slowly begun to reopen, but biometric collection services remain unavailable. Therefore, IRCC has put in place a public policy, effective until further notice, to exempt temporary residence applicants applying from within Canada from having to give their biometrics. Applicants are not required to pay the biometric fee, and those who have already paid the fee and have a pending temporary residence application will be refunded automatically.

IRCC will be able to resume processing temporary residence applications, helping applicants to move forward with their plans to work, study or extend their stay as a visitor in Canada. Applicants will continue to be screened to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians.

Applicants who are in Canada applying for any of the following will be covered by this public policy:

  • an extension of a work permit
  • a new work permit
  • an extension of a study permit
  • a new study permit
  • a visitor visa
  • a visitor record that allows an individual to stay in Canada as a temporary resident
  • restoration (extension) of temporary resident status
  • a temporary resident permit

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Changes made to facilitate online learning for international students

The pandemic has had a major impact on learning institutions and students, including international students. IRCC recently announced new measures designed to help international students and nurture Canada’s reputation as a premier destination for international students.

The measures aim to support international students beginning a new program online this fall with a Canadian learning institution, provided that their institution is offering the program online, allowing students to pursue their education while ensuring everyone’s safety.

These new measures include

  • Providing priority study permit processing for students who have submitted a complete application online, to ensure that permits are processed as quickly as possible
  • Allowing students to count the time spent pursuing their studies online abroad toward their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit, as long as 50% or more of their program is completed in Canada
  • Introducing a temporary 2-stage approval process for study permit applicants who can’t submit a complete application at this time. Applicants will be notified if they pass an initial eligibility stage of approval, and when they are able to complete the biometrics, police certificate and medical exam requirements, they will be assessed for a final approval. While first-stage approval doesn’t guarantee a final approval, it does provide some reassurance to international students who choose to begin their program online from abroad that they will eventually be able to complete their educational experience in Canada.

This 2-stage process is available to students starting a program in the fall 2020 semester or earlier who submit a study permit application before September 15, 2020. These measures will reassure students that they can enrol and begin their studies this fall online and be ready to come to Canada when travel restrictions change.

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Did you know...?

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada website has resources in multiple languages to help you understand COVID-19. You can find the resources here.
  • IRCC is working closely with other government departments during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep you safe and informed in this unprecedented time. IRCC regularly participates in virtual meetings and a variety of inter-departmental working groups set up to address the changes and challenges of the pandemic. Some of our departmental partners include the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canada Revenue Agency, Employment and Social Development Canada, Transport Canada, Shared Services Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
  • On July 1, 2020—Canada Day—IRCC hosted a pan-Canadian virtual citizenship ceremony to swear in and welcome some of Canada’s newest citizens. Prior to the ceremony, the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, issued a statement and invited Canadians to tune in to the live event. A total of 17 new citizens from 13 different countries were sworn in as Canadians during this ceremony. Every province and territory, except Nunavut, was represented.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency have developed a mobile application, ArriveCAN, to create a digital way for travellers entering Canada to provide their basic traveller information as required by recent emergency orders under the Quarantine Act. The ArriveCAN app is available for free on Google Play and the Apple App Store, and returning travellers are encouraged to use it.
  • There is a new temporary measure to provide a pathway to permanent residence for asylum claimants working in the health-care sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced the new measure last week in recognition of asylum claimants here in Canada putting their own lives at risk to care for others.

Upcoming events and important dates

Mark your calendar! Below is a selection of upcoming special events and national celebrations.

Orange Shirt Day is on September 30. On this day, Canadians are encouraged to wear orange and to learn more about the legacy of Indian Residential Schools.

October is Women’s History Month in Canada. Celebrate the achievements of women and girls as trailblazers throughout Canada’s history.


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