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Immigration Update

Canadian Government announces changes to COVID-19 border restrictions, permitting entry for some new groups of foreign nationals

On October 2nd, 2020, the government announced broadened access to Canada under COVID-19 travel restrictions for certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents as well as an increased presence of public health officials at the border and enhanced quarantine monitoring for travellers entering Canada.

The government states that federal public health officers will now be stationed at 36 ports of entry accounting for 90% of all traffic into Canada during normal operations. The government is also attempting to strengthen quarantine enforcement efforts by increasing numbers of follow-up calls to travellers entering Canada.

In conjunction with increased monitoring and enforcement efforts, the government is allowing entry to Canada for certain new groups, including:

  • certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents, including those in an exclusive dating relationship of at least 1 year and their dependent children, as well as adult children, grandchildren, siblings and grandparents;
  • foreign nationals for compassionate reasons in specific circumstances, such as life-threatening illness, critical injury or death, with potential limited release from quarantine;
  • international students, starting October 20, 2020, if they will be attending a designated learning institution that has been identified by their provincial or territorial government as having a COVID-19 readiness plan in place.

Extended family members will need to demonstrate an intention to remain in Canada for a period of at least 15 days, have a declaration signed by their Canadian citizen or permanent resident family member confirming their relationship and have applied for a written authorization from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to enter Canada.

Discretionary travel to Canada, which includes activities such as tourism, recreation and entertainment, remains prohibited. Exemptions to these travel restrictions are varied and complicated, depending on one’s reasons for coming to Canada, their immigration status in Canada and whether or not they are entering from the United States.

All travellers, unless exempt, currently must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada, meaning they must travel directly to a place of quarantine and avoid making any stops or having contact with others, and then remain in a place of quarantine for 14 days where they are able to separate themselves from others. Those under quarantine may not have guests. In general, travellers may not leave their place of quarantine except to use a private outdoor space such as a balcony or to seek time-sensitive medical care.

Only those entering Canada to perform an essential job or function are considered eligible for quarantine exemption. Currently, the categories eligible for exemption are very narrow and include people such as health care workers, transportation crews and military personnel. Exemptions on grounds of national interest, essential services and to assist in the COVID-19 response exist and are based on application and discretion.

Only Canadian citizens and permanent residents may enter Canada if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19; foreign nationals reporting or showing symptoms will not be permitted entry unless they are a protected person under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Symptoms listed in government resources include the wide range that has been associated with COVID-19 infection, from cough and fever to gastrointestinal symptoms and loss of taste or smell. If citizen or permanent resident travellers report or show symptoms of COVID-19 upon entry or during their quarantine period, they will be required to isolate for 14 days, in addition to any time they have already spent in quarantine and even if they would otherwise be exempt from quarantine. Isolation requirements are similar to quarantine, but somewhat stricter.

Travellers may check in and update the Public Health Agency of Canada through the ArriveCAN app or by calling 1-833-641-0343 on arrival and throughout their quarantine or isolation period.

The government has established stiff penalties for violations of these restrictions. Law enforcement officers may issue fines of up to $1,000 for violations of the requirements under the Contraventions Act or fines of up to $750,000 and up to 6 months in prison for offences under the Quarantine Act. Willful or reckless contravention of the Quarantine Act could result in fines of up to $1 million and 3 years in prison.

Canada’s Permanent Residence Express Entry Draw Selects 4,500 Applicants

On October 14th 2020, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued a new round of invitations to apply for permanent residence under the Express Entry system.

Today’s draw invited candidates who qualify under all Express Entry categories, including the Canadian Experience Class, Provincial Nominees, Federal Skilled Trades, and the Federal Skilled Worker Class. A total of 4,500 candidates were invited to apply in today’s draw. The minimum score selected was 471.

With 4,500 candidates invited to apply, today’s draw has been the largest we have seen since February 19th, 2020. IRCC remains committed to the intake and processing of new applications for permanent residence in Canada and continues to invite candidates both inside and outside of Canada to apply.

Canadian Government releases details on 2020 Parents and Grandparents sponsorship program

After a delay since March attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, at 12 p.m. EDT on October 13th, 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has begun accepting online interest to sponsor forms for Canadians, permanent residents and persons registered as Indians under the Indian Act to sponsor their parents and grandparents for permanent residence.

Applicants will have three weeks —12 p.m. EDT on October 13th to 12 p.m. EST on November 3rd — to submit the interest to sponsor forms to IRCC under the 2020 Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP). After the application window ends on November 3rd, IRCC will randomly select potential sponsors and send them an invitation to submit a sponsorship and permanent resident application for their parent or grandparent.

Sponsors who are selected will then receive an invitation to apply and will have 60 days, with the deadline specified on their invitation, to submit the sponsorship and permanent residence applications. IRCC states that it may grant a 90-day extension if there are delays in providing documentation due to service disruptions caused by COVID-19.

The person who wishes to sponsor must submit their interest to sponsor application. For those with disabilities that make it difficult or impossible to use the online interest to sponsor form, IRCC can provide the form in an alternative format, such as paper, Braillle or large print.

Applicants must meet minimum income requirements for the previous three years in order to sponsor their parents or grandparents, typically as proven through the submission of Canada Revenue Agency documents. However, the government has reduced minimum income requirements for 2020 under a temporary public policy put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas sponsorship programs previously required sponsors to show they meet the low-income cut-off to provide for the number of people they wished to sponsor plus 30%, for the 2020 tax year IRCC is only requiring sponsors to show that they meet the low-income cut-off without the additional 30%. Note that this does not impact the requirement to show the minimum necessary income plus 30% for the preceding tax years.

For 2020, IRCC states that they will accept a maximum of 10,000 PGP applications for processing, a 50% reduction from 2019, when IRCC sought to process 20,000 applications. IRCC has stated that it plans to bring processing numbers back up to 30,000 PGP applications in 2021.

Current processing times for PGP sponsorship applications are listed at 20 to 24 months.