Q&A: COVID-19’s Impact on Canadian Immigration

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Canada’s immigration and mobility programs in a large way.

With Canada seeking to attract hundreds of thousands of immigrants this year, to better understand these changes, we sat down with Marina Falkina, RCIC and Jim Yang, RCIC, both members of Envoy Global’s Canada team.

Marina Falkina has over 17 years of Canadian immigration experience. She strives to provide the best possible customer care, support and immigration advice to clients in these fast-changing and challenging times. Jim Yang is a licensed Canadian immigration practitioner and has over six years of corporate immigration experience.

Has the Canadian government implemented any travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak?

Yes, in response to the COVID-19 situation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on March 16, 2020, that Canada will be shutting down its borders to non-Canadian citizens and permanent residents effective March 18, 2020.

Foreign nationals who wish to enter Canada for non-essential travel are barred from entry however, exemptions have been put into place for specific foreign nationals and essential travelers to be admitted.

Additionally, international flights will only be allowed to land in Canada at four airports: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. All travelers seeking entry into Canada will have to answer health screening questions and CBSA officers will be on the lookout for visible signs of illness.

Who is and isn’t allowed into the country?

Individuals exempt from the prohibition against non-essential travel include, but are not limited to:

  • Canadian citizens and permanent residents;
  • An immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or of a permanent resident;
  • A person who is authorized, in writing, by a consular officer of the Government of Canada to enter Canada for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members;
  • International students (individuals who hold who a valid study permit or had been approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020);
  • Temporary workers (individuals who hold who a valid work permit, had been approved for a work permit on or before March 18, 2020, or new workers who are coming to Canada to be employed in critical industries, such as agriculture, food processing, health, transportation and emergency services);
  • Crew members and foreign nationals entering Canada to become crew members;
  • Transit passengers;
  • Permanent resident visa holders (must be issued on or before March 18);
  • An accredited diplomat, consular officer, representative or official of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies, or of any international organization of which Canada is a member;
  • A person who enters Canada at the invitation of the Minister of Health for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response;
  • A protected person (i.e., a person who has received refugee status in Canada);
  • A person or a class of persons who, in the opinion of Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer: (1) does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health, or (2) will provide an essential service while in Canada;
  • A person whose presence in Canada, in the opinion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, or the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is in the national interest

Also, U.S. citizens can still be permitted to enter Canada as long as they are entering for essential travel.

Thus far, have immigration categories within the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and International Mobility Program (IMP) been affected?

No, currently all immigration categories within the TFWP and IMP remain active and their requirements remain unchanged.

However, individuals that are visa-exempt and are eligible to apply for work permits at a port-of-entry will be affected as border applications at the moment are considered “non-essential” and will not be processed.

Can individuals apply for permanent residency?

Yes, Canada Immigration will continue with intake of new permanent residence applications. It should be noted that IRCC will continue to process permanent residence applications where the principal applicant is in Canada and has overseas dependents residing in China, Iran or South Korea, taking into account the delays that may occur.

However, the principal applicant would not be granted permanent residence if their overseas dependents cannot travel.

With the H-1B cap lottery over in the U.S., is Canada still a potential option for individuals not selected in the lottery?

Yes, Canada may still be a potential and viable option for foreign nationals who were not selected in the H-1B lottery. It does depend on the industry and if a position/role is available in Canada. We would encourage employer assess each case by initiating a Travel Assessment with Envoy to make sure all possible options are reviewed and considered to each specific employee in his/her unique circumstances.    

Please keep in mind that processing delays will affect new work permit applications as Canadian visa posts are working with essential staff only in many parts of the world.

The Canada-U.S. border is closed to non-essential travel. Who is mainly affected by this?

Regular tourists, leisure travelers and frequent cross-border shoppers are mainly affected by the travel ban. Also, although certain temporary foreign workers may still travel to Canada, frequent/daily back and forth travel between Canada and US is not possible since a 14-day self-isolation is now mandatory for all travelers to Canada. 

How are the both of you passing the time outside of work?

Marina – Doing way more yoga and meditation than before.

Jim – Trying new cooking recipes and playing online board games with friends and family.

Thank you to Marina and Jim for taking the time to sit down for this Q&A!

As the Canadian government releases more information, Envoy Global will provide updates. Be sure to subscribe to our blog by filling out the form to the right to stay up to date on Canadian immigration and much more.

Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with the Global Team at Envoy Global.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.