While companies are confused about all the new immigration rules around COVID-19, immigration professionals are juggling to get the rules straight and provide a clear direction to their clients. Contrary to what was announced by the Prime Minister at the very beginning, on the eve of Friday, March 20th the federal government confirmed that work and student visa holders are permitted to land in Canada, as well as permanent resident applicants that were approved but haven’t had a chance to land in Canada before the COVID-19 measures came into effect. However, the advice was pretty clear that individuals are not asked to travel to Canada immediately at this point and they will be given a permission to enter at a date to be announced soon. We are expecting the announcement to be released sometime this week.
Tourism and recreation related travel remain not permitted, specially now that both Canada and the US are committed to restrict “non-essential” travel. Flagpoling, which regards to a foreign national that enters the U.S. for a short period of time and returns to Canada in order to obtain an immigration service at the border, is also considered “non-essential” travel. Therefore, applicants are instructed to apply for work or study permits extensions online and from inside Canada. The processing times are being extended for all the online filings, that’s partly due to the majority of the IRCC operations being handled by the officers remotely and the flux of applications IRCC is receiving as a result of the change in regulations.
With respect to the impact of COVID-19 on Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process, changes have been confirmed by ESDC in order to provide some flexibility to the Canadian employers. In addition to the extension of the LMIA validity period from 6 to 9 months, the twelve-month review of the Global Talent Stream is suspended until further notice. ESDC understands that many employers might not meet the Labour Market Benefit Plan (LMBP) commitments, i.e hire certain number of Canadian citizen or PR employees or raise the annual revenue by certain amount, in this uncertain and unstable time. As a general rule of thumb, any employer who believe is not complying with LMBP commitments as a result of COVID-19 impacts on the business, are asked to communicate with ESDC in writing. Great amount of flexibility is promised from the government to mitigate this type of situations. The processing time of 10 business days for all the LMIA applications under the Global Talent Stream is also being extended- not a big surprise- and there has not been a confirmation on the exact processing time so far.
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