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Immigration applications: navigating the extraordinary deadlines and hazards in times of pandemic

While the second period of confinement is at its height in Quebec and Canada, the immigration systems at the provincial level and particularly at the federal level are still in difficulty [1]. A glimpse of hope is on the horizon following the announcement of vaccines possibly available in winter / spring 2021 [2] but it is a safe bet that the return to normal by the Ministry of Immigration, Citizenship and Integration (IRCC, at the federal level), and of the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI, in Quebec), will be delayed even after the start of the first vaccination campaigns.


Applications outside of Canada

Since last March, the biggest upheaval to these systems is that we are witnessing travel restrictions within Canada for the majority of foreigners, with the exception of certain close family members [6], for an indefinite period and systematically extended since nine months. Canada is thus closed to foreign tourism. Likewise, in addition to this, there is an apparent end for an indefinite period of the International Experience Canada program (which leads, among other things, to working-holiday and young professionals work permits) [5], which is very popular and useful to fill positions in demand, whose procedures are both faster and less costly for the parties, and to promote Canada around the world. Also, the Regular Skilled Worker Program in Quebec will rarely have offered so few places for permanent immigration in Quebec, with only 365 invitations in 2020 as of September 22, 2020. It should also be noted that the Programme de l’expérience québécoise underwent a major reform this summer and current processing times can take up to 6 months. [5.1]

In addition, concerning the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, work permit applications can no longer be submitted at the Canadian border, with some exceptions, but only online or in person at a Canada visa application centers (VAC) [3], thus significantly increasing the volume of requests to these offices. Indeed, in normal times, foreign workers preselected as workers who are exempt from visitor visas such as Europeans or Americans can submit their work permit applications at the border [4] when they have the relevant documents. At the time of writing, these same visa-exempt workers could wait up to sixteen (16) weeks (taking the example of the Paris processing office) for the issuance of a work permit, except in exceptional circumstances.

Although foreign workers who have been able to obtain a work permit despite the increased delays from abroad can enter Canada, these major changes are not without creating several problems for Canadian employers who rely on foreign labor to quickly fill shortages of workers in certain sectors.


Applications within Canada

Some of the most notorious problems with both temporary and permanent immigration applications made within Canada include the following:

– The Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ – document that confirms the candidate’s pre-selection for permanent immigration in Quebec) expires and cannot be renewed pending the finalization of the application for permanent residence at the federal level, which shows significant delays [7] for many. However, it remains valid [8] under provincial guidelines, provided that an application for permanent residence is still being processed.

– and / or the work permit or residence permit as visitor expires. While waiting, the worker or visitor is said to be in “implicit status”, that is to say, he is presumed to be in pending valid status.

Although in the spring and summer of 2020, it was foreseeable that perturbations associated with the pandemic would have repercussions on the immigration system, now that the milestone of nine months since the start of the pandemic has passed, force is to note that the current processing times are still often delayed, and that this can sometimes cause difficulties in negotiations of candidates for immigration with the public administration.

Also, and this since an unknown date, the processing of paper applications for work permits, study permits and visitor visas has been suspended. This unprecedented decision could have major consequences for many citizens, without them being clearly informed. [8.1] Furthermore, some articles dealing with the processing of sponsorship applications for spouses, filed in paper format only, are also subject to exceptional delays [8.2].



In the current situation, the solution put forward by IRCC to correct the situation of requests after processing times outside and inside Canada remains to submit a request on a case-by-case basis through the IRCC online application form [9]. However, this tool remains very limited to respond to the current crisis, and several responses remain generic and do not provide a transparent understanding of why some requests are so delayed with the processing times announced on the IRCC site.

Some measures appear to have been put in place by IRCC to remedy the situation, while since summer some applicants automatically receive a letter from IRCC confirming that the status remains valid until a decision on the pending application is made. However, if you are faced with a delicate implicit status situation inside Canada that compromises your access to government services [10], or you experience difficulty in facilitating the arrival of your foreign workers to be filled outside Canada when their presence is required for essential work [11], do not hesitate to contact Letendre Cabinet-Conseil for assistance.


The information appearing in this article is given without prejudice and is subject to change without notice.

[1] https://www.lesaffaires.com/dossier/covid-19-tout-ce-qu-il-faut-savoir/la-covid-19-a-affecte-le-systeme-d-immigration-du-canada/621283
[2] https://www.lesaffaires.com/dossier/covid-19-tout-ce-qu-il-faut-savoir/covid-19-le-quebec-pret-a-amorcer-la-vaccination-des-le-1er-janvier/621514
[3] https://www.cic.gc.ca/francais/centre-aide/reponse.asp?qnum=171&top=17
[4] https://www.cic.gc.ca/francais/centre-aide/reponse.asp?qnum=171&top=17
[5] https://www.canada.ca/fr/immigration-refugies-citoyennete/services/coronavirus-covid19/eic.html

[5.1] https://www.immigration-quebec.gouv.qc.ca/fr/informations/arrima/individus/programme-regulier-travailleurs-qualifies/invitations/index.html
[6] https://www.canada.ca/fr/immigration-refugies-citoyennete/services/coronavirus-covid19/restrictions-exemptions-voyage.html
[7] https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1748254/immigration-quebec-ottawa-delais-residence-permanente-reception
[8] https://www.canada.ca/fr/immigration-refugies-citoyennete/organisation/publications-guides/bulletins-guides-operationnels/mises-a-jour/2018-certificat-de-selection-du-quebec.html

[8.1] https://www.canada.ca/fr/immigration-refugies-citoyennete/services/coronavirus-covid19/bureaux.html

[8.2] https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1725280/canadiens-reunification-familiale-manifestation-conjoint-visa-temporaire
[9] https://www.cic.gc.ca/francais/contacts/formulaire-web.asp
[10] https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1748254/immigration-quebec-ottawa-delais-residence-permanente-reception
[11] https://www.securitepublique.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/crtcl-nfrstrctr/esf-sfe-fr.aspx

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