In COVID-19 immigration news, Canada has extended its travel restrictions for all countries until May 21, 2021. However, the travel restrictions mostly affect travel to the country for leisure purposes, i.e. holiday goers. Canada continues to process immigration and visa applications. COPR-holders, international students with study permits, and foreign workers with work permits can travel to Canada during COVID-19. But all travelers to Canada are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is working hard to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections across the country and have safely vaccinated approximately 19.18% of the population. Currently, Ontario (421,442) and Quebec (338,044) have the highest number of COVID-19 cases.
On April 19, 2021, the Canadian government announced its budget for 2021. If the budget gets approved, it could improve the Canadian immigration system and a few immigration programs in a number of ways discussed below.
Budget 21: How Does it Impact the Canadian Immigration System?
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau took to Twitter to announce Budget 21, a post-Covid recovery plan that aims to get the Canadian economy back on track and better than ever before #BuildingBackBetter. The Budget also proposes improvements to the Canadian immigration system.
Here are the key highlights of the Budget 21 Plan:
Canada will add 1-million jobs
The goal is to create 1 million jobs by the end of the year to get closer to pre-pandemic employment levels. The good news is that Canada is ahead of expectations and injected the job market with 259,000 new jobs in February. The unemployment rate dropped from 9.4 percent to 8.2 percent, the lowest rate since March 2020, when the pandemic was declared.
$420 million to improve immigration application processing
The Canadian Government wants to modernize its Information Technology (IT) infrastructure by adopting new digital technologies. The investment will be used to replace the Global Case Management System (GCMS), which is currently used to process immigration applications. This is one of the most important immigration proposals that will result in higher levels of immigrants in the future due to improved application processing.
Changes to the Express Entry System
The Budget 21 Plan suggests reforming the Express Entry system by granting the immigration minister more authority to select candidates who meet the Canadian labor market needs. More information will be revealed about the specific changes soon. The Express Entry system works on a points-based grid known as the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) and, it is predicted that more points may be allocated for criteria concerning a candidate's work experience.
Enhancements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)
The TFWP is a work permit program that allows foreign workers with labor market impact assessment to work in Canada. The $110 million enhancements proposed will see to it that vulnerable foreign workers receive support and quicker service to obtain open work permits if they have been abused by their previous employers in Canada, and more regular inspections will be conducted to ensure that low wage workers have good working conditions and are treated fairly.
Supporting immigrant women minorities
Female newcomers have a harder time finding employment in Canada due to a number of factors including not being able to proficiently communicate in English or French, not having enough work experience, not being able to afford childcare, and discrimination. Budget 21 proposes $15 million to improve initiatives to increase the employability and career advancements for newcomer women in the country.
Increasing the number of immigrants to Canada
Canada’s immigration minister, Marco Mendicino believes that immigration is key to boosting the Canadian economy over the next three years. And for this reason, the immigration targets are set at welcoming 1.23 million newcomers by 2023. Skilled and intermediate skilled foreign workers in a variety of occupations, especially essential workers will be considered for permanent residency through six new immigration programs.
How is COVID-19 in Canada Affecting Canadian Immigration Services?
1. Immigration application processing is returning back to normal. Applicants will no longer get 90-day extensions to submit supporting documents such as language test scores and police clearance certificates. As of April 12, applicants will have 30 days to submit their documents or ask for extensions by providing reasonable explanations along with proof that will allow the application to remain pending.
2. Immigration authorities are prioritizing the processing of applications for vulnerable groups and foreign workers who perform or support essential services.
3.Due to COVID-19 in Canada, Express Entry candidates get 90 days to submit complete applications after they receive their Invitations to Apply (ITAs). When will Express Entry draws get back to normal? In 2021, all Express Entry draws were restricted to Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates as well as Provincial Nominees. As Canada enters into summer and reaches immunity through vaccinations, Express Entry may return to all-program draws as COVID-19 cases fall.
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