Immigration and COVID-19: New developments for temporary foreign workers

Discover our special webinar and stay informed of the latest developments concerning immigration.

This presentation was given by Caroline Boucher, Director of the International Mobility Division, Montréal International, and Andres Miguel Pareja, Lawyer and Director of Immigration, KPMG, on April 9, 2020.

Questions & Answers

The questions here below were raised by participants during the webinar broadcast on April 9, 2020. Answers given to these questions are provided as a guide to participants and do not take into account an individual’s particular situation. Please consult a lawyer or an immigration consultant for legal advice to a particular situation. We also invite you to consult our synthesis of the immigration measures for more details.

 

Employer compliance

If we have laid off a temporary foreign worker (TFW), do we have to proceed with a voluntary disclosure?

The information submitted in the online job posting on your employer portal or in the LMIA and CAQ application is your commitment to the Canadian government and, as such, you must comply with it. While the government is clearly aware of the situation caused by COVID-19, until it adopts a guideline for the temporary layoff of TFWs as a result of COVID-19, employers that do not fulfil their commitments are in non-compliance. The usual solutions in case of non-compliance are then possible. For example, you may choose to document your employee’s file and keep a record of all the actions taken so that you may justify the situation in the event of an inspection. It is therefore strategic to take an inventory of all your TFWs and assess each situation to determine compliance issues. On the other hand, the case of force majeure, as set out in section 203 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, could possibly be raised as a justification for the temporary layoff of a TFW or the reduction of their working hours. In some cases, it may also be appropriate to proceed with a voluntary disclosure.

 

If the TFW has not yet arrived in Canada, has a letter of introduction and a job offer from us, but that we no longer have a job due to the COVID-19 situation, what can we do?

Work permit applicants who are currently outside of Canada must confirm that their employer is not subject to the requirement for non-essential businesses to close, and that they will be able to begin work after the 14-day isolation period, prior to making travel arrangements. Workers should not come to Canada if their employer no longer offers them a job. Click here for more details.

In the situation described above, we therefore advise the applicant to wait until they have work before coming to Canada while ensuring that their authorizations are still valid when they travel.

 

International students

Will IRCC continue to give/authorize study permits for the summer or fall academic session?

IRCC continues to process study permit applications. However, it could be difficult for the applicant to obtain a letter of admission to their study program. A letter of admission is required to obtain a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) for studies for CEGEPs or Universities, and this CAQ for studies is essential in order to obtain a study permit.

It should also be borne in mind that a study permit application requires collection of biometric data (if the candidate is not exempted), and that this step is not feasible as long as the biometric data collection centres are closed. Click here for more details.

 

Can international students work full-time during the pandemic, despite the usual restriction of 20 hours per week?

International students can usually work full-time off-campus during scheduled breaks in the academic calendar, such as winter and summer holidays or during spring breaks week. Click here to see the conditions. IRCC’s instructions in this regard are no different despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the press release of April 22 specifies one exception: the government is lifting the restriction according to which foreign students cannot work more than 20 hours per week during school calendar, provided they are working in an essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructures, or the providing of food or other essential goods.

 

Travel restrictions and traveller obligations

Do you know when the borders will reopen?

The lifting of restrictions has not yet been announced by the Canadian government. Unfortunately, we have no further information on this subject at the moment.

 

Does simply having a contract of employment suffice to travel to Canada?

If you already have a work permit, you can come to Canada under certain conditions. You are exempted from travel restrictions and will be able to travel to Canada by air or land if you are coming for essential reasons. Find out about what you need to do before you travel to Canada.

If you do not yet have a work permit, you can still submit an online application via MyCIC. Note that many Visa Application Centres (VACs) are currently closed or operating with a reduced workforce, and that it may be difficult to conduct a medical examination. If you are subject to any of these steps, your application may not be processed until it has been completed.  In addition, IRCC indicates that there may be delays in the processing of applications due to the present crisis.

 

If I have obtained my letter of introduction for my Working Holiday Permit (WHP), have the required medical insurance for the WHP and an isolation plan, as per the Orders in Council, then I am authorized to board a plane to travel to Canada.  Do I need to have a job offer to get my WHP?

Work permit applicants who are currently outside of Canada must confirm that their employer is not subject to the requirement for non-essential businesses to close, and that they will be able to begin work after the 14-day isolation period, before making travel arrangements. In addition to your letter of introduction, your isolation plan and proof of mandatory medical insurance for WHP holders, you must have a letter from your Canadian employer confirming that you still have a job in Canada.  TFWs should not come to Canada if their employer no longer offers them a job.

 

What should be included in my isolation plan?

There is no standard template for an isolation plan and no clear indication of its mandatory content. You must submit the plan that will demonstrate to the officer that you will reasonably be able to comply with the requirements of the Emergencies Act or the Quarantine Act.  Here is a non-exhaustive list of what we think a plan should include:

  • The place where you will isolate yourself, as well as the name, age and health condition of the other people residing there;
  • What will be your means of transportation to get to this place;
  • That you will go directly to the quarantine site, stay there for 14 days, and wear a non-medical mask or other face covering while in route to your isolation destination;
  • The arrangements you have made for someone to take care of essential items, such as food and medicine, for you;
  • That you will not receive any visitors;
  • That if you go outside to get some fresh air, you will stay in a private place such as your backyard or on your balcony.

 

You mentioned exemption from 14-day quarantine for authorized people travelling (ex.: agriculture workers) but I thought the quarantine requirements were still in effect?

The mandatory isolation order does not apply to certain people who enter Canada for work and who are not experiencing signs or symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of entry. Please consult the following page to see a list of exception.

Even if a TWF is subject to one of the listed exceptions, the TFW and the employer are required to respect the intent of the order to minimize spread of COVID-19 in Canada. The TFW must continually monitor his health for symptoms of COVID-19. You are also reminded to be aware of and respect the public health guidance and instructions of the area where you are located.

 

For the applicants of the Global Talent Stream (GTS) program that need to come to Canada to activate their work permits, are they exempt from the travel restrictions?

The travel restrictions exemptions for foreign nationals arriving from a country other than the U.S. applies to holders of a work permit and holders of a letter of approval for their work permit application.

Foreign nationals who require a work permit, whether or not they are subject to a visa requirement, will not be allowed to board an aircraft if they are not in possession of the work permit or the letter of approval. If they have obtained their LMIA and CAQ, they must apply for their work permit online, for the letter of approval to be issued. Once they receive this letter, they will be exempt from travel restrictions. The TFW will have to present to the airline officer their letter of approval, their isolation plan and the letter from their Canadian employer confirming that their job offer is still valid.

 

Family members

Can family members accompany a person with a letter of introduction and apply for an open work permit?

Yes, a spouse could apply for an open work permit, since IRCC continues to process work permit applications. However, this application must be submitted online and cannot be presented at a port of entry.  When applying online, the obligation to provide biometric data is likely to slow down the application’s processing.  In fact, now that most VACs are closed, it will most likely not be possible to complete this step quickly, but you will have an additional 90 days to do so.

We advise that you apply for a family reunification travel authorization in order to enter the territory as a visitor. Once you arrive in Canada, you will be able to apply for your open work permit as a spouse through an online application that will be processed from within Canada.

 

Does The International Mobility Workers Unit (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) provides a letter of authorization for travel?

No, this unit does not provide this authorization. See how to get such authorization.

 

How can children who are exempt from the study permit, CAQ and visa requirements be reunited with the father who is currently in Canada?

Following IRCC instructions, the dependant child of a temporary foreign worker is considered as an immediate family member and can be exempted from the travel restrictions to Canada. The immediate family member of a temporary worker can currently travel as a visitor if he/she obtains a written authorization from the Government of Canada as well as, depending on its country of nationality, a valid temporary resident visa (TRV) or electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). For more information, please consult the IRCC instructions.

 

I have a Work Permit, my wife has still not arrived yet but she has authorized Letter of Instruction and Temporary Visa. Does she now needs a Letter of Authorization?

In this case, we recommend that you obtain written authorization for an exemption for travel restrictions under family reunification to ensure that she is able to travel to Canada.  For more details on how to obtain this authorization, please consult the IRCC instructions.

 

What would happen if a spouse outside Canada has an entry visa that will expire shortly and want to return to Canada? How does the travel restrictions affect this candidate?

Following IRCC instructions, the dependant child of a TFW is considered as an immediate family member and is exempted from the travel restrictions to Canada. The immediate family member of a TFW can currently travel as a visitor if he/she obtains a written authorization from the Canadian Government as well as, depending on its country of nationality, a valid temporary resident visa (TRV) or electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). For more information, please consult the IRCC instructions.

 

 

Workers in Canada

If a temporary foreign worker with a closed work permit wishes to change employer, is there any other way than via the online application which takes 3 months to process?

As of today, IRCC has not put in place any new procedure for changing the conditions of stay within Canada to facilitate this type of application.  The TFW who wishes to obtain a new work permit for a new employer must apply online for a work permit from within Canada through MyCIC.

 

What happens to an employee who has taken the steps to obtain a Certificat de selection du Qubébec (CSQ), who has not received any news from the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) and whose Working Holiday Permit (WHP) has expired? Can he continue to work?

The CSQ application submitted to the MIFI does not confer any implied status in the territory.

All foreign nationals must ensure that they maintain a valid status in the territory, even while awaiting to be issued permanent residence status. Click here for more information on the procedure to follow when the work permit of a TFW expires. Until the TFW’s status is restored, he/she must not perform any work activities in Canada.

 

What are the implications if a layoff occurs after a work permit renewal application has been submitted to IRCC?

All foreign nationals must ensure that they maintain a valid status in the territory. If the applicant submit his application to renew his status before the expiring date of his current work permit, there is every reason to believe that he would be granted an implied status in the territory. In this case, the present situation raises compliance issues for the employer since it would no longer comply with the terms and conditions of employment set out in the LMIA or in the job offer validated on the employer portal. We refer you to question #1 for more details about the employer’s compliance in such case.

 

In the case of a worker who has a CSQ, who has already completed his biometric data, who has a job offer from a new employer and who has been laid off by his current employer, how can he change employer if he can do the “flagpoling” procedure?

The foreign national must submit a new work permit application for his new position with his new employer. He will not have to re-submit his biometric data. However, his application will be subject to the usual processing times for a work permit application submitted from within Canada, and he will have to wait for his new permit before starting his new job.

 

My work permit is about to expire and my renewal application is in process, so I will be under implied status. Will I still be able to benefit from the Québec Health Insurance Plan (RAMQ) or do I have to take out private insurance while waiting for my new visa?

Under normal circumstances, you will be covered by the RAMQ during the period when you were under implied status if your new work permit application is accepted and if your previous work permit gave you access to the RAMQ. When you will receive your new work permit, there should be a mention in the remarks section: “status maintained as per R 186”. With this mention, you will be able to be reimbursed for the costs of care incurred while you were under an implied status.

For work permits issued under an International Experience Canada program (Young Professional, WHP or Co-op), we advise you to keep your private insurance.

Rules may differ regarding health care and testing for COVID-19. We refer you to the following link and invite you to contact the RAMQ directly for specific information.

 

I have an in-Canada Foreign National on a worker status. He received an IEC-Young Professional letter of invitation that specifies a CBSA agent will process the WP. As the “flagpole” procedure is NOT an essential travel, how can be issued his new work permit?

As of today, no alternative procedure has been put in place by IRCC. We refer you to Immigration Canada’s response on that matter:

“You should not travel to a port of entry to apply directly to a border services officer at this time. Travelling to a port of entry from inside Canada to get immigration services is not considered essential travel.

Please check the website regularly as procedures may be put in place to allow IEC participants to activate work permits from within Canada. In the interim, you must ensure that you maintain your current immigration status while in Canada.”

You will find information about EIC applications at the following link.

Please note that a letter of invitation or acceptance to an IEC program does not confer any status in Canada, nor does it confer an implied status. You must ensure that you maintain a valid status in Canada until you are issued a new work permit.

 

Processing and measures implemented by IRCC

Are applications for permanent residence currently suspended?

IRCC continues to process applications for permanent residence, however, it is possible that this situation could result in additional delays. It should also be noted that no application will be refused for failure to comply with a request that is impossible to carry out in the current situation (e.g. medical examination, collection of biometric data). In this situation, additional time will be granted to complete those steps. For more details, click here.

 

If our Letter of Introduction has expired due to the COVID-19 context, is it possible to obtain an extension of the validity of the Letter of Introduction?

IRCC has established a procedure to request an extension of the validity of the letter of introduction for an application submitted under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program (Young Professional, WHP or Co-op). There is no specific procedure for applications submitted under programs other than the IEC. We suggest that you contact IRCC using the Webform and explain the reasons why you are requesting an extension of the validity of your letter of introduction.  We also suggest that you submit your Webform within 30 days before the expiry date of your letter.

 

Will they approve an application without biometrics and require the applicant to do them later when centers open?

No. There is no exemption from collecting biometric data specific to the COVID-19 situation, nor is it possible to complete this step after the permit has been issued. This step will have to be completed before the letter of introduction is issued, which could result in additional processing times. It should be noted, however, that additional delays will be granted to applicants to give them the opportunity to complete this step. For more information.

 

If we are unable to go to a VAC, can we proceed with the collect of our biometrics data at Montreal airport?

No. When an application has been submitted online, the collect of biometric data must be done at a VAC.  Submitting biometric data at the airport  is only possible when the applicant applies for a work permit directly at that port of entry. Currently, it does not appear to be possible to make an application at some ports of entry, except possibility in some cases for foreigners traveling from the United States.

 

Processing by Service Canada and the MIFI

Can we submit LMIA applications under the facilitated LMIA process for Quebec employers?

Yes. Service Canada and the MIFI continue to process LMIA and CAQ applications regardless of the program. However, additional delays should be expected.

 

Will the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) accept electronic signatures for documents that required original signatures?

Currently, the MIFI exceptionally accepts copies of hand-signed forms for CAQ’s applications. However, no guidelines on electronic signatures has been released yet.

 

Have you heard from the MIFI? They don’t have a lot of information on their site for permit applications.

Here is the link to the MIFI page detailing information about their services in the context of COVID-19. The site is updated when new guidelines or measures are announced.

 

What are the processing times before being issued the CSQ once having pass the values test?

Processing times for CSQ applications depends on the program under which they are submitted.

Official processing times for complete applications submitted under the Programme de l’expérience québécoise are 20 business days.

For applications submitted under the Regular Skilled Worker Program, the application is processed within 6 months of receipt of the required documents.

Please note, however, that we have noticed significant additional delays in the processing of CSQ applications. Applicants are encouraged to follow up on significantly delayed applications by calling 514-864-9191.

 

International Experience Canada

My letter of introduction for a permit under International Experience Canada will shortly expire and I am reluctant to travel to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. Can I ask for an extension, or will I have to wait?

A request to extend the validity of your Letter of Introduction can be made using the IRCC Webform if your letter expires in the next 30 days and you are unable to travel due to COVID-19.

The answer to this question and several others related to IEC can be found on the IRCC website.

Please note that holders of Letters of Introduction and work permits are exempt from the travel restrictions imposed on foreign nationals. However, workers should not come to Canada if their employer no longer offers them a job.  We invite you to read the instructions to follow before travelling to Canada.

 

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