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Canada will accept incomplete study permit and PGWP applications

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Some international students can’t submit all the required documents for their study permit or Post-Graduation Work Permit application, so Canada is keeping their files open until they can.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many application centres to close or limit their operations. As a result, some study permit applicants are unable to complete three essential components of their application:

  • giving biometrics;
  • having medical examinations; and
  • submitting their original travel documents

In light of the circumstances, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says they will not refuse study permit applications that are missing documents as a result of coronavirus service disruptions.

Instead, they will keep the application open, and continue requesting additional supporting documents, or necessary actions until either they receive the documents or are provided proof that an action has been taken.

International students can work before Post-Graduation Work Permit approval

The temporary measure also extends to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) applicants who are unable to get a letter of completion, or final transcript from their Designated Learning Institution (DLI).

If international students apply for the PGWP before their study permit expires, but they are unable to submit the complete application due to a DLI closure, they will be able to start working full time until a decision is made.

However, they should submit a letter of explanation, indicating they are unable to submit the documents due to their school’s closure. Once their documents are available they can submit them using the IRCC web form, which facilitates communication between Canada’s immigration department and immigration candidates.

IRCC is also allowing applicants to restore their status without the letter of completion or final transcript. Applicants who are restoring their status are not allowed to work while the application is processing.

Post-Graduation Work Permit eligibility not affected by part-time status

Following health and social distancing restrictions, Canadian post-secondary institutions may have to close or cancel classes. International students may consequently have to put their studies on hold or study part-time.

If a student’s status changes from full time to part-time due to changes in the programming at their DLI for the winter and summer 2020 semesters, they will still be eligible to apply for a PGWP.

The PGWP is important because it enables international students to gain Canadian work experience. Such work experience helps them become eligible for more immigration streams under the likes of Express Entry and the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

Canada recently announced a major reform to provide more PGWP flexibility for international students that want to begin their Canadian immigration journey this fall.

Will Canada lift its travel restrictions on July 1?

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Whether you are an immigration professional, such as Canada’s immigration minister, or a prospective immigrant, the answer is simply “no one knows.” However, considering recent actions taken by the federal government, and the apparent flattening of the pandemic curve in Canada, a July 1 opening to foreign nationals may be possible.

Here is a look at the key factors that could influence Canada’s decision.

Why Canada could ease travel restrictions

The decision to lift the restrictions will simply come down to whether the Canadian government believes it can safely do so.

It will closely monitor the number of coronavirus cases around the world to see if containment efforts are proving effective. Of course, Canada’s decision will also be shaped by the effectiveness of its own efforts to contain the virus.

Health Canada says the epidemic’s curve is flattening thanks to public health measures. Beginning in mid March, provinces and territories across Canada went into lockdown, however the lockdowns have been gradually eased over the past few weeks.

There were 759 new cases of coronavirus in Canada on June 1, the lowest since March 29, which had 665 reported cases.

If this positive trend continues, we could see Canada allow more foreign travellers to enter the country.

For example, Canada could enable the entry of individuals such as new confirmation of permanent residence (COPR) holders who obtained their COPR after the travel restrictions took effect on March 18.

In addition, Canada may look to facilitate family reunification, even if the purpose of the visit to Canada is for non-essential reasons, which is something that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week is an issue currently under consideration.

Trudeau has stated that Canada recognizes the hardship that is being caused due to travel restrictions preventing family members from crossing the U.S. border into Canada.

On the other hand, he has noted that some provincial premiers are concerned with lifting restrictions with the U.S. It is not difficult to fathom that such premiers may also be wary about lifting travel restrictions with other countries as well.

Reasons to be optimistic

As mentioned above, new coronavirus cases have been stabilizing and lockdown restrictions across Canada are being lifted.

In addition, Canada has allowed some foreign travellers into the country since March 18.

Hence, come July 1, Canada may decide it can in fact safely welcome more travellers from abroad. To ensure the health and safety of Canadians, such individuals would also surely be subject to the health screenings and mandatory 14-day self-quarantine periods that current travellers must adhere to.

In addition, Canada has continued to hold Express Entry and Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) draws, as well as process work and study permits since the travel restrictions took effect. This is a strong sign that Canada does plan to gradually open up its immigration system in the coming months.

Canada makes huge changes to help international students

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International students offer significant social and economic benefits which is why Canada seeks to attract them to the country. Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada hosted over 640,000 international students.

In a news release issued today, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said that it will help international students as follows:

  • IRCC will prioritize the processing of study permits for students who have submitted a completed application online so that their permits are processed as soon as possible
  • IRCC is introducing a temporary 2-stage approval process for international students who can not yet submit a completed study permit application and who want to begin their Canadian educational program online. This temporary process is available to students who want to begin their program this fall and who submit their study permit application by September 15, 2020
  • As previously reported by CIC News in May, IRCC is also enabling students to begin their Canadian studies online while they are still abroad and having that time count towards their Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) eligibility so long as they have submitted a study permit application and if at least 50 per cent of the program is completed in Canada.

While IRCC has not stated this, the first bullet of their news release strongly suggests that those who have already submitted a completed study permit application (e.g., prior to the start of the pandemic in March) should expect IRCC to process the application in the near future, and in time for the September 2020 academic year.

Why IRCC is helping international students

IRCC says it is rolling out these measures to help students begin their programs in time for the fall 2020 academic year.

IRCC recognizes that the global coronavirus crisis is creating uncertainty for international students. In addition, the pandemic has impacted IRCC’s ability to process study permits.

However these new changes will help students begin their programs online this fall at a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI).

Benefits to international students

International students can take comfort in being able to start their Canadian program online which will protect their health and safety and enable them to achieve their various study, career, and immigration objectives.

If they wish to begin their Canadian studies this fall, IRCC will do its best to process their study permit as soon as it can. Even if the student is unable to submit a completed study permit application, IRCC will pre-approve them if they meet the conditions outlined below.

Students want to come to Canada due to its high-quality of education. In addition, they are attracted by the opportunities to work in Canada during and after their studies, and potentially obtain permanent residence to become the Canadian citizens of the future.

International student attraction is hugely beneficial to students themselves and Canada.

Students are able to pursue an excellent standard of education in one of the world’s most open and diverse countries. It is also less expensive to study in Canada compared with countries such as the United States. Students can work while at a Canadian DLI, which can help them support their living expenses in Canada and also save for the future.

After completing their education, they can gain a PGWP to work in Canada for up to three years. The professional work experience they gain in Canada can help them obtain permanent residence and eventually citizenship. Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), and many other pathways are available for international students who want immigration status.

Nearly 60,000 former international students become immigrants each year, according to IRCC.

International students enrich the learning experience at colleges and universities across Canada and help enrich Canadian society even further. They also contribute $22 billion annually to the economy which supports 170,000 Canadian jobs.

Measures in place to support international students in Canada

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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has released a summary of temporary measures currently in effect for international students, study permits and post-graduation work permits. 

The introduction of strict travel restrictions introduced to manage the outbreak of the coronavirus has had a profound impact on Canada’s immigration programs in recent months. Travel restrictions limit, among other things, the entry of international students into Canada. Under the federal government’s Order-in-Council, only international students who fall under these three categories can enter Canada at the moment: 

  • International students with a valid study permit; or 
  • International students approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020; or 
  • International students coming from the United States.

Canada recognizes the important contribution that international students make to the social and economic life of the country. That is why it has put in place a number of measures to ensure that international students who choose to study in Canada can do so. The changes include a two-stage study permit process and the ability to begin studies online, with this time counted towards the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). 

For those who are following these changes, or whose applications may be affected by them, here is a consolidated overview of current temporary policies regarding studies in Canada.

The information is based on the latest backgrounder listing facilitative measures to support international students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic published on the Government of Canada website. 

Study permits 

The coronavirus outbreak has made it difficult for international students to get the documents they usually need for Canadian study permits. 

To remedy the situation, IRCC has implemented a two-stage approval process that made it possible for international students to begin their fall semester online without a final study permit. Those who have been unable to provide biometric data, the results of an immigration medical examination, or other required documents, may still be considered for a study permit. Those approved in the first stage will have already met most of the criteria for a study permit.     

IRCC has stated that complete study permit applications that have already been submitted will be processed as quickly as possible.   

Students who successfully complete both stages will be able to travel to Canada once travel restrictions are eased.     

Sending kids to school in Canada from the U.S. amid travel restrictions

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U.S. parents who send their kids to school in Canada have to navigate the travel restrictions that are now in place for another month.

Canada has extended border restrictions on U.S. travellers until September 21, which is weeks after classes are set to start across the country.

U.S. parents are facing prolonged processing delays this year as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) works to process a large backlog of study permit applications. Online application processing for new study permits is currently estimated to take about 20 weeks, according to the IRCC webpage.

Under normal circumstances, eligible students could get their study permits immediately at land border crossings or at the port of entry of an airport. But since travel restrictions were implemented in March of this year, travel to Canada for a discretionary or optional reason is not permitted— which includes travelling to ports of entry for the purposes of making an immigration application.

However, Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) told CIC News that students who enter Canada from the U.S. may still be able to get their permits immediately at a port of entry, as long as they can establish that they are coming to Canada for an essential reason.

“Students who enter Canada from the U.S. may apply for their study permit upon entry to Canada, however, they must still demonstrate that their travel to Canada is not for an optional or discretionary purpose,” CBSA said in an email. “Students who can complete their studies online are encouraged to remain in their home country. The onus is on the student to demonstrate that their presence in Canada is required.”

Coming to Canada to study is still considered to be discretionary or optional unless the student needs to be in the country to complete their studies. As such, U.S. students may be granted study permits at ports of entry if they meet the usual study permit application requirements and can show the border services officer that they need to be in Canada to carry out their studies. They could do this by including a letter from their school saying that their in-person presence is essential to the program, for example, or that it is impossible to complete the program remotely.

U.S. students who do come to Canada will also have to quarantine themselves for two weeks, and they will have to satisfy the border officer that they have a suitable quarantine plan. In all cases, the final decision is at the discretion of the border officer.

Parents will have to have their own essential reason and quarantine plan to make a case for themselves to accompany their children to their residence while in Canada.

5 good reasons to move to Canada from the U.S.

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Over 10,000 U.S. citizens and residents pivot north every year to settle in Canada through Express Entry. In fact, the U.S. is the second most popular source country among Express Entry immigrants.

Between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of Express Entry applicants whose country of residence is the United States almost doubled from 7 per cent to 12 per cent. This is according to the 2019 Express Entry Year-End Report. The report suggests 85 per cent of these immigrants are non-U.S. citizens.

Earlier this year, Donald Trump halted immigration into the United States until the end of the year, including issuance of green cards and H1-B visas: the visa issued to foreign high-skilled specialty workers.

The Trump administration also recently announced major changes to the H1-B Visa Program, which would potentially make it harder for immigrants to obtain new visas. 

Employers are now required to pay foreign skilled workers significantly higher wages. This may deter employers from choosing to hire foreign workers and may look within the U.S.

With the uncertainty clouding over U.S. residents about their immigration status, it may come as no surprise that many have turned their attention to Canada.

Why wouldn’t they?

Canada is renowned for being one of the most welcoming countries in the world towards immigrants. The country was built by immigrants, and Canadians do not forget it. 

Why do U.S. residents immigrate to Canada?

Canada may be an attractive option for many U.S. residents for a plethora of reasons, most notably:

  • Free universal healthcare: Canadians and permanent residents do not have to worry about huge medical bills.
  • Better work-life balance: Workers in Canada enjoy shorter hours. A Gallup article suggested that full time U.S. workers end up working an average of 47 hours a week, whereas in Canada, the standard number of weekly work hours is 40 hours a week.
  • Paid statutory holidays: In Canada, workers enjoy paid statutory holidays, such as Canada Day. In the U.S., however, employers are not required to pay employees for time not worked.
  • Paid maternity leave: The U.S. provides just 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave for new parents. Canadian mothers can enjoy 35 to 61 weeks off, and can also receive payment through Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI).
  • Canada is more accepting of migrants: According to a recent global survey, Canada is the world’s most accepting country for migrants.

Express Entry: the main permanent residence pathway

U.S. residents can choose from over 100 immigration pathways, the most popular of which is Express Entry.

Express Entry is the system that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) uses to manage permanent residence applications for three economic class immigration programs:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)
  • Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

Candidates are then assessed based on multiple factors including their age, work experience, education and language abilities in English or French. They are then given a score based on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).

Ontario to open registration window for Employer Job Offer: Foreign Worker stream

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Ontario is set to open registration for the Employer Job Offer: Foreign Worker Stream on October 21.Immigration candidates need a current job offer and an up-to-date Employer Form, in order to apply for this Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) expects a significant number of users to access the system.

“Due to the significant number of users expected to access the system, you may encounter a high-volume message page or be placed in a priority queue. If this occurs, it is not a technical error and you don’t need to contact the program,” the OINP says in a media release.

The system will automatically shut down once the threshold for registrants has been met. Typically, this happens within the same day as the stream opens.

To register, you must access the OINP e-Filing Portal directly from the government’s Employer Job Offer: Foreign Worker stream webpage. Click on the button ‘Submit an application’. You have to use a desktop, as mobile devices, such as cell phones and tablets, are not supported by the e-Filing system.

During registration, the OINP says to pay careful attention when entering your date of birth. The correct format in the e-Filing Portal is DD/MM/YYYY. It is important to use the correct format because if you make a mistake, the OINP will not let you change it.

This application window is just for the Employer Job Offer: Foreign Worker Stream. Applications for the Employer Job Offer: International Student and Masters Graduate streams are not going to be open tomorrow.

Current job offer and up-to-date Employer Form required

Your job offer must be current when you apply. New applications will not be held pending a potential return to work date. All required supporting documents must be included with the application such as an up-to-date job offer with a definitive and imminent start date.

You need to submit the most recent version of the Employer Form, which must be completed and dated no earlier than October 21, 2020. Although the Employer Form indicates that it must be submitted within six months from the date of signing, the information contained in the Employer Form must be current.

If you submit an Employer Form completed and dated before October 21, 2020, your application will returned as incomplete. Your application will also be returned if you do not provide a current job offer.

If you successfully register, you will have 14 days to complete and submit the application. You can use this time to upload an up-to-date Employer Form. The OINP will not provide extensions to this 14-day period.

The OINP has revised the “Regulatory Compliance Information” section B of the Employer Form to indicate whether the employer’s business is currently compliant under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Canada is now sending work and study permits by mail

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Foreign nationals who are in Canada and who have been approved to work or study can now get their permits sent to them by mail.Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is now opening up its web form to take requests from people who have their Letter of Introductions (LOIs) but no way to travel to a port of entry to claim their permits.

The new measure also extends to people who got their LOI under the International Experience Canada program.

Coronavirus travel restrictions have left many of these LOI holders in limbo. Though they have been approved to work or study, they can’t get their permits unless they go to a port of entry. They can’t go to a port of entry because it is not considered essential travel. So, they can’t get their work or study permit, which means they cannot legally start working or studying even though they have already been approved.

The new process will allow these people to request their study or work permit online and have their papers mailed to them. IRCC says this option is available until March 31, 2021.

The new procedure to get your work or study permit in Canada

The immigration department will check to see that the name of the employer in the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or LMIA-exempt offer matches what the applicant provided in their request. They will also look for any concerns or case notes entered after the approval was issued.

Officers may contact the employer to confirm the job offer. They may also contact the applicant for an interview if they think it is necessary.

Though they may check open source information to confirm the employer, any information that they discover that could lead them to refuse the permit must be followed up by the procedural fairness process.

If the work or study permit is refused, officers must add case notes indicating why they reached a negative decision based off the application. They must also advise the applicant that when their status expires they must leave Canada, or advise them of the next steps if the foreign national is out of status.

Applicants who are approved for their permits will receive their documents in the mail, and finally be able to work or study in Canada.

The benefits of Canada’s Parents and Grandparents Program

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The 2020 Parents and Grandparents Program intake window is now open until November 3, 2020.

Between October 13th and November 3rd, Canadian citizens and permanent residents can submit interest to sponsor forms on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) website. After November 3rd, IRCC will conduct a lottery and invite candidates to submit sponsorship applications to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada. IRCC will accept up to 10,000 applications for the 2020 PGP window.

The PGP’s benefits are clear for Canadian citizens and permanent residents who bring their parents and grandparents to Canada. They get to reunite with their loved ones. Their parents and grandparents enjoy the full benefits of being permanent residents such as the ability to work in Canada, access health care, and eventually earn the right to become Canadian citizens.

What are the benefits to Canadian society?

First, strong families are the backbone of Canadian society.

There is also a very strong economic case that can be made in favour of the Parents and Grandparents Program.

Research shows that parents and grandparents contribute to the household income. This allows families to have greater purchasing power which benefits the economy.

Buying a home is the biggest purchase we all make and the homeownership rate of immigrant families is equivalent to Canadian-born families (roughly 70 per cent of families own a home).

In addition to supplementing the household income, parents and grandparents enable their children and grandchildren to work more hours. The reason for this is that parents and grandparents can provide child care, giving the rest of the family more flexibility to pursue economic opportunity.

In the past, Canadian government surveys have found that the PGP is among the least popular immigration streams among Canadians. This is understandable given the perception that parents and grandparents contribute little to the Canadian economy, and are likely to be a significant expense on social services such as health care.

But, it is important to remember that Canada mitigates these concerns in several major ways. First, parents and grandparents account for just 6 per cent of the total number of immigrants Canada welcomes in a typical year.

In order to immigrate to Canada, parents and grandparents, just like all immigrants, need to pass a medical screening authorized by the Canadian government to ensure they do not create excessive demand on Canada’s health care system.

Third, Canada imposes a 20-year undertaking period on those who sponsor their parents and grandparents. This means that sponsors sign a contract with the Canadian government that they will be financially responsible for their parents and grandparents for 20 years from the date their family member obtains permanent residence. During this entire period, the sponsor is legally obligated to repay any social assistance that is collected by their parents or grandparents. This results in very low social assistance utilization by parents and grandparents.

Finally, Canada seeks to pursue economic, social, and humanitarian goals through its immigration system. It wants immigrants to benefit the economy, and thus it selects nearly 60 per cent of its immigrants under the economic class. It also seeks to reunite families which is why it operates the Parents and Grandparents Program. Thirdly, it seeks to assist those who are less fortunate based on humanitarian reasons.

While it should not be viewed through an economic lens, a case can certainly be made that the Parents and Grandparents Program does help the Canadian economy.

Canada reveals how extended family, compassionate travellers can apply for travel exemptions

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The federal government has released entry requirements for extended family members and people travelling to Canada for compassionate reasons. Details have been released on Canada’s definition of extended family members, requirements for compassionate travellers to get exempt, and how to get limited release from quarantine.

As of today, October 8, extended family members can now cross the border to Canada, provided they are staying for at least 15 days and meet existing eligibility and admissibility requirements. If you are extended family, you do not need a non-optional, non-discretionary reason to travel to Canada.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s definition of extended family shifts depending on how the foreign traveller is related to the Canadian, or their spouse, common-law partner, or dating partner:

If you are directly connected to the Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can be exempt if you:

  • have been in an exclusive dating relationship, for at least one year and have spent time in the physical presence of that person at some point during the relationship;
  • are a non-dependent child (adult child);
  • are a grandchild (dependent child of a non-dependent adult child);
  • are a sibling, half-sibling or step-sibling; or
  • a grandparent.

If you are related to the Canadian’s spouse or common-law partner you are considered extended family if you are:

  • an adult child;
  • are a grandchild (dependent child of a non-dependent adult child);
  • are a sibling, half-sibling or step-sibling; or
  • a grandparent.

And if you are related to the Canadian’s eligible dating partner, you are extended family if you are:

  • a dependent child;
  • an adult child; or
  • a grandchild (dependent child of a non-dependent adult child).

Exempt extended family members will also need a signed declaration by the Canadian citizen or permanent resident that confirms your relationship. You will also need written authorization by IRCC.

Apply for travel exemption as extended family

There is a six-step process to apply for the travel exemption.

Step 1: Your family member fills out an application for authorization and statutory declaration

Your family member who is the Canadian citizen or permanent resident must fill out the application for authorization and statutory declaration form.

Step 2: You sign the declaration

Your family member in Canada sends you the application for authorization and statutory declaration that they filled out. You sign the form and send it back to your family member in Canada.

Step 3: Your family member signs the form by solemn declaration

Once you’ve sent the form back to your family member in Canada, they must sign the form by solemn declaration in front of any authorized official, such as a commissioner for oaths, justice of the peace, lawyer, or notary.

Step 4: Get a copy of the completed and signed form

Your family member in Canada must send you a copy of the completed and signed application for authorization and statutory declaration.

Step 5: Request written authorization to travel

Once you have a copy of the completed and signed application for authorization and statutory declaration use it as evidence of your relationship with your family member and request a written authorization from us.

You need written authorization from IRCC no matter where you’re travelling from.

How you request a written authorization depends on whether or not you already have a valid travel document, such as a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

You should not book a flight to Canada until you get your written authorization from IRCC.

Step 6: Bring your copy of the application for authorization and statutory declaration, as well as the written authorization with you when you travel.

You must have a copy of the application for authorization and statutory declaration as well as the written authorization with you when you travel. This is mandatory. If not, you won’t be allowed to board your flight or enter Canada.

Once the form is signed by solemn declaration, you have six months to travel to Canada. If you don’t travel within six months, you’ll need a new statutory declaration.