COVID-19 Pandemic: Update on Canadian Immigration

COVID-19 Pandemic: Update on Canadian Immigration

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization assessed COVID-19 as a pandemic. The Canadian government has unveiled aggressive new measures to contain the coronavirus and this has direct impact on Canadian immigration. This bulletin will provide a summary of the key immigration updates for the period between March 24, 2020 and April 22, 2020.

International Students

On April 22, 2020, Immigration Canada announced international students would    be permitted to work more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session, provided they are working in an essential service or function, such as health care,        critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods. This temporary rule change will be in place until August 31, 2020.

International students and their employers should consult Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada’s Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada during the COVID-19 Outbreak (the “Guidance”) to determine if the work the student is doing would allow them to work more than 20 hours per week during the academic session.

Travel Ban

On March 20, 2020, the Governor General issued two Orders in Council pursuant to section 58 of the Quarantine Act. The effect of these is the creation of a temporary travel ban on foreign nationals travelling to Canada from overseas (valid until June 30, 2020) and from the United States, unless the foreign nationals meet one of the exemptions to the travel ban. The travel ban applies to travel by land, air and water, and prevents foreign nationals from travelling to Canada for optional or discretionary purposes, such as tourism or recreation. On April 21, 2020, the Government of Canada extended the US travel ban for 30 days until May 21, 2020.

Non-Medical Mask and Self-Isolation Plan

On April 17, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that effective April 20, 2020 all individuals who travel to Canada by plane must do the following:

  • wear a non-medical mask or face covering upon entry into Canada and while in transit to self-isolate or quarantine;
  • present a creditable plan to self-isolate for 14 days, even if the individual does not have any symptoms of COVID-19. Those without an adequate self-isolation plan will be quarantined in a government quarantine facility, such as a hotel; and
  • if the individual is returning to British Columbia, the individual must provide a separate self-isolation plan directly to the Government of British Columbia. The self-isolation plan can be submitted online prior to arriving to Canada and it must include the following information:
    • the location of the 14-day self-isolation;
    • how the individual will travel to the self-isolation location; and
    • the plan to arrange for the necessary supports, such as food and medications.

Canada Emergency Care Benefit (“CERB”)

On April 20, 2020, the Government of Canada confirmed that receiving CERB payments are not considered social assistance. Accordingly, receiving CERB would not make an individual ineligible to sponsor their spouse, common law    partner, parent or grandparent to [become a permanent resident of Canada.

British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (“BC PNP”)

On April 16, 2020, BC PNP has issued invitations to apply. However, BC PNP has excluded tourism, hospitality, food and beverage services, retail-related occupations and other select occupations.

For the most recent round of invitations that occurred on April 16, 2020, the minimum score required was 85 points for the Skills Immigration – Skilled Worker    category. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the minimum score required for the same category was between 100 and 103 points. Accordingly, the minimum score required to receive an invitation to apply is declining. We have also noticed a similar trend for the federal Express Entry system.

Immigration Applications

Immigration Canada has temporarily paused temporary resident visa and eTA applications from April 9 to April 29, 2020 unless the applicants can demonstrate that they are travelling to Canada for an essential purpose.

Further, Immigration Canada will continue to process Work Permit and Study Permit applications. However, these applications must be submitted online and not through a visa office. Applicants should expect delays in their applications because  many visa offices that process biometrics are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical Services Plan

On April 9, 2020, the Government of British Columbia announced temporary medical services plan (“MSP”) coverage may be available to assist individuals in British Columbia impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The following individuals are included:

  • temporary foreign workers in British Columbia with expired Work Permits;
  • international students in British Columbia with expired Study Permits; and
  • temporary foreign workers in British Columbia with a valid Work Permit for a term of less than 6 months.

Employment and Service Development Canada (“ESDC”)

On April 6, 2020, ESDC announced they are offering priority processing of occupations related to agriculture, food processing and trucking (see occupations list below). Further, the minimum recruitment requirements for these positions will be waived until October 3, 2020. This applies to both pending and future Labour Market Impact Assessment applications for the following ten key occupations:

  • 6331 – Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers-retail and wholesale
  • 7511 – Transport Truck Drivers
  • 8252 – Agricultural service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
  • 8431 – General Farm Workers
  • 8432 – Nursery and Greenhouse Workers
  • 8611 – Harvesting labourers
  • 9463 – Fish and seafood plant workers
  • 9617 – Labourers in food, beverage and associated products processing
  • 9618 – Labourers in fish and seafood processing
  • 9462 – Industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers


Guidelines for Canadian immigration and travel are evolving quickly and are subject to frequent change with little to no prior notice. If you have any questions regarding how the current immigration policies may apply to your current situation, please contact Daniel Lee at or 604 484 1789.

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