As expected, on July 21 the restrictions on all discretionary travel over the Canada-U.S. border that has been in place since March 21st were extended to August 21st. The same exceptions to the restrictions, such as the family member exception still apply, so if you are looking to travel make sure that you fall into one of the excepted categories in order to ensure you will be allowed to cross the border. The closure has left many families who do not qualify for the family member exception separated and it looks as though they will remain separated for the foreseeable future. It is important to note that Canadians can sometimes enter the U.S. by air so if you have the means to fly, you can be reunited with your family members, just make sure to adhere to local quarantine laws, as they vary from state to state.
Officially, the border closure was only extended to August 21, but it is likely to remain closed well into the future based on the situation in the United States and comments made by Prime Minister Trudeau:
“I understand how difficult it is to see these travel restrictions in place but Canadians understand that keeping our cities, our municipalities, our elders, our frontline workers safe by preventing international travel is a continued thing we need to do.”
Thus, the Canadian border largely remains closed to non-essential visitors as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For those looking to settle permanently in Canada, the situation is not much better, as the Canadian immigration system remains largely stalled because of the pandemic. Once the Canadian border does open, it remains to be seen how quickly new prospective immigrants will be able to come to Canada. Currently, many visa and biometric collection offices worldwide closed, which means that potential immigrants cannot be interviewed or provide the documents needed for their immigration applications. The situation is not much better for those who have completed their applications. because the Canadian Immigration Department has stopped posting processing times. Instead, the IRCC has posted a message stating that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it cannot process applications normally or provide time estimates.
Last year, the Canadian government planned to admit 341,000 new permanent residents to Canada in 2020. As of the end of May, the number of permanent residents actually admitted into Canada was down by approximately 40,000 from the same time last year. It seems increasingly unlikely that the previously stated goal will be reached this year. In order to keep immigration steady, it is possible that Canada will increase the number of immigrants it is willing to admit for 2021. Given that Canada’s economic growth is partly driven by immigration, the government will surely do something to keep people coming here, as opposed to looking for other countries to migrate to. As important as immigration is to Canada’s economy, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino made it clear in a statement that the focus of policy right now is on public health.
“The pandemic has resulted in unprecedented challenges at the border, and we know this has been a difficult time for families and others who are making their way through the immigration system.”
There are approximately 10,000 refugees impacted by the virtual shut down of the Canadian immigration system. However, on July 22, some good news for future refugees came from the Canadian Federal Court, which rendered a decision on the legality of the Safe Third Country Agreement between the United States and Canada, in which both nations recognized each other as safe places to seek refugee protection. This means that Canada can no longer turn down potential refugees who arrive at land ports of entry on the Canada-U.S. border on the basis that they must pursue their claims in the United States. Due to the risk of imprisonment refugees face in the U.S., Justice Ann McDonald stated:
“I have concluded that imprisonment and the attendant consequences are inconsistent with the spirit and objective of the STCA and are a violation of the rights guaranteed by section 7 of the (Charter of Rights and Freedoms).”
The changes are not set to take effect until 2021 because the Court allowed for a six-month period for the immigration authorities and the Trudeau government to respond to the court ruling.
With the situation being as fluid as it is, it is of the utmost importance to stay informed and make good decisions if you are planning to travel. If you are trying to immigrate to Canada during these uncertain times, we are here to help.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the situation in relation to COVID-19 and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about crossing the border or your immigration status in relation to the changing regulations, please reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.