As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to spread globally, applicants for Canadian immigration benefits located in certain countries have experienced a number of disruptions with respect to the processing of their applications. Such disruptions include: (1) the closure of visa application centres, (2) service interruptions at Canadian visa offices, (3) travel plan disruptions, (4) limited access to local government offices and business, and (5) limited access to designated physicians for the completion of mandatory medical examinations.
On February 7, 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) implemented its first set of special measures for temporary and permanent resident applicants located in China, as well as for approved applicants in China unable to travel. These special measures were expanded to similar applicants in Iran and South Korea on February 29, 2020.
Currently, IRCC’s special measures grant accommodations to the following individuals:
- Chinese, Iranian or South Korean nationals; or
- Foreign nationals located in China, Iran or South Korea; and
- Who are affected by service disruptions or travel restrictions related to COVID-19.
The special measures are intended to provide flexibility for those who, due to the above disruptions, are unable to meet or comply with certain requirements. With respect to applications still in processing, IRCC has stated that it will not refuse or close an application due to a lack of documentation. By way of example, IRCC will grant automatic 90 day extensions beyond the usual deadline for complying with procedural requirements, including:
- The completion of biometrics, which involves attending a visa application centre to provide fingerprints and a photograph;
- The completion of a mandatory medical examination with an IRCC-approved panel physician;
- The submission of supporting documents (ex. police certificates); and
- The submission of a passport once an application has been approved.
Accommodations are also being provided to foreign nationals whose applications for permanent residence have recently been approved, but are unable to travel to Canada due to COVID-19. Once an application for permanent residence has been approved, a document known as a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) is issued, and the foreign national must present this at a Canadian port of entry within a limited timeframe in order to complete the process of “landing” as a permanent resident. The expiry date noted in one’s COPR cannot normally be extended. However, IRCC’s special measures will allow for the consideration of extenuating circumstances related to COVID-19, which should facilitate the continuation of the landing process beyond the expiry of a COPR.
Applicants for Canadian citizenship unable to travel to Canada for purposes of attending crucial citizenship events and appointments may also be provided with limited accommodations, so long as the inability to travel is sufficiently related to COVID-19. Such events and appointments include: (1) attending the citizenship knowledge test or retest, (2) attending the citizenship interview, (3) attending a hearing, or (4) taking the Oath of Citizenship. However, in order to be eligible for an accommodation, IRCC must be notified of the inability to travel within 30 days of missing the event or appointment.
In some cases, applications related to temporary or permanent residence may be approved or granted on an urgent basis. For foreign nationals who require a visitor visa, study permit, or work permit in order to travel to Canada urgently due to exceptional circumstances, IRCC will consider these applications on a case-by-case basis. Similarly, for those permanent residents who do not possess a currently-valid Permanent Resident Card, IRCC will also consider urgent requests for a permanent resident travel document on a case-by-case basis.