Canada Eases Some Travel Restrictions, Opens Borders to COPR Holders

Today, the government of Canada officially announced the details of its first step in easing restrictions at the Canadian border.

Beginning July 5, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. EDT, travellers who are fully vaccinated will be permitted to enter Canada without being subjected to the federal requirement to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test on day-8. Fully vaccinated travellers will also no longer need to stay at a government-authorized hotel.

To be considered fully vaccinated, travellers must have received all the necessary doses of a vaccine, or a combination of vaccines, accepted by Health Canada. The vaccination must have occurred at minimum 14 days prior to arrival in Canada. The vaccines currently approved by Health Canada include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).

Travellers may receive the vaccine in any country as long as they are able to provide supporting documentation of the vaccination in English, French, or with a certified translation. Fully vaccinated travellers will be required to upload the documentation to the ArriveCAN software application prior to their arrival in Canada. The Canadian government will provide further detail regarding ArriveCAN and the information required by July 5, 2021.

All travellers must still be exempt from travel restrictions in order to travel to Canada. This includes Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, and foreign nationals eligible to travel to Canada.

Those travelling as foreign nationals and eligible to enter Canada must be entering for non-discretionary reasons. This includes foreign nationals such as temporary foreign workers, some international students, and air and marine crew members, amongst others.

This morning, the government also broadened the category of foreign nationals eligible to travel to Canada to include foreign nationals who have received Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) issued after March 18, 2020.

Fully vaccinated travellers will still be required to follow standard travel requirements, which includes pre- and on-arrival COVID-19 testing. Moreover, all travellers will need to present a quarantine plan and be prepared to quarantine in the event that their test comes back negative, or they do not meet all of the border exemption conditions.

Quarantine-exempt travellers will still need to abide by other public health measures, such as wearing a mask and following other quarantine or safety restrictions that individual provinces have put in place.

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated, such as individuals who have only received one dose of the vaccine or who have recovered from COVID-19, will still have to abide by the current travel restrictions in place. Children ineligible to be vaccinated are also required to follow current border measures. This includes booking a three-night stay at a government-authorized hotel prior to departing for Canada, and completing a mandatory 14-day quarantine and day-8 COVID-19 test. 

If you are planning on travelling to Canada, it is important to be aware of the travel restrictions that may apply to you. Contact Abramovich & Tchern Lawyers today with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the Canadian border.

New OINP Draw: 940 Foreign Workers and International Students Invited to Apply

On June 16, 2021, the Ontario Immigration Nominee Program (OINP) invited 940 candidates from the Expression of Interest system pool to apply for a provincial nomination. The candidates invited may be qualified under one of two Employer Job Offer streams: the Foreign Worker stream or the International Student stream.

569 candidates were invited from the Foreign Worker stream, targeting candidates with a score of 38 and above. The draw was a general draw which means that no specific occupations or locations were targeted.

From the International Student stream, 371 candidates with scores 66 and above were invited to apply.

To date, Ontario has invited 714 candidates who may be eligible for the Foreign Worker Stream. The International Student Stream has seen 667 candidates receive invitations to apply.

What is the Expression of Interest System?

The OINP relies on an expression of interest system to select candidates who may meet the criteria for one of the following streams:

  • Employer Job Offer: International Student
  • Employer Job Offer: Foreign Worker
  • Employer Job Offer: In-Demand Skills
  • Masters Graduate
  • PhD Graduate

To be considered for one of these streams, you must register an expression of interest to notify the OINP that you wish to be considered and invited to apply.

An expression of interest may provide the OINP with information such as your level of education, language capabilities, skill level and work experience, and the region in which you study or work. The OINP will rely on this information to rank candidates by scores and select those who are likely to meet Ontario’s economic and labour market needs.

The Employer Job Offer: International Student Stream

The International Student Stream provides international students who have a job offer in a skilled occupation (Skill Type 0, or Skill Level A or B) in Ontario the opportunity to be invited to apply for permanent residence.  The stream is open to international students who have received education credentials from any recognized Canadian institution, both inside and outside of Canada.

To be eligible, you must have received a two-year degree or diploma OR a one-year degree or diploma that requires a completed degree as an admission requirement form a Canadian Designated Learning Institution.

You must also have an eligible job offer that is full-time and permanent, in a NOC 0, A, or B position and primarily done in Ontario, among other criteria. There are also additional OINP requirements that the employer must meet.

If you want to be considered for the International Student stream, you have to create an Expression of Interest profile. Once your profile has been created, it will enter the Expression of Interest pool where it will be ranked based on your ability to assist with Ontario’s labour market needs.

The Employer Job Offer: Foreign Worker Stream

The Foreign Worker stream allows foreign workers who have a job offer in a skilled occupation (Skill Type 0, or Skill Level A or B) in Ontario the opportunity to be invited to apply for permanent residence. The stream does not require a foreign worker to be inside Canada.

To be eligible under this stream, you must have at least two years of work experience (full-time or the equivalent in paid part-time work) in the same skilled occupation as your job offer. You must also, among other criteria, intend to live in Ontario.

Like the International Student stream, to be considered for the Foreign Worker stream you must abide by the Expression of Interest system by creating an Expression of Interest profile. Your profile will then be entered into the pool with all of the other applicants’ profiles, where it can be considered for the upcoming OINP draws.

Think you might meet the requirements of the International Student stream or the Foreign Worker stream? Confused about your Canadian immigration options?

Contact Abramovich & Tchern today to speak to one of our Canadian immigration lawyers and get your questions answered. Call us at 416.551.1757 or e-mail us info@atimmigrationlaw.com.

International Graduate and Essential Worker Permanent Residence Streams

In this article we are going to discuss some of the specifics of the new temporary pathways to permanent residence for international graduates and essential foreign workers. The application window will open on May 6, 2021 and close on November 5, 2021 (or as soon as the caps described below are reached).

As discussed in our last blog, to be eligible under either temporary program, the Applicant must:  

a)    hold temporary resident status (or be eligible to restore it)
b)    be present in Canada
c)    be authorized to work in Canada
d)    be currently working in Canada
e)    have proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages
f)    meet general eligibility requirements of the stream they want to apply

At this time there is no additional information with respect to how IRCC will assess the genuineness of the employment. There are also questions regarding whether those working part-time qualify, and whether one may apply for permanent residence under both the essential worker and international graduate streams.

We will provide answers to these and other questions as soon as IRCC provides additional information regarding the new permanent residence pathways. In the meantime, the key requirements under each stream are provided below. 

International Graduates

It is important to note that while traditionally Federal immigration pathways were reserved for high-skilled occupations (NOC skill-type 0, A or B) there are no skill-type or NOC based restrictions with respect to employment under the international graduate pathway. In other words, one may work in any position to qualify under this program. To qualify under the international graduate pathway, the foreign national must:

  • Have completed, prior to the date on which the application for permanent residence is received and no earlier than January 2017, a program of study at a DLI, while being authorized to study in Canada;
  • Have been granted one of the following credentials:  
  • A degree which is issued on completion of a program of at least 8 months in duration;
  • A degree, diploma, certificate, or attestation issued on completion of a program of any duration leading to an occupation in a skilled trade (listed in Annex A);
  • one or more diploma/certificate/attestation where the following conditions are met:
    • The program of study must be 8 months in duration and the combined length of the credential(s) must be equivalent to a two-year credential (at least 16 months in duration).
    • For vocational studies, each program of study must be at least 900 hours in duration and the combined program must be at least 1800 hours in duration.
  • Be employed in Canada in any occupation with a valid permit. The applicant must not be self-employed, unless working as a medical doctor in a fee-for-service arrangement with a health authority;
  • Have attained a language proficiency of CLB 5 in either English or French as confirmed by the results of a valid language test;
  • Be physically present in Canada with valid temporary status or be eligible to restore status at the time the application is submitted and approval;
  • Intend to reside in a province or territory other than Quebec.

The international graduate pathway to permanent residence has an overall cap of 40,000 applications. However, the total cap will not apply to candidates who have scored at least CLB 4.0 on an approved French language test (TEF). This point is important as a CLB 4.0 score can be achieved by those with an intermediate knowledge of French. 

Having said this, given that most applicants under this stream will not meet the French CLB 4.0 requirement, it is extremely important to submit your application as soon as possible as the overall cap will likely be met prior to the program closing quickly.   

Foreign Workers In Essential Occupations

Essential occupations are divided into those listed in Annex A (healthcare) and Annex B (other occupations) to the public policy. Annex B contains both high and low skilled occupations such as cashiers, gas station attendants, janitors. In other words, occupations that were typically ignored or excluded by IRCC are now deemed essential. In addition the current employment can be in occupation.

To qualify under the essential worker pathway, the foreign national must:

  • Have accumulated at least one (1) year of full-time or part time equivalent (1,560 hours) of authorized work experience in Canada within the three (3) years immediately preceding the submission of the application, in an “essential” occupation as set out in Annex A or Annex B . It is important to note that there are different employment experience criteria for healthcare and non-healthcare essential workers:
    • Healthcare (Stream “A”): the one year of work experience must have been acquired in one or more occupations listed in Annex A. Experience cannot be combined with Annex B occupations.
    • Non-Healthcare (Stream “B”): the one year of work experience must have been acquired in one or more occupations listed in Annex B, or a combination of occupations in Annexes A and B.
  • Be employed in Canada in any occupation at the time that the application for permanent residence is received. As with the international graduate stream, employment described in both a) and b) cannot be self-employed, unless working as a medical doctor in a fee-for-service arrangement with a health authority;
  • Have attained a language proficiency of CLB 4 in either English or French as evidenced by the results of a valid language test;
  • Be physically present in Canada with valid temporary status (or be eligible to restore) at the time of application’s submission and approval;
  • Intend to reside in a province or territory other than Quebec.

Application Caps

The application caps are as follows:

  • 20,000 applications for temporary foreign workers in healthcare
  • 30,000 applications for temporary foreign workers in other selected essential occupations

As with the international graduate stream there is no intake cap for those candidates who have scored at least CLB 4.0 on an approved French language test.

While we are expecting to get additional details about the program in the next few weeks, the eligibility criteria are clear. As noted before, we expect the caps to be reached fairly quickly. Feel free to contact us if you have questions about the new pathways or any other Canadian immigration questions.

New Permanent Residence Pathways For International Graduates and Temporary Workers Announced

In our last blog as well as the April 2021 Lawyer’s Monthly issue we discussed the need for new immigration pathways that will help the government meet its ambitious targets while addressing Canada’s economic needs.

Today (April 14, 2021) the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced the implementation of temporary public policies that create new temporary pathways to permanent residence for temporary workers in essential occupations, international students, and French speakers.

Amongst the programs announced are pathways that will allow international graduates who have completed an eligible program of study in Canada, as well as temporary workers in health care and/or select essential occupations, to apply for permanent residence. The Minister stated that the interim pathways are meant to ensure that Canada has the workers it needs to fuel its economic recovery.

The basic eligibility criteria for students as well the temporary foreign workers in essential occupations is provided below (we will discuss the specifics in future blogs):

At the time of their application, candidates must:

·         hold temporary resident status (or be eligible to restore it)
·         be present in Canada
·         be authorized to work in Canada
·         be currently working in Canada
·         have proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages
·         meet general eligibility requirements of the stream they want to apply under

IRCC will accept applications under these policies from May 6, 2021 to November 5, 2021, or until a program stream has reached its cap. The application caps are as follows:

·         20,000 applications for temporary foreign workers in healthcare
·         30,000 applications for temporary foreign workers in other selected essential occupations
·         40,000 applications for international students who graduated from a Canadian institution

The eligible NOC codes for foreign nationals in Canada, with recent Canadian work experience in essential occupations is very expansive including numerous NOC “C” & “D” positions, and can be reviewed here. While the eligibility conditions for international graduates are provided here.

It is important to note that essential workers and international graduates who can demonstrate a proficiency in French (by way of language test results) will not be subject to the overall cap. Threshold for French language proficient is CLB 4.0 for essential workers and CLB 5.0 of international graduates.

It is unclear how the programs will operate given that demand under the essential worker and international student streams will likely far exceed the cap.

Timing will play a critical role with respect to permanent residence applications under the new pathways. Contact our office to ensure you get the right immigration guidance in a timely manner.

Express Entry and Canadian Immigration Targets

The April 2021 edition of Lawyer Monthly magazine features an interview with myself and Ksenia Tchern regarding the latest developments in Canadian immigration. In this article, we discuss the ambitious Canadian immigration targets announced by Marco Mendicino in October of 2020 as well as how these targets can be met.

At the time of the announcement, many expected the Minister to adopt a dovish and pragmatic approach given the economic uncertainty, the absence of timelines with respect to domestic as well as global vaccination programs (as well as vaccine efficacy studies), and the Liberal government’s border policy.

Instead, in October 2020, Mendicino announced that Canada aims to bring in more than 400,000 new permanent residents each year over 2021-2023: 401,000 in 2021; 411,000 in 2022; and, 421,000 in 2023. Most of these immigrants would be in the economic class. 

Details with respect to how the Minister planned to meet such ambitious targets were not provided. In my view, the right approach entails relaxing restoration of status criteria, increasing the quota for humanitarian and compassionate applications, and adjusting existing economic pathways (particularly those managed by Express Entry) to account for the situation created by COVID-19. 

To this end, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will have to utilize what is referred to as Ministerial Instructions, an extraordinary instrument that amongst other things allows IRCC to make substantive changes to the Express Entry selection criteria, thereby effectively changing Canada’s immigration policy without going through the normal parliamentary procedure and/or public consultation.

Below are a few basic changes to the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) that could allow IRCC to select a great number of economic candidates while maintaining the integrity of the Express Entry system:

  1. Changing the arrangement employment point allocation (for non-NOC 00 positions) from 50 to 100.
  2. Increasing arranged employment points to those in critical care (those helping Canada fight or contain COVID-19) from 50 to 125.
  3. Awarding 50 “current employment” points to those who who are currently legally working in Canada (or will continue working subject to Provincial restrictions being lifted) on a full-time basis but do not qualify for arranged employment points (ex: students on Post-Graduate Work Permits), provided that the employer confirm that it intends to continue employing the person for at least one year.
  4. Decreasing the importance of age and language proficiency as well as lowering the minimum language threshold for those with Canadian work experience, a job offer, or current employment.
  5. Promoting the Federal Skilled Trade Worker program and holding more regular draws with low CRS cut-offs.

Outside of Express Entry IRCC can:

  1. Introduce a program allowing individuals in certain NOC “C” (and possible D) positions to apply for permanent residence provided that they have at least two years of Canadian work experience, have a valid work permit, and a job offer for at least a year.
  2. Increase the quotas for the Agri-Food Pilot.
  3. Increase Provincial quotas. 

Despite readily available tools and options, IRCC appears to be adopting a numbers driven approach, as without any prior notice, on February 13, 2021, those with active Express Entry profiles were issued an Invitation to Apply if their CRS score was 75 points or higher and they qualified under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). This resulted in 27,332 invitations to apply being issued, when the typical draw invited around 3,000-5,000 people.

By way of background, since the travel ban introduced on March 16, 2020 prevents Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders from landing unless their COPR was approved prior to March 18, 2020 or they meet one of the entry exemptions, IRCC has not held an Express Entry draw that included those invited to apply under the Federal Skilled Worker program (FSW). Instead, Express Entry draws have largely been focused on the CEC based on the presumption that those with Canadian work experience are likely already in Canada, and are therefore not affected by the travel ban.

Prior to February 13, 2021, Express Entry was a tightly managed system with the low-end of the 2020 pre-COVID-19 CRS cut-off being in the 460 point range, with the lowest COVID-19 period CRS score being 431 points on June 25, 2020. However, prior to the travel ban, Express Entry draws included both CEC and FSW candidates, and the high CRS cut-offs were in part based on a continually replenished CEC pool. Given that the number of foreign workers coming into Canada has been greatly reduced as well as the exclusion of the FSW candidates, in order to meet its 2021 targets IRCC has to either implement some of the suggestions listed above, or drastically reduce the cut-off score for some of the draws, which is what happened on February 13, 2021.

The fact that subsequent draws have been more or less in line with the COVID-19 range, and that to date no amendments have been announced suggests that future “outlier” draws may be on the horizon and while it is difficult to foresee another draw with a 75 point CRS cut-off, cut-offs in the 200-300 point range are not outside of the realm of possibility. Leaving aside broader immigration policy related considerations, if you are reading this post, and are either close to or do currently meet the CEC criteria, you should prepare and submit an Express Entry profile as soon as possible.

It is important to note that an Express Entry profile can be modified (before an ITA is received) which allows candidates to increase their CRS score after the profile is accepted into the pool. So if you are awaiting the receipt of an Educational Credential Assessment or have decided to increase your language score, you should submit your profile irrespective of your current CRS score to ensure that you do not miss another outlier draw, and update it (if necessary) once additional documents are received.

If you have any questions about Express Entry or other pathways to Canadian permanent residence, feel free to contact our office

Temporary COVID-19 Related Measures Allowing Visitors to Change Status in Canada Extended

On March 29, 2021, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced that the temporary measures initially introduced in August 2020 allowing certain foreign nationals to change status within Canada are being extended. 

Ordinarily, most foreign nationals planning to work in Canada have to apply for, and obtain a work permit prior to entering Canada. Those already in Canada on valid visitor status had to leave the country in order to initiate the change in status to a worker.

In our view, this rule is outdated and does not serve Canada’s best interests. The temporary measures described further in this article should be adopted on a permanent basis. 

In light of COVID-19-based border closures and flight cancellations, IRCC announced on August 24, 2020, temporary measures and exceptions allowing temporary residents who are already in Canada to change status without having to leave the country. More details on the temporary public policy can be found here.

The new policy with respect to processing work permits applied only to those who were already in Canada, and had a valid job offer, but did not apply to those who arrived after August 24, 2020. This requirement has now been eliminated.

Effective April 1, 2021 a foreign national must meet the following conditions in order to apply under the new temporary measures:

  • have valid status in Canada as a visitor on the day they apply
  • have remained in Canada with valid status
  • have a valid job offer
  • submit an in-Canada application for an employer-specific work permit that is supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or an LMIA-exempt offer of employment, no later than August 31, 2021
  • meet all other standard admissibility criteria

This temporary public policy also allows foreign nationals who meet the above criteria and who had a valid work permit in the past 12 months to begin working for their new employer before their work permit application has been fully approved. To do so, they must follow submit a Case Specific Inquiry and await IRCC response. The complete directions provided by IRCC can be found here

We commend IRCC for extending the temporary policy, and hope to see further programs benefiting Canada’s economic recovery in the future.

If you have any questions regarding working or changing your status from within Canada, contact Toronto Immigration Lawyer today to set up a consultation.