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COVID19 Immigration Patterns

Jatin Shory is an immigration and refugee lawyer located in Calgary and has had a front row seat to emerging immigration patterns since the onset of the COVID19. Jatin is also a friend and partner to us here at CFN. His pro bono work, time spent mentoring youth in CFN's Real ME program and dedication to giving back has made him a true asset to greater Calgary community.


Jatin Shory

May 14, 2021

Immigration is an integral pillar of socio-economic growth in Canada. Being a country with a declining birth rate, immigration has become a necessary instrument to facilitate levels of prosperity. Overall, I think most Canadians pride themselves on having one of the most positive approaches to immigration and refugee policy globally.

I would argue that the Canadian government’s coming to terms with the gravity of the COVID-19 disease was when they decided to shut down cross-border travel in March 2020. As an immigration and refugee lawyer in Canada, the next two weeks became a big question mark. My office continued to receive calls from local families who were concerned about their loved ones stranded overseas. Family separation became the biggest issue in that moment.

The next few months saw a number of quick policy decisions administered through Orders in Council issued by the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship. These decisions included guidelines on who could travel to Canada and under what conditions, the expansion of the definition of family to include those in “exclusive dating relationships” to assist with the reunification of separated family members, a re-prioritization of industries that would be considered to qualify for current programs to hire temporary foreign workers, and a massive push to open doors for foreign nationals towards permanent residency in Canada.

Globally, Canadian visa offices seem to be taking the hardest hit. Overseas processing of various applications, such as family class sponsorship or spousal open work permits, have become significantly delayed. This is due, in part, to the national infrastructural limitations that may exist in the host-country. For example, India is currently in one of the worst conditions when it comes to managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, one of the busiest Canadian visa offices, has seen a significant downturn in its staff’s ability to process applications at their usual speeds.

Those inside Canada, however, are beginning to see a different kind of impact on immigration due to the global pandemic. Recent policy changes are indicating a new strategy for immigration in Canada; a shifting focus to foreign nationals inside the country. International students on traditional pathways to permanent residency often find themselves applying for post-graduation open work permits which are issued one time without an option to extend.

The impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian economy resulted in thousands of students without jobs, and hence, lost time on post-grad open work permit status. This resulted in a one-time extension policy implementation. Those without status, or who had lost their status in Canada during the pandemic, were granted an opportunity to restore their status beyond the statutory 90-day limitation period. Refugee claimants in Canada who were deemed to be working in health-care, were afforded an opportunity to apply directly for permanent residency in Canada.

One of the most ground shattering updates came in February 2021 when the 27,000 applicants were invited to apply for permanent residency in Canada through the Canadian Experience Class within the Express Entry system. The minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score accepted was 75 points. To put that into perspective, pre-covid scores were in the high 400s. Recently, 90,000 spaces were opened for international students and essential workers to apply directly for permanent residency in Canada.

It seems clear that for the foreseeable future immigration policy in Canada is going to focus heavily on people inside Canada. Remember, the Canadian government has committed itself to its immigration levels planning for 2021 to 2023. Those who were following traditional pathways towards permanent residency may find new opportunities to fast-track their originally expected waiting time. The impact this could have on the settlement industry is hopefully, also being planned for. There is no doubt that it is definitely an interesting time to live in a globalized world that is entirely accessible at one’s fingertips.

  • Jatin frequents speaking opportunities at conferences, on radio, and has been invited as a witness in the past to the Canadian House of Commons to present testimony on immigration policy.


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