Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has closed its eleven Visa Application Centres in Mainland China
Posted on - Feb 19, 2020

By Catherine Sas Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

As the world grapples with how to contain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently introduced special measures for immigration processing for those affected by the implications of the virus. On February 7, 2020, IRCC announced the introduction of special measures for both temporary and permanent residents as well as applicants who have been affected by disruptions due to the Coronavirus.

Prior to this announcement, our Vancouver immigration law office had already dealt with two cases where the risks of the virus had been invoked as a means for allowing the individuals to remain in Canada. We provided submissions to IRCC on January 27, January 31 and February 6, 2020. The increase in both the number of confirmed cases and deaths from the illness over just that time period is staggering:

January 27 January 31 February 6
Cases 4,415 11,948 24,554
Deaths 106 259 492

As of the writing of this article, there are currently 73,424 confirmed cases, 1,873 deaths and 52 Canadians infected with the deadly virus – 8 in Canada and 44 overseas.

In reaction to the rapid spread of the illness throughout China, IRCC has temporarily closed all of the 11 Visa Application Centres (VAC) in mainland China and Canadian visa offices in China are currently in operation with essential staff only. Only urgent applications are being processed and on a case-by-case basis.

The special measures address four specific categories of individuals:

  • Permanent resident visa holders or permanent residents;
  • Canadian Citizenship applicants;
  • Temporary or Permanent residents abroad; and
  • Temporary Residents in Canada unable to leave.

The special measures provide an opportunity for persons to leave China as quickly as possible, remain in Canada until the outbreak is contained, and to extend the validity of documents and/or re-schedule appointments for other applicants. In general, IRCC is demonstrating considerable flexibility to accommodate individuals who have been affected as a result of this pandemic. For further details as they may apply to you, please refer to the IRCC website at: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/notices/novel-coronavirus-special-measures.html

IRCC has a history of providing special measures for people affected by international crises as it pertains to their immigration status either to enter or remain in Canada. Such measures were also introduced in response to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013 and most recently in January 2020 in response to the tragedy of the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS753 in Iran.

The Coronavirus continues to spread at lightning speed both in China and around the globe. The Government of Canada has done its part to assist permanent and temporary residents as well as pending applicants to be able to either come to or remain in Canada on an urgent basis to minimize health risks to individuals. These special measures, now and always, are most welcome.


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 8 consecutive years.


To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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