BlogIRCC’s COVID Catch-up: Something for Everyone

13 October 2020

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One of the most significant and consistent effects of COVID-19 to overall immigration processing can be distilled to a single word: delay. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) standard processing times have been obliterated and, in some cases, have ground to a stand-still. At our Vancouver immigration law firm, we recently submitted an Access to Information request, which are supposed to be issued within 30 days, yet we received a notification of an anticipated response within 365 days!
PR Card renewal applications are virtually piling up with no action being taken while other application processes take priority. So, it was with great relief and appreciation that the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, The Honorable Marco Mendicino, made several announcements in recent weeks to pick up the pace or re-start the processing of several types of applications as well as to allow the entry of students and film and television workers into Canada.

September 24

Minister Mendicino announced that the processing of spousal applications would be sped up for both Family Class and Inland Spousal applicants who are sponsoring their spouses to Canada from both outside and inside of Canada, respectively. IRCC is increasing the number of decision makers for spousal applications by 66% to be able to process applications more quickly and reduce couples’ wait times. In order to enhance and speed up processing, IRCC is using new technology to digitize paper applications so that they can be processed more efficiently by IRCC officers working remotely. IRCC also plans to introduce a pilot program to introduce new technology to allow applicants to be interviewed remotely in keeping with COVID 19 protocols. The goal is to process approximately 6000 spousal applications each month from October to December 2020!

September 28

Today the Minister put measures in place for foreign nationals in the film and television industry to work in Canada by designating that such workers are eligible for priority processing. These measures provide that where operationally possible; offices are encouraged to prioritize these work permit applications within a 14-day service standard. To be eligible for priority processing, applicants must submit an initial work permit application on line to work within the film and television industry and self-identify as an industry worker after submitting their work permit application via the IRCC Webform. Identifying eligible requests for priority processing may require an estimated 5 days to complete. As such the estimated 14-day processing time will only begin once a film and television industry applicant receives confirmation that their application has been identified for priority processing.

October 2

The Minister announces revised travel restrictions for international students effective October 20, 2020. The lifting of the travel restrictions applies to international students attending Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) with approved provincial or territorial COVID readiness plans and requires that the school have in place a supervised 14-day quarantine plan for students. A list of approved DLIs will be posted before October 20.

October 5

Minister Mendicino declares the re-opening of the Parents and Grandparents (PGP) sponsorship program for 2020. Starting as of October 13, 2020 until November 3, 2020, potential sponsors have a three-week period to complete and submit an online “Interest to Sponsor” application form. With the goal of ensuring fairness and transparency, IRCC is returning to a lottery selection system where potential sponsors will be randomly selected and given an “Invitation to Apply” (ITA). Sponsors who receive an ITA have 60 days to provide a complete application.

In recognition of the financial difficulties that many Canadians have experienced due to COVID 19, IRCC is reducing the necessary income thresholds to the Low-Income Cut-off (LICO) figures rather than the standard 30% additional income requirement that has been in place for many years.

IRCC has been committed to accepting 20,000 PGP applicants annually. However, given the lateness in the calendar year of the re-opening of the program, they will process 10,000 applicants for 2020 and 30,000 applicants for 2021.

COVID 19 has brought challenges to all aspects of immigration processing. Yet IRCC remains committed to meeting their annual targets for both temporary and permanent residents seeking to come to Canada. These announcements demonstrate not only IRCC’s ongoing commitment to program delivery but also to introducing and implementing innovation in service delivery in the face of adversity. Both the Minister and the department should be commended on these initiatives.

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