Most countries had a rough start to 2020 and Canada was no

exception. As early as March, the Government issued special orders

under the Quarantine Act which greatly restricted travel

to and from Canada, allowing only Canadian citizens and permanent

residents, their immediate family members, and a very restricted

group of essential workers to enter the country. This development

had an immediate negative effect both on the individuals who were

hoping to immigrate to Canada via Express Entry streams, and on the

Canadian economy which is largely dependent on a steady influx of

skilled foreign labour.

For most of 2020, COVID-19 travel restrictions forced

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to limit the

pool of eligible Express Entry candidates to only those who were

already present in Canada. This precluded many highly qualified

individuals who would have, under normal circumstances, been

invited to apply for permanent residence. For several months, only

candidates in the Canadian Experience Class or those with

Provincial Nominations were eligible for the periodic draw during

which invitations to apply for permanent residence are issued. The

consequences of these unprecedented actions were far reaching,

creating a ripple effect in the Canadian economy which consequently

struggled with shortages of qualified labour.

As restrictions began to relax toward the latter part of the

year, however, the outlook changed drastically. In the final two

months of 2020, IRCC reopened the pool to individuals qualifying

through Foreign Skilled Worker and Foreign Skilled Trades

categories. Additionally, in an effort to compensate for the labour

shortages these restrictions had created, a significant number of

invitations were issued (5,000 individuals were issued Invitations

to Apply for Permanent Residence in November). In the latest draw

that took place on December 9, the minimum eligibility score was

lowered to 469 points, which significantly increased the number of

immigrants able to qualify.

Additionally, during the last quarter of 2020, the Canadian

Minister of Immigration announced plans to significantly increase

immigration levels in 2021-2023 to help the Canadian economy

recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, drive future growth, and create

jobs for middle class Canadians. In actual numbers, these plans aim

to increase immigration to about 1% of the country's

population, which amounts to 400,000 new permanent residents in

2021. It is expected that 60% of all new permanent residents will

come through economic streams.

Though we are presently witnessing an upsurge in COVID-19 cases,

and a consequent tightening of travel restrictions, with new

measures such as the requirement to provide a negative COVID-19

test result as well as a comprehensive quarantine plan prior to

travelling to Canada, there are good reasons to remain optimistic.

Indeed, in addition to the commitment to increase the numbers of

new immigrants, IRCC is currently undergoing a large automation

process. Already candidates are able to submit most applications

online, and there are plans to further invest into capacity

building, development and digital transformation of Canada's

immigration system. One such example is the recently-built online

portal, which enables new permanent residents to complete their

landing process much faster and without an in-person

interview.  As Canada continues to position itself as a top

destination for global talent, automation is expected to reduce

waiting times and enable a smooth immigration process for qualified

individuals. In conclusion, notwithstanding temporary setbacks

created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the future for permanent

residence hopefuls remains bright.

Originally Published by Fakhoury Global Immigration, January

2021

The content of this article is intended to provide a general

guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought

about your specific circumstances.

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