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What has the closure of the borders really changed for foreign workers?

Me Natacha MIGNON - 01/19/2021

Foreign workers can enter Canada despite the closure of the borders. Is it possible to recruit internationally during the pandemic? Natacha Mignon, an immigration attorney and partner at Immetis, gives a positive answer to this question and explains why.

Border closures: a false obstacle

Last March, in order to combat the pandemic, Canada decreed the closure of its borders with the United States of America, as well as its international borders. Foreign workers were quickly exempted from these restrictions. In other words, the authorities relaxed the rules for them, thus allowing immigrants with a work permit or a letter of introduction (the permit has been approved, but will be issued in Canada) to enter the country.

Relatives accompanying the foreign workers were also taken into account: they could ask for a written authorization from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to enter Canada, if they did not have their own status (such as a work or study permit).

Although foreign workers were among those authorised to enter Canada, one of the indirect consequences of the border closures, was to create confusion in regards to immigration. As the borders were closed, many employers and candidates thought it was no longer possible to apply for a work permit from abroad.

Fortunately, for the dynamism and appeal of Canada, this is a misconception.

Application processing suspended

In fact, despite the pandemic, and with the exception of a period of a few weeks, the application processing has continued, albeit with a few delays. For example, you should allow 15 weeks for the processing of a work permit application submitted online with the Canadian Embassy in Paris.

For certain workers, the path can be quicker.

For specific projects or for candidates in essential jobs, it is possible to request priority treatment, with supporting evidence, which will be evaluated by the IRCC agent. This type of request can be based, for example, on the launch of a range of equipment linked with the fight against the pandemic; additional labor requirements to cope with infrastructure projects that continue despite lockdown.

In that case, what are the consequences of the border closures on professional entries?

The consequences are nevertheless real.

Immigrants, for example, who were previously authorized, such as Europeans, can no longer submit a work permit application directly on arrival in Canada. This has always involved some uncertainties: however, this was the usual route for intra-company transfers within international groups.

Other consequence: entries, such as business or work permit-exempt visitors, are no longer permitted from outside the country, except in a very few limited cases.

One of these, for example, would be a person coming to provide an essential service to Canada, such as a foreigner coming to inspect industrial equipment in order to maintain critical infrastructures. Here, the uncertainties come from having to convince the airline of the essential nature of the work, and the border officials that this is not part of the travel restrictions. This can be discouraging, considering the risks involved.

To conclude, an important reminder, everyone who is authorized to enter the country must however self-isolate for a period of 14 days, unless exempt. As of 7th January, a negative COVID-19 test is also required. Once in Canada, foreign workers, as well as Canadians, are currently advised against all non-essential international travel.

This article discusses recent news, which is likely to evolve rapidly. Last update: January 19, 2021.

This article contains general information regarding immigration, is intended to provide a general understanding of the terms and does not constitute legal advice. For complete legal advice, contact our professionals.

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