Thinking about moving to Canada after the election? COVID-19 could affect your plans

Researching residency requirements for other countries and threatening to move to Canada when the presidential election doesn’t go your way is becoming a quadrennial tradition.

Due to an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots and early votes cast, the 2020 election for president hasn’t been called yet and may not be settled for days. So that’s giving nervous voters a little extra time to daydream about becoming an expatriate.

Most voters don’t follow through on the old “If my candidate loses, I’m moving to Canada” threat, but if they’re serious about it now, the COVID-19 pandemic may throw a wrench in their plans.

Right now, simply visiting Canada is difficult. The pandemic has resulted in a nearly eight-month closure of the U.S.-Canada land border, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that won’t change until America gets its COVID-19 infection rate under control.  

“Until further notice, most foreign nationals cannot travel to Canada, even if they have a valid visitor visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA),” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the agency which facilitates the arrival of immigrants, said on its website. 

According to IRCC, the only people currently allowed to travel to Canada are:

  • Permanent residents coming for 15 days or more 
  • Immediate family members of Canadian citizens who have permission from IRCC and are coming for reasons other than leisure travel
  • Immediate family of someone registered as Indian under Canada’s Indian Act
  • Airline crews
  • Military personnel reporting for official duties and their immediate family members
  • Accredited diplomats and their immediate family members
  • International students
  • Temporary workers

Those that do get permission must provide contact information via the ArriveCAN app or a printed form, undergo a health screening at their airport if flying and provide the agency with their plans for Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Foreigners coming for compassionate reasons, such as caring for a sick loved one or attending a funeral, must have special permission from the Public Health Agency of Canada exempting them from border restrictions and quarantine.

IRCC noted that immigrants who received a confirmation of permanent residence prior to March 18 are not subject to the travel restrictions if they are coming to permanently settle upon arrival. Immediate family members sponsored by a citizen are also exempt.

Pandemic has slowed processing and the number of immigration applications

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 also impacted the way IRCC handles prospective immigrants. The agency says it is unable to process immigration applications on a normal timetable or provide estimates on how long yours might take. Currently, the agency says it’s prioritizing certain groups, including citizens and permanent residents returning to the country, people coming to provide essential services and vulnerable people.

But there’s also some good news: the IRCC says pandemic has actually depressed the number of new immigration applications, meaning your odds might improve if you check the right boxes, such as French-language proficiency. Front-line medical workers who make asylum claims are also being given special consideration.

On Oct. 30, the agency  announced: “To compensate for the shortfall and ensure Canada has the workers it needs to fill crucial labor market gaps and remain competitive on the world stage, the 2021 to 2023 levels plan aims to continue welcoming immigrants at a rate of about 1% of the population of Canada, including 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023. The previous plan set targets of 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022.”

Jumping through hoops: Immigrants, border families face difficulties amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

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