The Latest on Immigration Issues and COVID-19

March 27, 2020

By: Brooke Finlay, Managing Partner, Whistler Immigration

Travel Bans

Travel to Canada by land and air is restricted to Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members with a few exemptions.

Foreign workers who have a work permit or have been approved (before and after the travel ban was implemented) to work in Canada are exempt from the travel ban. This includes LMIA and LMIA-exempt work permits (i.e. Working Holiday).

International students who have a valid study permit or were approved a study permit on or before March 18, 2020 are also exempt from the travel ban, along with individuals approved permanent residence on or before March 18, 2020.

Immediate family members of temporary residents (visitors, students and workers) may be exempt from the travel ban if they obtain a letter from Global Affairs Canada (GCA), Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

It is mandatory for anyone arriving in Canada to self-isolate for 14-days. Failure to do so can result in fines and jail-time.




Temporary resident status

Temporary workers, students and visitors in Canada can apply online to extend their status if it will be expiring soon. Applications for extensions must be made before an individual’s current status expires.

Foreign workers who are laid off due to COVID-19 can remain in Canada and return to work when businesses reopen. Employer-specific work permits do not expire prematurely if a worker is laid off (i.e. provincial nominees, young professionals).

Flagpoling is prohibited until further notice. Work permit applications made on entry at airports are being processed if an individual enters Canada from the USA. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit their application online as travel outside Canada is not recommended and anyone entering Canada must quarantine for 14 days.

Permanent Residence

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) continue to invite, accept and process applications for permanent residence.

Applicants unable to provide supporting documents due to COVID-19 can include an explanation for the missing document.

Processing offices remain open, however processing delays are expected.

Upfront immigration medical exams, English Tests and Education Credential Assessments

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has suspended all upfront medical exams until further notice.

Many language test centres and ECA offices are suspending operations or experiencing delays.

BC Medical Services Plan

In response to COVID-19, individuals who are currently in B.C., who were previously enrolled in MSP as a deemed resident (including Working Holiday and open work permit holders), and their MSP has expired, may be provided temporary MSP coverage.

Individuals should contact Health Insurance BC to request this temporary coverage.

Toll-free: 1 800 663-7100
Lower Mainland: 604 683-7151

This may include individuals who have applied for a new work or study permit but it has yet to arrive (implied status).

In these circumstances temporary coverage will be granted until July 31, 2020.

Employment Insurance and Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Temporary foreign workers are eligible for EI benefits if they meet the program requirements.

Eligibility criteria for the Emergency Response Benefit are still being worked out but it is expected that TFWs will be eligible to apply.

The Emergency Response Benefit will be available to people facing unemployment due to COVID-19. Individuals and families will be able to apply in early April through the Government of Canada’s secure online portal.

The Province of British Columbia is also offering support to individuals who have lost work due to COVID-19, including a rent subsidy.