Canada’s immigration system may look different after the COVID-19 pandemic.
A tender posted to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website in June said “IRCC needs to act quickly to develop updated and new strategies and processes and digital systems to cope with the rapid change it is undergoing.”
This is in anticipation of increased demand for immigration after the pandemic, due to the almost non-existent flow of arrivals since mid-March. The government’s immigration target for this year was 371,000 new permanent residents, and it won’t come close to that number.
“When travel restrictions begin to ease a significant surge of applications and support requirements is anticipated, putting tremendous demand on our global operations and supporting branches,” says the tender announcement.
Most immigration applications are online already, with notable exceptions being cumbersome family class sponsorships and humanitarian and compassionate applications. But the pandemic has caused biometrics (photo and fingerprints) operations around the world and in Canada to close, in-person interviews to cease and citizenship ceremonies to be postponed or be online.
Having participated in a citizenship ceremony in North Bay, I can’t see a virtual ceremony coming close to the real thing.
Apart from prompting changes to the immigration application mechanisms, the pandemic is also causing headaches for post-secondary institutions relying on international student tuition fees and employers who can’t find Canadians or permanent residents to fill vacant positions, particularly in the skilled trades, IT, health care, transportation, and agriculture sectors.
Thousands of students and workers are waiting for travel restrictions to lift so they can come to Canada.
Repercussions will be felt in North Bay, with huge drops in international student enrolment expected for the fall. International students inject $6 billion into the Canadian economy each year in tuition fees alone. Apart from that, they spend on housing, food, clothing, entertainment, and transportation.
We have many international students and recent graduates in the city, working with the status of post-graduate work permits or with their study permits, which allow them to work full-time while school is not in session.
Many are in limbo, holding minimum wage jobs. They are hoping the economy will bounce back so they can find a job more suitable to their qualifications. Many earned foreign university degrees prior to coming to Canadore College or Nipissing University.
Those I see in my practice are very well educated and remain upbeat about their prospects in the Canadian job market. I see a willingness to go where the jobs are, not restricting themselves to North Bay. The fact that the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot has not started in the city will likely cause some to move elsewhere to gain work experience to qualify for permanent residence.
Of the 11 communities in the pilot project, only North Bay and Moose Jaw have yet to start, with the delay due to IRCC’s pre-occupation with COVID-19 issues.
Let’s hope our project gets rolling soon. It would be a shame to see young, well-educated people moving elsewhere to find work. But that is nothing new, even for those raised here. My sons live and work in Ottawa and Brockville.
The difference with international students is they chose to move to North Bay, and they would prefer to stay here because they like it. They moved from thousands of miles away and found the little bit of paradise that we all know and love.
Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant living in North Bay