Canada operates the most innovative and adaptable immigration system in the world.
It has always come up with unique ways to achieve its immigration goals and solve problems. For example, upon its Confederation in 1867, Canada sought to welcome high levels of immigration to build the country. It failed in this regard for several decades since it was an unappealing destination for immigrants at the time. However, it improved its recruitment tactics and boosted its appeal, resulting in extremely high levels of immigration leading up to the First World War.
When Canada realized its subjective approach to selecting immigrants was no longer appropriate, it launched the world’s first-ever points system in 1967. In order to help more people overseas, Canada was the first country to introduce the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. This program enables people in Canada to sponsor and support refugee arrivals.
Fast forward to today, we see many Canadian immigration innovations on full display. Quebec operates its own immigration programs, and nearly every province and territory operates the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). These and other programs exist to spread the benefits of immigration across the country.
As is the case around the world, Canada is now facing a major crisis and has sought to adapt so it can achieve its immigration goals and help as many newcomers as possible.
For instance, it held the largest Express Entry draw ever on February 13th inviting 27,332 Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates to apply for permanent residence. The rationale for the draw, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), is that some 90 per cent of CEC candidates are currently residing in Canada, and hence, not affected by the travel restrictions Canada imposed in March 2020 to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. By holding this and other Express Entry draws, IRCC is aiming to transition as many people as possible within Canada to permanent residence status in support of their Immigration Levels Plan goal of landing 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021.
Other groups are also less affected by the travel restrictions such as temporary foreign workers, international students, and the family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. However, one major group remains on the outside looking in.
The plight of COPR holders
Individuals who have already been approved for permanent residence, but who are not exempt from the travel restrictions are still unable to travel to Canada. Such approved individuals have what is called by the federal government a “Confirmation of Permanent Residence” or “COPR” for short. Generally speaking, these are economic class immigrants who succeeded under Express Entry, the PNP, or any other program and have completed all of the requirements stipulated by the Canadian government. The last remaining step is for them to physically travel to Canada and officially become permanent residents. After spending three full years in Canada, they can become eligible for Canadian citizenship.
One may ask: Why should Canada allow COPR holders into the country when it is fighting a pandemic? Wouldn’t such a policy undermine such efforts as well as confidence in the immigration system?
This valid question can be answered as follows: Allowing COPRs into the country would only be fair as well as consistent with Canada’s current immigration policies.
Currently, the federal government is focusing on welcoming foreign nationals who need to come for essential reasons. Examples include foreign workers who have a job in Canada and international students enrolled at a Canadian college or university. A major policy goal of welcoming workers and students is to benefit the Canadian economy. In fact, this is the basis for welcoming temporary foreign workers altogether. It is a significant reason why the country also welcomes students. The federal government often notes that international students contribute over $21 billion each year to the Canadian economy.
Similarly, one can make a strong argument that immigrating to Canada is also an essential reason to travel here, and welcoming immigrants from abroad is extremely beneficial to the Canadian economy.
Just like foreign workers and international students, immigrants come here to pursue career and other personal objectives, they contribute to the economy via their work, taxes, and consumption, all of which in turn makes Canada a better country. New immigrants probably benefit the economy even more than foreign workers and international students over the long run, since they will work, pay taxes, and consume for decades, whereas many workers and students return home after just a few years in Canada.
Unlike foreign workers and international students, however, thousands of COPR holders have been stuck in limbo since last March. Some have quit their jobs, sold their belongings, and prepared themselves to make the move to Canada. However they continue to be uncertain and all they have right now are assurances from IRCC such as “[IRCC]…looks forward to welcoming skilled workers from abroad when travel resumes.”
How to welcome COPR holders to Canada safely
It made sense to limit travel into Canada at the start of the pandemic last year due to the lack of tools available at the time to contain travel-related COVID spread. Fortunately, we now have vaccines and processes in place that can allow Canada to welcome COPR holders into the country safely, as it does for foreign workers, students, and other foreign nationals entering the country for essential purposes.
Here is a step-by-step approach, taken from Canada’s existing procedures, that could be applied to accommodate the thousands of COPR holders looking to make the move to Canada:
Step 1: Ensure that COPR holders have completed medical exams that are still valid. If an individual’s medical exam has expired, kindly request they take another one and then inform IRCC.
Step 2: IRCC issues a travel authorization letter to COPR holders contingent on them completing some of the steps below.
Step 3: Prior to travelling to Canada, COPR holders are required to obtain COVID-19 vaccination and preferably receive a vaccine that has been approved by Health Canada.
Step 4: Prior to travelling to Canada, COPR holders would also need to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travelling to Canada.
Step 5: Upon arriving to Canada, COPR holders would need to provide evidence they have been vaccinated as well as show proof of their negative test. They will then receive their landing papers.
Step 6: COPR holders are to observe a mandatory quarantine period during their first 14 days in the country. They would also need to observe other requirements the federal government has in place, such as recent rules on being tested upon arrival, staying in a hotel for your first three days of quarantine, and getting another negative COVID test result at the end of the quarantine period.
Step 7: After the quarantine period, COPR holders could begin their new lives in Canada.
The above steps are onerous for all parties involved, namely the federal government and COPR holders. However, they would represent a better medium than Canada’s current policy, which shuts out many people, and is hurting the Canadian economy and COPR holders alike. This approach would also make Canadian immigration policy fairer, and more consistent, as it would recognize that those arriving here for permanent residence purposes, are in fact, essential travellers.
Finally, this approach would remind the world once again of just how innovative and adaptable our immigration system really is.
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