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Canadian Immigration 2021: What Can We Expect?

Posted January 4, 2021 at 4:00 a.m. EST Updated June 4, 2021 at 12:01 p.m. EDT

2020 was the year of the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to have a significant impact on Canada’s immigration system.

After accepting 341,000 new immigrants in 2019, Canada continued to accept large numbers of new immigrants early last year, but the immigration system was completely turned on its head when COVID-19 became a global crisis in March 2020.

Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions went into effect March 18, limiting the number of foreigners who can currently enter the country. However, the Express Entry System, Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), and other forms of immigration processing continue to function.

Due to the fluid nature of the coronavirus crisis, much remains uncertain what to expect from Canada’s immigration system in 2021. However, there are certain certainties that will benefit both Canada and future newcomers in 2021 and beyond.

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Canada’s immigration system will not return to normal until the pandemic is over. Fortunately, with the advent and approval of multiple vaccines, the end of the pandemic is in sight. Canada launched the largest vaccination campaign in its history in December and aims to vaccinate anyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccination by September 2021. Vaccinating Canadian residents will be a component in bringing the country and its immigration system back to normal. The other component ensures that the world population and foreign nationals traveling to Canada are free from the virus.

The travel restrictions Canada put in place during 2020 give an idea of ​​what COVID-19 guidelines it could enforce even if the spread of the coronavirus subsides. Canada, for example, could continue to maintain its 14-day quarantine law, as well as the requirement to get a negative COVID-19 test before entering Canada, in order to limit the spread of the virus within its borders.

It is important to emphasize that the crisis has not undermined Canada’s strong commitment to hosting immigrants, temporary foreign workers, and international students. In fact, Canada doubled that obligation because of the crisis. As part of its new immigration plan 2021-2023, Canada plans to accept over 400,000 new immigrants per year, which is the highest value in its history.

While it is hard to imagine that Canada can hit that target in 2021 while the pandemic continues, the higher targets allow Canadian federal and provincial governments to continue to conduct immigration draws and process applications. The reason for this is that even if Canada is unable to physically accept as many new immigrants as it wants in 2021, it can issue them the necessary permits so that they can move to Canada at a later date.

However, the advent of vaccines allows the Canadian government to look into possible changes to its travel restrictions. For example, Canada may consider lifting travel restrictions on newcomers who have received a COVID-19 vaccine and also present a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country. Lifting such restrictions would help the newcomers recover, which would give the country’s economy a much-needed boost. The rationale behind the 2021-2023 Immigration Quota Plan is that a significant increase in newcomers to Canada is needed to support Canada’s post-COVID economic recovery.

We should get a clearer picture of the direction of the Canadian immigration system sometime in January. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will send new mandate letters to his cabinet members. That has been delayed by the pandemic, but it is possible that the letters will finally be revealed this month. In this case, a new mandate to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino will set out the priorities the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will pursue in the coming years.

Another certainty is that the IRCC has confirmed that the 2020 Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) lottery will take place in early 2021, most likely this month. Up to 10,000 applicants are invited to submit sponsorship applications to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada. A little later this year, the IRCC will open the 2021 PGP eligibility window and host another lottery to invite up to 30,000 applicants to sponsor their parents and grandparents.

It is expected that the IRCC and Canada’s provinces and territories will attempt to normalize the immigration system to the best of their ability in 2021. At least we can expect and hope that 2021 will be a less turbulent year than 2020.

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