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

Canada's immigration agency says COVID-19 has limited its ability to process applications from prospective new residents.
Canada’s immigration agency says COVID-19 has limited its ability to process applications from prospective new residents.

Still want to move to Canada? Read this

If you’re still interested in immigrating to Canada, here are your next steps if applying online:

Step 1: Register with IRCC

This is required of all prospective immigrants. You’ll need an account to start the application process, pay any fees and track your application status.

Step 2: Pick a lane

Determine which type of permanent Canadian residency best suits your qualifications.  If you have a family connection, it might be easier for you to obtain permanent residence. Otherwise, choose from one of the following:

Economic class

Economic-class applicants are prospective residents who can show they would be able to support themselves financially upon arrival in Canada. It would apply to the following:

Family class

This class is used for relatives seeking to reunite with family in Canada. The following are eligible:

Humanitarian class

Applicants for humanitarian-class programs are selected on the basis of social and humanitarian objectives. They include:

Step 3: Do the paperwork

Complete the appropriate application. Skilled workers can apply via the Expedited Entry program but need an invitation to do so. In order to determine eligibility, applicants must answer questions about their nationality, age, family, language skills, work experience and any job offers in Canada. (There are also processing fees involved.) Applicants who are not eligible will be informed about their next steps.

Step 4: Get your documentation together

Find out which supporting documents you need for your application. They vary by residency category and include a photocopy of the personal information pages of your valid U.S. passport, proof of English (and sometimes French) language proficiency, birth certificate and financial information. You may also need a certificate from the police attesting to your clean record and medical information.

First-time applicants may also need to submit biometric data such as fingerprints and pay the associated fees. This must be done at an approved site. 

Step 5: Submit online form and wait

After you submit your online form and supporting documents, IRCC will review your application to make sure it’s all in order and then decide whether your are eligible to become a permanent resident of Canada. You can track your application status online by signing into your account and checking for messages. If you applied on paper, you can still check your status online by linking your paper documentation to your online account.

What if you decide you’d like to become a citizen?

To apply for citizenship, you’ll need to have a permanent resident card and do the following:

  • Document that you’ve resided in Canada for three (1,095 days) of the five years preceding your citizenship application

  • Show you have not spent more than 730 days outside the country during that period

  • Be a permanent resident in good standing and not violate any conditions of your stay

  • Meet Canadian income tax filing requirements

  • Not be charged with any crimes during your time in Canada

  • Provide proof of proficiency in English or French

Contributing: Ashley Megan Mattingly-Arthur, Paul Singer, Zlati Meyer, Detroit Free Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020 have you considering a move to Canada? What to know

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