We sat down with Evelyn Ackah, Senior Business Immigration Lawyer at Caravel Law, to discuss how COVID-19 has affected Canadian & US business-based immigration.
The ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on business-based immigration between Canada and the US.
From the new Omicron variant to fluctuating testing and quarantining requirements, it’s been incredibly challenging for businesses, lawyers and government officials to stay on top of new travel and immigration regulations.
What’s more, travel and border restrictions and limited operational capacity at home and abroad have caused a severe backlog of immigration applications. These delays have significantly impacted the growth of businesses looking to expand, and in some cases, they’ve put organizations a year or two behind where they want to be.
How can business owners who rely on immigration to grow their operations navigate these choppy post-pandemic waters? We’ve provided some guidance below.
- Prepare for delays with immigration applications
While the word ‘unprecedented’ has been thrown around a lot during the pandemic, the delays it has caused in immigration application processing times really is that – unprecedented.
These delays affect both individuals and businesses alike. Recent reports put the total number of outstanding immigration applications in Canada at just shy of 2 million.
We’re also seeing applicants facing delays getting their medicals and biometrics documents completed because some centers that provide these services have reduced or limited operational hours. For applicants that do get these documents, if there are delays on the government’s side in processing the immigration application, these documents can expire, which means applicants have to go through the process and pay the associated fees again. In some cases, extensions are being granted by the government to compensate for these delays.
What’s even more frustrating is that both individuals and lawyers are dealing with a lack of responsiveness from the government. As many immigration officers are not physically working in the office, they aren’t answering their phones. Webform requests are also often going unanswered, something that was unheard of pre-pandemic.
While the Government of Canada does provide real-time application processing times, we predict it will be a few years until we’re back to pre-pandemic levels.
- Understand that immigration officials may make mistakes
The entire IRCC department is feeling the pressure to review and process as many applications as possible, as quickly as possible.
As a result of this pressure, immigration officers are completely overwhelmed. We’re noticing mistakes being made on applications that never would have happened before.
While understandable given the circumstances, these mistakes are very frustrating for clients. We’ve had situations where we’ve provided a pitch-perfect application, and it was sent back three times as being ‘incomplete’. It’s frustrating for us and even more frustrating for clients who are putting their lives on hold waiting for these decisions to be made.
As lawyers, the communication channels we had access to pre-pandemic are also closed. While we used to have contact details for program directors from other consulates, we’re not getting much of a response now that many are no longer working out of their offices.
As a last-ditch effort, we’re actually urging our clients to speak with their Members of Parliament at their local constituency office. A lot of what they do is immigration-related, and some of our clients have found them to be helpful and supportive when it comes to advancing their applications.
- Accept that there are no guarantees
As immigration lawyers, we can prepare an application perfectly, with all the required paperwork in order and have done everything by the book, but an application may still be unsuccessful.
The chaos surrounding the immigration process means that it can come down to a border official using their discretion to decide whether or not to admit you into a country. With rules constantly changing, these border officials aren’t always 100% clear on the latest developments and often make decisions based on outdated or inaccurate information.
You can have the strongest application and do everything right and still be denied entry. If you set that expectation early on, it will be a much easier pill to swallow if you do get denied.
- Avoid making any life-changing decisions
With life on hold, it can be agonizing waiting for applications to get approved. And while it’s tempting to start making plans, we advise clients not to make any big decisions during the waiting period. This includes quitting a job, buying or selling property or making any big purchases. Given how erratic approval timelines currently are, your safest bet is to wait until you actually receive a finalized application before taking any big leaps.
- Remember that this will pass
Canada is still open for business – and the economy is reliant on immigration to keep it going. Whether it’s skilled workers for intercompany transfers, executive managers, organizations that want to expand into Canada or Canadian businesses that want to open up in the US, we need highly skilled workers, and we need them fast.
Ultimately, the goal should be to open our doors to everyone that qualifies as soon as possible. However challenging things are right now, remember that Canada is an excellent place for immigrants to make a fresh start and our doors will be fully open again soon.
Need business-based immigration support? Caravel Law is an alternative legal firm with over 70 qualified and experienced lawyers to help support your legal needs. Get in touch with our team to find out more.