Immigration to Canada and Covid-19

The Canadian government has temporarily suspended admissions due to the Coronavirus pandemic. For the time being, this has been declared a temporary measure, but it may be a prelude to changes in Canadian immigration policy.

Officially, the Canadian government has stopped accepting immigrants while there are restrictions on foreigners entering the country. Currently, Canada is open only to its citizens, permanent residents, and their families.

At the same time, Citizenship and Immigration Canada explains that the agency continues to review applications received. In total, Canada planned to admit 341 thousand people this year, 351 thousand in 2021, and 361 thousand more in 2022. So far, the government has not given up these plans, so there seems to be no cause for alarm.

However, there are a few points that lead to the idea that we may face serious changes, and the government may change its plans to receive immigrants.

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Impact of coronavirus on economy

The main intrigue is related to the coronavirus pandemic and how long the fight with it will last. The exit from the pandemic has two scenarios. The first scenario is the development of a vaccine, its mass production and total vaccination of the world population. Or, at least, the Canadian population. In the best-case scenario, this will happen in about a year and a half, not before.

The second scenario is related to the decision to give coronavirus to everyone and get collective immunity. This scenario is being avoided, as it will lead to a large number of deaths. Although we generally can’t get away from this scenario, to prevent the simultaneous admission of a large number of patients to hospitals, quarantine measures are introduced. They cause the economy to slow down. Given that quarantine measures will have to be introduced regularly and for a long time, we have a long history of problems with the economy.

That is, in both cases we are talking about at least one and a half years, during which we will have to live in a pandemic. This means that the Canadian economy is entering a recession with the prospect of falling into depression. The following figures speak eloquently about the scale of what is happening.

Two weeks after the quarantine was introduced, more than 1 million people applied for unemployment benefits. These are only those who were fired due to problems in the companies due to the coronavirus. Applications for quarantine assistance from those left without quarantine income began on April 6. All of them will be paid a benefit of 2 thousand dollars for 4 months. Approximately 4 million people are expected to apply for quarantine in the first weeks.

In terms of unemployment, it was 5% before the pandemic began in Canada. It is expected that by summer it may grow up to 15%. If quarantine continues until autumn, the unemployment rate may rise to 25%-30%. This will be higher than in the Great Depression.

Add to this the huge budget deficit that is forming before our eyes. The assistance that the state provides to millions of people who are left without salaries, and the funds that are now allocated for the purchase of necessary medical equipment and for the fight against coronavirus, all this creates a huge debt, which the country will have to pay for many years.

In this regard, opposition parties in Parliament are beginning to ask the question – isn’t it time to stop immigration until the economy returns to its normal state? They argue that immigration was necessary because of a shortage of manpower in Canada. In a situation where the economy has fallen into recession, there is no work and the unemployment rate is breaking all records, hiring additional workers from abroad looks at least illogical.

In addition, if immigrants cannot find a job or lose it, they will receive social assistance from the government. With a budget deficit, it will be difficult to provide such assistance.

Therefore, it is quite possible to wait for the government to review its approaches to immigration policy in Canada. It is likely that provincial programs will be affected in the first place. If there is confidence in the federal programs for skilled workers that they will not be closed, the provincial programs cannot be said about this.

Federal programs

We have already written many times about the fact that federal programs for professionals are overwhelmingly attended by graduates of Canadian colleges and universities who have found jobs in Canada and have worked for at least 1 year. The remaining small percentage are people who have found jobs in Canada through transfers within international corporations. All of them are mostly Canadian Experience Class immigrants.

The reason for this state of affairs is a feature of the Express Entry pre-selection system, which is configured to accept this category of immigrants. For those who have no Canadian experience and are not invited to work in Canada, it is not possible to pass through the Express Entry sieve. If this happens, it is a rare exception to the rules.

When it comes to Canadian college and university graduates, the government has no reason to impose restrictions on the Canadian Experience Class program. If a person has already worked for 1 year in Canada, that means they are employed, in their place, and will not be a burden on Canada. It makes sense that they are given the opportunity to become permanent residents.

If the individual has not been able to find a job in Canada after graduation, he or she will have no reason to immigrate successfully under the Canadian Experience Class program. Here too, the first condition to reduce the number of immigrants admitted is that it will be extremely difficult to find work if unemployment is high.

The second condition is that it will make it more difficult for foreigners to enroll in Canadian studies. With quarantine measures, online enrollment, and restrictions on international students entering Canada, it will be difficult for international students. And this can be a problem for those who wanted to immigrate to Canada through study at a Canadian college or university. It is very likely that it will be difficult to come to study in Canada in the next year or two.

In fact, the number of people who will be able to attend federal programs for professionals will decrease significantly, and admissions will decrease by itself, without having to formally change quotas. The plan will not be fulfilled, the quotas will not be chosen, and this will suit everyone.

Provincial programs

While federal programs for professionals are mostly open to graduates of Canadian colleges and universities, only provincial programs remain open to professionals from abroad.

Of course, provinces are also the first choice for Canadian college and university graduates, but they do issue some invitations for professionals from abroad. This explains the popularity and unique role of these programs. However, the need for these programs has now been questioned.

All existing provincial programs have been created to attract the right people to specific provinces. For the most part, there was a shortage of such workers in the oil and gas industry and the commodities sector during their heyday.

With the economy falling into depression and unemployment reaching extreme levels, the need for additional workers disappears. Accordingly, provincial programs lose any sense.

For example, take the province of Alberta, a center of oil and gas production in Canada. This province, at the time of oil industry growth, was most interested in workers from abroad, and its immigration programs were very popular.

Now there is an absolutely opposite picture. At present, it is one of the most problematic provinces in Canada. While in the next month or two unemployment in Canada as a whole is projected at 15%, in Alberta it is projected at 25%. Obviously, with such unemployment there is no point in accepting workers from abroad as well.

A special irony is that the Prime Minister of Alberta is now Jason Kenney, who when he was Minister of Citizenship and Immigration of Canada became the architect of the new immigration policy of Canada, under which the system is currently working. He was the one who made it a priority to hire immigrants to fill jobs instead of the previous principles of selecting the most educated and better suited people for Canadian society. And now he is the first person to refuse to accept workers from abroad.

The fact that there is no need for workers from abroad does not mean that the provinces will stop hiring them tomorrow. Like any bureaucratic machine, provincial immigration authorities will continue to select workers even when they no longer need them. Until they are told to stop doing so. However, it seems that stopping these programs is only a matter of time.


So far, the government has only stopped receiving immigrants. In particular, acceptance of applications for family sponsorship of parents is also delayed. It is not known when it will be open, and what quotas will be allocated. The coronavirus pandemic and growing economic problems are making adjustments, including in Canada’s immigration policy.

How Canada’s immigration policy will change, whether immigration quotas will be maintained in full or reduced depends on when the pandemic ends and when the economy begins to recover. In the meantime, you need to be prepared for any changes, and before you take any steps related to immigration, you need to clarify with official agencies what rules currently apply.

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