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Canada’s immigration department is working to accommodate those whose visa applications are being hindered by COVID-19 containment measures in China, Iran, and South Korea

The Canadian immigration department is working to accommodate visa applicants from China, Iran, and South Korea as the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) causes service disruptions and travel restrictions.

Nationals of these three countries who have applied for a Canadian visa, but who are unable to comply with certain requirements due to circumstances beyond their control, will be given more time to complete the necessary steps, such as providing their fingerprints and photo.

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) expanded the special measures implemented for China, on February 7, to include citizens of Iran and South Korea on February 29.

The IRCC webpage says that special measures apply to the following types of applicants:

  • Chinese, Iranian, or South Korean Nationals; or
  • those who are in China, Iran, or South Korea; and
  • those who are affected by service disruptions or travel restrictions related to COVID-19

“Disruptions” may include any of the following:

  • visa application center closures;
  • service disruptions;
  • limited access to local government offices and businesses; and
  • limited access to a panel physician who can do the immigration medical exam.

IRCC will also be able to help those who need a permanent resident travel document to return to Canada.

In addition, the immigration department will still accept incomplete applications from those who are applying for a visitor visa, work permit, study permit, or permanent residence.

“No application in progress will be closed or refused due to a lack of documentation,” the IRCC webpage says. “We’ll automatically give you an extra 90 days to complete these steps. Once you’re able to, complete the steps as soon as possible to avoid delays.”

The additional 90 days also applies to the biometrics deadline. Though the instruction letter says this step must be completed within 30 days, the IRCC is giving an additional 90 days to those applicants who have been affected by service disruptions— no new biometrics instruction letter required.

IRCC has laid out special instructions for affected permanent resident applicants, work or study permit applicants, and citizenship applicants. In most cases, it is necessary to communicate with IRCC through their online web form.

Permanent resident applicants

Those who are applying for Canadian permanent residence through the Express Entry system must submit their application within 60 days of receiving their Invitation to Apply (ITA).

However, IRCC will accept incomplete applications provided that applicants were unable to send all the required documents due to disruptions related to COVID-19. Applicants must send a letter explaining the reasons why the documents are missing, and the application will be held until further notice.

When applicants do obtain the missing documents they may send them to IRCC using the online web form. This same form can also be used for those who wish to withdraw their application. Refunds may be available to those who withdraw within 24 hours of submitting, as long as processing has not yet started.

Canadian citizenship applicants

Those who anticipate that they will miss an important date in their citizenship application process must contact IRCC via their online form, and explain why. Citizenship events or appointments may include one of the following:

  • the knowledge test;
  • a retest;
  • the interview;
  • a hearing; or
  • taking the Oath of Citizenship.

You must contact IRCC within 30 days of missing the appointment.

If you need to submit documents use the online form to tell IRCC when you have returned from an affected country. You will be given an additional 30 days for most required documents and an additional 45 days for medical opinion forms.

Citizenship applicants will still need to meet the physical presence requirement. Canada requires that applicants be present in the country for at least three years out of the five years immediately preceding the date of their citizenship application. Extra days spent in affected countries due to the virus will not count as days in Canada.

Restricted from traveling to Canada after permanent residence approved

Those who have been approved for permanent residence, but are unable to travel to Canada before their documents expire must use IRCC’s web form to explain their situation. Once travel becomes possible again, they must tell IRCC via the online form in order to receive instructions regarding restarting the processing of the permanent residence application.

The same instructions apply for those whose confirmation of permanent residence has already expired.

Temporary workers, students, and visitors unable to leave Canada

Foreign nationals who are in Canada on a visitor visa can apply online to extend their stay in Canada.

Temporary workers and students have a couple of options depending on their circumstances.

Those who are no longer working or studying can apply to change their status to a “visitor,” as long as the study or work permit has not expired.

Some may be able to extend their work permit or study permit if they are eligible. IRCC says it is important to include a note in the application explaining the reason for extending a stay in Canada.

If the visitor record, work or study permit has expired within 90 days it may be possible to restore status.

If the 90-day mark has been passed, it may be possible to apply for a temporary resident permit.

Special instructions by country

If you are a permanent resident, visitor visa applicant, study permit applicant, or work permit applicant who needs to travel to Canada urgently, IRCC recommends following the instructions below:

China

Those who need a permanent resident travel document to come to Canada from China urgently due to exceptional circumstances can email the visa office in Beijing, China, (beijing-immigration@international.gc.ca) to request urgent processing. The application must be submitted to the visa office by courier.

If you need a visitor visa, study permit, or work permit to travel to Canada urgently:

  • Apply online at the government’s webpage
  • After applying, or if you have already applied, request the urgent processing of your application to the visa office in Beijing, China via email: beijing-immigration@international.gc.ca. Applications will be processed on a case-by-case basis.

Iran

Permanent residents coming from Iran who need their permanent resident travel document can submit a web form to IRCC.

The form will ask “Is your application being processed by an office outside Canada?” You must answer “Yes.”

It will then prompt you to “Choose the visa office processing your application” where you need to select “Turkey — Ankara.”

In exceptional circumstances where you need to travel to Canada urgently, email the Ankara, Turkey, visa office at ANKRA@international.gc.ca. The application will need to be submitted to the visa office by courier.

If you need a visitor visa, study permit, or work permit to travel to Canada urgently you need to apply online at the government’s webpage.

After you apply, fill out a web form and explain your situation and request urgent processing of your visa or permit application. In order to make sure it goes to the right office, IRCC recommends the following:

  • When asked “Is your application being processed by an office outside Canada” answer “No.”
  • Complete the rest of the form.

South Korea

Canadian permanent residents in South Korea who need a permanent resident document to travel to Canada must submit a web form.

The form will ask “Is your application being processed by an office outside Canada?” You must answer “Yes.”

It will then prompt you to “Choose the visa office processing your application” where you need to select “Philippines — Manila.”

In cases where you need to travel to Canada urgently due to exceptional circumstances, email the visa office in Manila, Philippines, at MANILIMMIGRATION@international.gc.ca. The application will need to be submitted to the visa office by courier.

If you need a visitor visa, study permit, or work permit to travel to Canada urgently you need to apply online at the government’s webpage.

After you apply, fill out a web form and explain your situation and request urgent processing of your visa or permit application. In order to make sure it goes to the right office, IRCC recommends the following:

  • When asked “Is your application being processed by an office outside Canada” answer “No.”
  • Complete the rest of the form.
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