The Government of Canada will implement a new immigration program that will allow certain asylum seekers who have been working in crucial healthcare roles during the COVID-19 crisis to apply for permanent resident status. IRCC published details of the program on August 14, following an official announcement made by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.
Throughout the health crisis, asylum seekers in Canada have been critical in providing services and care, especially in long-term care facilities where COVID-19 has hit the hardest. This program will recognize the incredible contributions made by these asylum seekers by enabling them to stay in Canada permanently.
The announcement comes after negotiations between the federal government and the province of Quebec, which will have a large number of residents eligible to apply through this pathway.
In order to be eligible for the program, asylum seekers must meet the following criteria:
- have claimed asylum before March 13, 2020,
- were issued a work permit after they made a claim for asylum,
- have worked in the health-care sector, in health institutions (for example, hospitals, long-term care homes, home care through an organization or agency, assisted living facilities),
- have worked in a designated occupation for no less than 120 hours between March 13, 2020 and August 14, 2020. The designated occupations that are included in this special measure are orderlies, nurses, nurses’ aides and patient service associates, assistant orderlies and certain home support workers,
- demonstrate 6 months of experience in the designated occupation before being granted permanent residence. Applicants will have until August 31, 2021 to acquire this experience,
- have a Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ), if wishing to reside in Quebec,
- meet existing admissibility requirements, including those related to criminality, security and health.
Interested candidates can follow the IRCC website where application procedures will be posted.
Any asylum seeker residing in Quebec will need to follow the province’s two-step immigration application process where they first apply for a Certificat de Selection du Quebec (CSQ) and then apply for permanent resident status at the federal level.
The program is good news for asylum seekers across Canada, estimated to impact about 1,000 individuals. However, it will be most impactful for those in Quebec, where long-term homes (called CHSLDs in the French-speaking province) were particularly hard hit by COVID.
Quebec is one of the common arrival points for asylum seekers with many choosing to cross into Canada from the United States at an irregular crossing point near Roxham Road.
Asylum seekers are individuals who request asylum in Canada based on a fear of persecution or violence in their home country. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that many of these people are willing to shoulder mountains of risk and responsibility to contribute to the well-being of the country they wish to call home.
This is an emerging story and will be updated as more details become available.