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Immigration expert optimistic about Canada reaching ambitious newcomer targets

An interview with David Cohen, Senior Partner of immigration law firm Campbell Cohen and founder of CanadaVisa.com

In January 2021, Scotiabank partnered with CanadaVisa, the most comprehensive private sector source of information on the Canadian immigration process, to offer support and guidance during these unprecedented times and help newcomers get their lives in Canada started right. Through this strategic digital pre-arrival partnership, Scotiabank is leveraging CanadaVisa’s platform of millions of annual users to raise awareness and engage newcomers.

Below is an interview with David Cohen, the Senior Partner of immigration law firm Campbell Cohen and the founder of CanadaVisa.com and cicnews.com.

A: The pandemic has affected immigration to Canada without question. Travel restrictions were put in place last year and it has not been quite the same since. One promising outlook is that Canada and its provinces continue to process immigration applications despite the restrictions. Most of those receiving invitations to apply for permanent residence are already in Canada. The Canadian government has said it looks forward to welcoming immigrants currently overseas when the pandemic situation allows.

Vaccine campaigns provide hope that the end is in sight. Soon, the pandemic will be behind us, and we will be once again focusing on what we do best as a country: facilitating the arrival of newcomers so they can make meaningful contributions here.

Immigrating is all about planning for the future. It is a long-term change. This is why it might be a good idea for immigration candidates to consider beginning the process of immigration soon, so that when the travel restrictions are finally lifted and we go back to normal, they are ready to travel to Canada and begin their new life here.

A: Canada introduced travel restrictions in March 2020. Many groups can still enter Canada. They include Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and their immediate and extended family members. Temporary foreign workers are another notable group that have been exempt throughout the pandemic.

International students who were issued a study permit on or before March 18, 2020 are allowed to come to Canada, as well as students who are attending a college or university that has a COVID-19 readiness plan.

Some Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders can enter Canada, but many remain unable to do so. I hope that the federal government can look at meaningful ways to accommodate this important group of newcomers soon.

If you’re allowed to come to Canada at the moment, there are a few things you should know. For example, most people are required to show a negative molecular COVID test result, taken up to 72 hours before travelling. If you previously tested positive for COVID, you must provide proof of a positive COVID test result between 14 and 90 days prior to your arrival to Canada. You still need to provide proof of your test results even if you have been vaccinated.

There are additional requirements such as mandatory testing, a hotel stay policy, and quarantine law that most travellers must abide by when they come to Canada. Rules are being updated constantly so you are strongly encouraged to visit the Canadian government’s website for the most up-to-date information.

A: Yes, I’m still very optimistic. Canada surpassed its Express Entry target in 2020 despite the pandemic. On February 13 of this year, Canada held a historic Express Entry draw when it invited over 27,000 immigration candidates to apply for permanent residence. This draw was nearly six times larger than the previous record. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) made a statement through this draw that it is serious about achieving its 401,000-newcomer goal this year. They recognize the influential role immigration will play in Canada’s economic recovery.

In my blog post, I discussed how Canada has placed an emphasis on “Canadian experience” when it comes to selecting candidates for immigration, and the historic Express Entry draw in February was no exception. Only candidates with at least one year of Canadian experience were invited. With many immigrants unable to travel to Canada at the moment, IRCC is largely depending on people who are already in Canada to become permanent residents. They expanded this effort recently by introducing new streams to allow some 90,000 essential workers and international graduates residing in Canada to apply for immigration status in 2021.

The policy of focusing on the in-Canada talent pool makes sense since there is plenty of government data that shows such candidates tend to have successful careers here.

This isn’t to say that Canada is unaware that there are plenty of future Canadians residing abroad and eager to call this country their new home. Canada is looking forward to eventually being able to return to normal by welcoming newcomers from all over the world.

A: Fortunately, this seems unlikely due to Canada’s forward-looking policies during the pandemic. Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) with employment in Canada have been exempt from the travel restrictions since day one. In October 2020, Canada added to its existing exemptions for international students by stating that those studying at a Canadian institution with a COVID-19 readiness plan can also enter the country.

The TFWs and international students arriving during the pandemic complement the large population of their peers that were residing here prior to COVID. Keep in mind that before COVID, some 70% of the one million or so newcomers that arrived in Canada each year were TFWs and students.

The large Express Entry draw this past February would not have been possible if so many of these bright and ambitious individuals were not already here. Moreover, the launch of the six new permanent residence streams for some 90,000 essential workers and international graduates is further evidence of this.

Hence, I am confident that we will be able to achieve our Canadian Experience Class and overall immigration targets in spite of the pandemic. When you think about it, Canada has a long history of defying the odds to achieve its immigration goals and this pandemic is yet another example of that.

A: I believe this is a huge opportunity for anyone looking to build a life in Canada.

Canada needs immigrants now more than ever. We have an aging population and low birth rate. The pandemic may end up accelerating many of the shifts that Canada was expecting to happen gradually over the next decade. For example, the pandemic has forced organizations to move more of their operations online, which may create an even greater appetite in Canada for global tech talent.

In what was a year full of surprises, the Canadian government really managed to catch us all by surprise with their ambitious 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan. The plan calls for the highest levels of immigration in Canada’s history with a baseline target of 401,000 new arrivals per year.

Those who already have approved files should take this time to really prepare themselves for landing in Canada. Conduct research on employment opportunities in your field. Perhaps you could consider other places in Canada that may be a good fit for you. Learn more about what Canada has to offer.

Immigration candidates who are only just considering moving to Canada should throw their hats in the ring. But first, we encourage them to do their research and if necessary, identify ways to strengthen their application. Common ways to do so include brushing up their language skills and gaining more work experience.

A: When you’ve received an invitation to apply for permanent residence, make sure you’ve got all your required documents. If you’re unsure about your documents, it might be a good idea to get an immigration lawyer to help you out. If you’ve lived in multiple countries, make sure you have all the police certificates required.

If you’re going to be on your way to Canada soon, learn about Canada’s tax system. Focus on what taxes you’re required to pay and what tax credits are. You may receive some tax benefits particularly if you have a family or if you are a student. Newcomers may be eligible for sales tax and other credits following their first tax year in Canada.

Speaking of which, you’re going to have to learn of a safe way to move your money to your Canadian account when you move here. So that is something else you should be exploring.

Learn about credit score. Your credit score is important if you wish to purchase a home, buy a car, take out a loan, or change your mobile phone. It shows sellers and financial institutions that you will be able to pay them back. When you first move to Canada, you will need to build up your credit score from zero.

Canada also offers free settlement supports as well as pre-arrival services that you can benefit from. Canada spends some $2 billion a year to provide these services, which is the highest amount of spending on newcomer settlement services by any government in the world. This is something I am personally proud of.

Do remember that you’re not alone. Canada wants you to succeed.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only. It is not to be relied upon as immigration or legal advice. Readers should obtain their own advice. investment advice or guarantees about the future, nor should it be considered a recommendation to buy or sell. Information contained in this article is subject to change without notice and The Bank of Nova Scotia is not responsible to update this information. All third party sources are believed to be accurate and reliable as of the date of publication and The Bank of Nova Scotia does not guarantee its accuracy or reliability.