Written By: Yan Wang
Posted On: February 20, 2020
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been occupying airtime and headlines around the globe in the past month. On January 20, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus a global health emergency. The Government of Canada issued advisory to avoid non-essential travel to mainland China. Several airlines, including Air Canada, are suspending flights to mainland China and Hong Kong.
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, a temporary resident may not be able to leave Canada, due to travel restrictions or other disruptions related to the new coronavirus. In such cases, can a temporary resident apply to remain in Canada for a longer period of time? Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has answered the question in the affirmative.
Foreign nationals who are not Canadian permanent residents may be authorized to enter and remain in Canada on a temporary basis, as temporary residents. Temporary residents may include visitors, workers and students. A temporary resident must leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay, i.e., when their legal status in Canada “expires.”
In early February, the IRCC announced special measures for the purpose of helping those who are affected by the COVID-19disruptions. Among the measures, temporary residents who are unable to leave Canada may apply to remain in the country, even if their legal status has already expired.
Temporary residents who still have valid status may apply to extend their stay. For those whose status has already expired, the type of application needed to extend one’s stay depends how long ago their temporary resident status in Canada expired.
For those who have not lost their temporary resident status for more than 90 days, an applicant may apply to restore their status in Canada. Generally, a temporary resident in Canada may apply to restore their status within 90 days after losing it (subject to other requirements), pursuant to s.182 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).
For temporary residents in Canada whose status has expired for more than 90 days, restoration is no longer an option. In its special measures, the IRCC has directed these applicants to consider applying for a temporary resident permit (TRP) in order to remain in Canada with legal status.
S.24(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) allows an officer to issue TRPs to foreign nationals who would otherwise be inadmissible or do not meet the requirements of the IRPA to become temporary residents. According to s.24, an officer must be “of the opinion that [issuing a TRP] is justified in the circumstances.”
Detailed guidance on applying s.24 is provided in the IRCC’s Operational Instructions and Guidelines. However, TPRs are only issued in exceptional circumstances. Officers are to issue permits only when a foreign national’s reason to enter or remain in Canada is compelling, and a foreign national’s presence in Canada outweighs any risk to Canadians or Canadian society.
The objective of section 24 is to “soften the sometimes harsh consequences of the strict application of lRPA,” as stated by the Federal Court in its 2006 decision, Ramzi Kamel Farhat v. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The court said that “[b]asically, the TRPs allow officers to respond to exceptional circumstances while meeting Canada’s social, humanitarian, and economic commitments.” (at para 22)
Upon receiving a TRP, a foreign national already present in Canada may extend their stay until the period of validity specified on the permit expires. The length of the period of validity for each TRP can be different and is decided by an officer in accordance with the IRPA and IRPR. Events that would render a TRP no longer valid are set out in s.63 of the IRPR. It is worth noting that a TRP may be cancelled at any time per s.24 of the IRPA.