Immigration services to reopen gradually after pandemic shut down many programs | INS The Immigration Specialists Inc.


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  • Immigration services to reopen gradually after pandemic shut down many programs

    Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shut down immigration tests and citizenship ceremonies in March to protect the health and safety of staff and clients. The department started offering some virtual services over the last few months. Starting this week, it is opening in-person services by appointment only.

    "This testing phase will allow us to assess our protocols and procedures and ensure the safety of our staff and our clients. The lessons learned will help us plan for reopening services more widely in the future," says the IRCC's website.

    IRCC is gradually resuming some in-person services for citizenship, permanent residence, asylum, and biometrics collection. IRCC is only offering in-person services by appointment only and they will contact you to schedule the appointments. 

    This gradual reopening of in-person services is part of a testing phase for IRCC. The services being offered, effective September 21, are for applicants who have faced significant disruptions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Canadian citizenship services

    The Vancouver Expo is reopening for limited citizenship-related services, including citizenship knowledge re-testing and citizenship hearings. 

    There is no indication regarding whether Canadian citizenship tests will be offered, which many applicants have been advocating for.

    Permanent resident services

    The IRCC offices in Etobicoke and Montreal will be reopening and offering limited services for Canadian permanent residents. These services will include permanent resident card pick ups or for those who need permanent residence determinations. 

    A permanent residence determination interview is when an immigration official evaluates if a permanent resident has met the residency obligation to maintain their status. To maintain your permanent residence status in Canada, an applicant must reside in Canada for 730 days in a five year period. 


    Effective September 21, IRCC will begin contacting applicants who require biometrics for their Canadian immigration applications. This will be a very gradual process taking months. If you live in a densely populated area where many applicants are waiting to give biometrics, expect this process to take even longer. 

    Collecting biometrics to support your Canadian immigration application has been a source of frustration for many. IRCC has relaxed the biometrics requirements for some applicants. In other cases, candidates have been granted extensions but for many to complete their applications, they still need to provide them.


    The IRCC offices in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, and Niagara Falls will offer limited services for asylum seekers. If the gradual reopening goes well, IRCC plans to open additional offices in Vancouver, Montreal and Etobicoke.

    Efforts to speed up processing

    Mathieu Genest, spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said the department has been adapting its systems to speed up the processing of applications while protecting the health and safety of staff, clients and Canadians. IRCC has prioritized applications from Canadians and permanent residents returning to Canada, as well as people performing essential services.

    Staff now have more resources and streamlined processes for working remotely, he said.

    "The expansion of the resumption of in-person services will depend on the results of and lessons learned during this pilot, as well as regional health guidelines, available capacity and virtual alternatives, among other considerations," he said.

    IRCC has introduced safety measures at its locations — including a self-assessment questionnaire that must be completed before an appointment and again before entering the premises.

    All employees and clients are required to wear masks, maintain physical distance and follow signs directing the flow of foot traffic. People who appear ill will have to reschedule their appointments.

    Source: IRCC


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