Hundreds of would-be Canadian everlasting residents stranded overseas

When Prashant Gupta received his permanent residence confirmation, he quit his job and booked his flight to Canada to depart on March 18, 2020. Two days before his planned trip, the borders were closed and Canada was closed.

Now, seven months later, Gupta is one of thousands around the world who were unable to travel to Canada before their immigration papers expired and still cannot travel to Canada despite being just a step away from permanent residence.

When immigrant candidates receive confirmation of their permanent residence (COPR) and a permanent resident visa (PRV), it means they have completed almost every step of the Canadian immigration process. All you have to do is land in Canada and apply for your permanent residence card.

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COPRs can be valid for up to one year. People use this time to step back from their jobs, sell their property, pull their children out of school, say goodbye to their families, and make the other arrangements they need to make before settling permanently in Canada .

However, foreigners with expired COPRs and PRVs cannot board a plane even if they are exempt from travel restrictions. This rule existed before the pandemic. To travel to Canada, you will need a letter of approval from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). That is why the IRCC has launched a web form to process the sudden influx of people in this situation. The new online process started in July 2020.

Expired COPR owners are currently stuck here. By October 19, the IRCC had responded to 2,700 lead applicants who completed a web form. Of these, 120 have received their letters of approval.

“That’s the problem … a lot of us created the web form,” said Favor Elegbede, an expired COPR owner from Nigeria. “Someone will just tell you,” We have forwarded your documents to the appropriate office – to whom? Who is this office in charge? And why doesn’t the responsible office react to our files? “

Your first point of contact is an IRCC agent who is only responsible for answering web form requests. This agent will send you a general response stating that an IRCC officer will contact you once a decision has been made on the applicant’s file. However, they don’t give them a schedule of when to get feedback or when to travel.

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide schedules for processing Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR) extensions. Our offices across the country are reopening and we are continuing to work as quickly as possible on processing applications received during the pandemic. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/uEBpFH4hB7

– IRCC (@CitImmCanada) July 26, 2020

“You give a confusing kind of answer,” said Gupta. “When I booked my flight for August in July, they said that booked tickets would have priority.”

The instructions for delivering the IRCC program to immigration officers state that “Customers with a proposed or confirmed and detailed itinerary, or willingness to book and confirm travel plans immediately upon approval, will prevail.”

Gupta soon became one of the many people who booked one-way flights to Canada and then had to cancel them because they didn’t get the approval letter on time.

Ikenna Madueke, an offshore oil worker, estimates he lost at least $ 1,600 in booking and cancellation flights so he and his family could fly from Nigeria to Canada. This after seven months of unemployment.

“We cried the other day,” said Madueke. “We’re in limbo right now. We think … why did we choose to move to Canada? We really regret everything now. “

In a statement to CIC News, IRCC wrote:

“The IRCC is working on solutions to bring these future permanent residents to Canada while maintaining the health and safety of Canadians during the pandemic. With or without travel restrictions, travelers cannot come to Canada with expired documents. Since many of these customers have been prevented from traveling due to COVID-19, we have developed a new process to electronically renew their COPRs if they are approved (exempt from travel restrictions) and ready on or before March 18 are to come to live Canada. The capacity of the IRCC and CBSA, both at the port of entry and to assist air carriers, determines our ability to improve this innovative workaround so that more can benefit from it. “

Still some questions as to whether it is a capacity problem. The IRCC has a planned budget of approximately $ 2 billion for the period 2020-2021 and employs more than 7,000 people.

“It’s a simple one- or two-page document,” Gupta said in a video conference call with CIC News. “I don’t know what is holding them back and why they are not giving the enlargement.”

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Calls for help met with “loud” silence

David Ojo is a banker whose COPR has expired after international flights from Nigeria stalled on March 24th. Following directions from the IRCC, he sent in his settlement plans, quarantine plans and evidence that he had cut ties with his home country, including his resignation letter of his resignation in February.

But since then he has only received general answers. Emails that read “the appropriate office” will contact him “if more information is required or a decision is made [his] Application. “The email responses include links to other online government resources, but no schedule of when he can expect travel preparations.

While Ojo waits for the IRCC to make a decision on his file, he sits with a friend who lives out of his suitcase and waits for the letter of approval.

“We need them to speed this thing up, considering we’ve been stuck in our home countries for so long,” Ojo told CIC News. “Nine months is too long without doing anything.”

But Ojo was not idle. He has campaigned on behalf of the Canadian government, sending emails to the Prime Minister, Immigration Minister, Shadow Minister and the Standing Committee on Immigration. He also started an online petition that has garnered at least 2,900 signatures and is active in several online groups of other expired COPR holders. He says his efforts have not produced any tangible results.

“It was a loud silence,” Ojo said, adding that all he received from the prime minister’s office was a response that their message had been forwarded to the immigration minister. “Nothing happened. Practically nothing happened.”

New permanent residents slow down

Canada saw newcomers with permanent residences declined 64 percent in August year over year.

Just days before Canada closed its borders in March, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced that Canada will target 341,000 arrivals this year.

Data provided by Mendicino’s division to CIC News strongly suggests Canada will fall well short of that target due to the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, Canada was regularly taking in over 20,000 new permanent residents per month, but has not been able to reach that threshold since February. This is partly due to the fact that COPR holders who are exempt from travel restrictions cannot receive IRCC letters of approval to complete the landing process in Canada, and secondly because Canada shares those who received their COPRs after March 18 who imposed travel restrictions.

COPR holders approved after March 18 will be able to travel to Canada if they are traveling from the United States to settle and live in Canada. However, if they are traveling from outside of the United States, they can only come to Canada if they are exempt from any other category of travel restrictions, e.g. B. immediate family members.

This had a devastating effect in the first few months of Canada’s travel restrictions, when immigration rates plummeted in April to what is perhaps Canada’s lowest level since World War II. Meanwhile, the number of expiring COPRs has increased as future permanent residents are stranded overseas. Since then, the number of COPRs expiring per month has declined, which could be a function of the slowdown in permanent residence processing by the IRCC, resulting in fewer new COPRs being issued (and therefore expiring) than before the pandemic.

What’s next?

Next week, Minister Mendicino will announce Canada’s 2021-2023 immigration plan. A number of signs from his administration strongly suggest Canada will maintain immigration targets north of 300,000 in 2021 and beyond.

A strong sign are the record-breaking Express Entry draws that the IRCC held throughout the pandemic. Those who receive permanent residence invitations through Express Entry, Canada’s premier skilled worker application management system, will submit their permanent residence applications to the IRCC. They will then be given COPRs and PRVs to aid their trip to Canada.

If she and tens of thousands of others like Gupta, Elegbede, Madueke, and Ojo can officially obtain permanent residence, it is an unsolved problem.

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