COVID-19 Immigration Update

COVID-19 Immigration Update

The US Restricts Immigration

On April 20, 2020, President Trump tweeted that he would close down
immigration in response to COVID-19.  As
this was less than descriptive, a Proclamation was issued on April 22nd
to further clarify what exactly those 140 characters meant.  First and foremost, Trump is looking to
suspend and limit the entry of those who are not U.S. Citizens.  More specifically, the suspension will limit
entry to those currently outside the U.S. who do not already have a valid
immigrant visa and travel document. The administration is also implementing a
suspension of the issuance of Green Cards and Immigrant visas for at least 60
days.     

Good news, there is
a relatively long list of exemptions to this entry ban which include:

  • Lawful Permanent
    Residents
  • Medical or
    health care professionals
  • Individuals
    applying for EB-5 immigrant investor visa program
  • Spouses of
    U.S. citizens
  • Children
    of U.S. citizens under 21
  • Individuals
    who would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives
  • Members of
    the U.S. armed forces, their spouses and children
  • Individuals
    and their spouses or children eligible for Special Immigrant Visas
  • Individuals
    whose entry would be in the national interest

Further, there is a special section of the proclamation which directs
the Secretaries of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security to review all
non-immigrant programs and “recommend to the President other appropriate
measures to stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure the ‘prioritization, hiring
and employment’ of U.S. workers”.  In
line with what we’ve seen from the Trump administration thus far, it is not
unreasonable to expect that whatever decisions relating to immigration are made
will be implemented through policy, not a change in the law.  Moreover, we will see the changes in policy
exercised through the adjudication of applications submitted to United States
Citizen and Immigration Service, the U.S. Consulates worldwide and at Ports of
Entry. 

It is apparent the focus of the proclamation is to protect and stimulate
the U.S. economy. While no specifics have been provided since the Proclamation,
we can likely expect that any entry to the U.S. or adjudication of an
application (non-immigrant and immigrant alike) will have a much higher
likelihood of approval if the employer is creating jobs for Americans in
addition to bringing in foreign workers. Employers submitting applications
through all venues will need to ensure they have provided all relevant
documentation and prepared their employees for in person interviews.    The
proclamation alluded to further changes, which under the Trump administration
will likely continue to evolve, and our team is monitoring closely.   

Canada Mandates Quarantine After Travel

In its next stage of the fight against COVID-19, the Government of
Canada as of April 15, 2020 updated an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act. Any traveller arriving
in Canada (whether showing symptoms of COVID-19 or otherwise) is required to
isolate for 14 days and now cannot isolate or quarantine in a place where they
would be in contact with people who are vulnerable. This additional measure includes
adults 65 years old or over or people with pre-existing medical conditions. Any
person may be denied entry to Canada if they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

Importantly, travellers arriving in Canada, whether they have symptoms
or not, will need to confirm that they have a quarantine plan; they must
confirm they have a suitable place to isolate or quarantine, with access to
basic necessities, such as food or medication. If travellers do not have a
suitable quarantine plan, they must go to a place designated by the Chief
Public Health Officer of Canada.

Travellers are also required to wear a non-medical mask while travelling
to wherever they will be isolating or quarantining and will be provided one if
they do not have their own.

Ignoring isolation can cause big, expensive problems. Failure to comply
could mean maximum penalties of a fine up to $750,000 or imprisonment for six
months, or both. A person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily
harm to another person while willfully or recklessly contravening the Quarantine Act or the regulations could
be liable for a fine of up to $1,000,000 or imprisonment of up to three years,
or both. Spot checks are to be conducted to verify compliance.

There are, however, limited exceptions to the requirement to isolate or
quarantine including certain persons who cross the border regularly. The
exceptions focus on ensuring the flow of goods and essential services. Detailed
review of the Order or seeking the advice of an immigration lawyer is
recommended to clarify whether you or your employees may be exempt from these
requirements.

Employers bringing in foreign workers and returning Canadians alike should ensure they are well-prepared when entering Canada to ensure they can withstand scrutiny at the border regarding their next steps.

If you have questions about this post, or have any other immigration questions, please contact the Immigration team at Field Law.

Evie Thorne

Evie Thorne

Evie is an Edmonton-based lawyer, practicing in the areas of labour + employment, human rights, business immigration, and professional regulatory. Evie advises her clients with issues such as defending grievances, severance reviews and negotiations, human rights commission issues, employment litigation, drafting and assessing workplace policies and procedures, and professional regulator governance and discipline issues. Her in-depth research and personal experiences allow Evie to approach with a practical focus and mitigate risk from many perspectives.

Miranda Sinclair

Miranda Sinclair

Miranda Sinclair is a Calgary-based lawyer focusing her practice in labour and employment, and immigration representing both businesses and individuals. Miranda has experience in both US and Canadian immigration matters, allowing her to assist clients on both side of the border. In her practice, she has successfully helped individuals and employers with applications to the US in both immigrant and non-immigrant categories. Miranda has assisted multi-national companies around the world manage their immigration program, ensure compliance and develop strategies for anticipated policy changes.

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