May 21, 2020
The Honourable Marco Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship
OPEN LETTER RE: SUPPORT FOR TEMPORARY FOREIGN WORKERS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
I am writing to follow up on our conference and your recent announcement regarding the short term policy changes for Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs).
TFWs have faced a number of significant challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is still much uncertainty regarding their status and the implications of the delays in the processing of their work permits.
First, according to the IRCC website, for open work permits for vulnerable workers: "Officers are instructed to process work permit applications on an urgent basis (5 business days from the time the application is received at the local IRCC office responsible for processing the application)." At the same time, the website also states: "However, processing times may be affected by fluctuating volumes of applications received at IRCC”. In reality, I have been informed by numerous advocates that within the past months the response time from IRCC has been on average one month for many who have applied. I am deeply concerned that this is far from the 5 business days as stated on the website. Given the precarious situation of these workers, it would be essential that their cases are processed expeditiously. I am therefore asking that you do everything you can to ensure the applications are indeed processed on an urgent basis - within 5 business days.
Second, your recent post indicating that processing times for work permits has been reduced to 10 days is encouraging. Can you please confirm that this applies to all work permit applications - given that the website states it applies to both the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program?
Third, intrinsically tied to the issue of work permits is the question regarding biometrics. As it stands, due to COVID-19 all biometrics appointments in Canada have been cancelled and walk-in biometrics collection are not available at any Service Canada. I appreciate that there is recognition of this and three measures are in place in an attempt to address this according to the IRCC website:
that there has been an automatic extension granted of 90 days, instead of 30 days to submit biometrics;
"... officers are encouraged to consider the use of the impossible or not feasible exemption under section R12.8 to exempt them from both the biometrics requirement and the fee"; and
"Applicants are also informed that an officer may request that they give biometrics after they apply."
Where I am concerned is that even with the extension, TFWs may still not be able to get their language to exercise the two measures is discretionary. What will happen to those who still cannot get their biometrics processed within the 90 days? Will TFWs be able to work while awaiting their work permit to be approved if it is dependent on the completion of their biometrics? Could you please advise why you have chosen not to issue a policy directive to officers that section R12.8 is to be used during this time?
Fourth, is it correct that for those whose work permit expired at the same time as when they lost their job due to COVID-19 would not be able to apply for a new work permit under this temporary measure? If that is the case, what options are available to those individuals?
Lastly, I have yet to receive a response from you on whether or not the period in which a caregiver is laid off due to COVID-19 would still count towards their 24-month work requirement. I urge that you not penalize these workers who have already been severely impacted by the pandemic. Likewise, I am still waiting for confirmation that those accessing and receiving other emergency benefits (not just the Canada Emergency Response Benefit) while engaged in the immigration process would not be penalized.
I hope you can recognize the urgency of these concerns. As always, I am here to offer my assistance and I look forward to your prompt response.
MP, Vancouver East