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Canada Immigration Update

Hotel Quarantine for travelers to Canada by Air: As of midnight February 22, 2021, unless exempted, all travelers aged 5 and older to Canada by air are required to reserve a government-authorized hotel for 3 nights, take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival, stay in the hotel while awaiting results of said test, and pay for the cost of the hotel. Once a negative test result is received, travelers can then proceed to their home or other quarantine site for the remainder of the 14 day period. Travelers to Canada who are exempt from quarantine (those providing essential services, maintaining the flow of essential goods or people, as well as those receiving medical care within 36 hours or entering Canada, or who live in an integrated trans-border community) are also exempt from the hotel quarantine. Other narrow exemptions exist, including for diplomats and for certain 'extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances.' All travelers to Canada, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents, should ensure that they check the most recent travel information before leaving, or returning to Canada. 

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Pre-entry COVID-19 Test Requirements at the Land Border: As of midnight February 14, 2021, all travelers aged 5 years of older, regardless of citizenship, must provide proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular test at a land border entry. The test must be taken in the US within 72 hours prior to entry to Canada. There are a few narrow exemptions including for persons who have proof of a previous positive COVID-19 test,  those seeking essential medical services in another country, and those performing essential work as determined by the Chief Public Health Officer (this includes persons in trade and transpiration, frequent cross border workers, emergency services, government officials, and others). Other narrow exemptions currently exist for habitual residents of trans-border communities, cross-border students, and a dependent child entering Canada under a custody or access agreement. There is also a 'national interest' exemption and some allowance for 'unforeseen and extraordinary' circumstances. 

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Hong Kong Work Permit Pathway: On February 4, 2021, the Minister of Immigration announced a new pathway for Hong Kong residents to work and live in Canada. Hong Kong residents who have graduated with a Canadian post-secondary diploma or degree in the last 5 years, or who hold an equivalent foreign credential (of at least 2 years) can now apply for open work permits, which will be issued for up to three years. This new program will allow highly educated residents of Hong Kong, and their accompanying spouse and dependent children, to acquire critical Canadian work experience, which in turn opens up eligibility for permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class or other. 

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Extension of Travel Restrictions: Canada will extend the travel restrictions and Mandatory Isolation Order for all travelers seeking entry into Canada until March 21, 2021, including travelers from the U.S.. These restrictions may be extended at any time. This latest extension marks 1 year since border restrictions were introduced in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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US Immigration Update 

Changes to Naturalization - Reverting to 2008 Civics Test:  

On February 22, 2021, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced updated guidance in their Policy Manual regarding the educational requirements for naturalization. Effective March 1, 2021, USCIS will revert to administering the 2008 civics text to applications who filed for naturalization before December 1, 2020 or who file on or after March 1, 2021. There will be a brief period during which USCIS may offer both versions of the test. regarding the civics test. This new policy reverses the previously announced changes to the civics test under the previous administration. 

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Extension of Travel Restrictions: The U.S. has extended its travel restrictions  at its land borders with Canada and Mexico through to March 21, 2021.  These restrictions do not apply to air travel. Essential travel is permitted, and includes travel by U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and foreign nationals traveling to work in the United Statues. 

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Express Entry February Update
On February 13, 2021, IRCC broke with all conventions in the Express Entry processing system and issued 27,332 invitations to apply to candidates eligible under the Canadian Experience Class. The minimum CRS Points required to recieve an invitation was 75. This draw is 600% larger than the average draw from the Express Entry pool, and is considered to be an 'historic' draw meant to address the lagging numbers of immigrants approved since the start of the pandemic. 

What is not know is how this extremely large draw will impact processing times for pending applications for permanent residence. Additionally. with this 'emptying of the pool' it is unclear what the impact will be on the various Provincial Nominee Programs who also draw skilled candidates from the Express Entry pool. Finally, query when Federal Skilled Workers will next be invited to apply for permanent residence. If this draw is a sign of things to come, applicants for PR who meet the Canadian Experience Class requirements but who were not competitive in the pool may now have a pathway to Permanent Residence not previously available to them. 

There has been one other draw from the Express Entry pool, with a much more modest 654 invitations issued to eligible candidates under the Provincial Nominee Class. The minimum CRS points required for the February 10, 2021 draw was 720
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