The process of applying for employment insurance and other benefits packages in light of COVID-19 can be challenging for many newcomers to Canada. (Unsplash)

COVID-19: Immigrants face language, financial barriers during crisis

Citizenship events halted, permanent residency applications still being processed

The unknowns faced by new immigrants in Canada have multiplied in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the immigration process hasn’t slowed, officials say.

Exemptions to current travel advisories allow temporary foreign workers, international students and approved permanent residents to enter the country despite ongoing restrictions barring non-essential travel to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Those coming into the country are required to pass a health check and isolate for 14 days after arriving.

But the days and weeks since the pandemic hit Canada have created new challenges for newcomers, says Asuka Hirai, director at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS).

“Some of our clients, they have lost their jobs,” she said. “Many were new and just got hired, so some qualify for EI (employment insurance) but some don’t.”

READ ALSO: New immigrants to Victoria have online options to combat isolation

Hirai says some of the new Canadians who can access EI are still struggling.

“Many of them are having difficulties applying for benefits because they have low literacy skills,” she said. “So it has been difficult for them to navigate the system to access resources.”

And VIRCS, like many other organizations, including the Immigrant Services Society of BC, has closed its offices – providing all services remotely by phone or online. That’s a difficult adjustment when language is already a barrier, Hirai said.

“Because we are not seeing them face to face, sometimes it takes longer to apply for the benefits,” she explained. “Case managers taking more time to understand their stories, what the struggles are, so they can apply for the proper benefits.”

For people with permanent resident applications still being processed, the federal government has extended deadlines by 90 days for steps that might be difficult during the pandemic, such as submitting passports or police certificates, or completing an immigration medical exam. Applicants also have 90 days to submit their biometrics instruction letters, which provide proof of document submission.

Citizen applications may be delayed, but are ongoing, according to the federal government. All citizenship ceremonies, tests and retests are cancelled until April 13.

The government says refugee resettlement programs are paused but will resume when conditions permit.

READ ALSO: Canadian seniors isolated with fewer friends, less access to internet



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusImmigration

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Witset releases COVID-19 strategy following three confirmed cases

Plan implements strict measures to contain spread of the virus

Meet the 10-year-old girl who grew a pineapple in northern B.C.

Emily Atkins discovers it takes a lot of patience to grow tropical fruit in a temperate climate

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

UPDATE: Search continues for Thomas (Tommy) Dennis missing from near Kitwanga

Tommy Dennis was last seen Sept 16 wearing blue jeans, black cap, rubber boots, grey checked sweater

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

Most Read