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

No charges to be laid against 22 pipeline protesters arrested on Wet’suwet’en territory

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Salvation Army celebrates National Doughnut Day with deliveries to front line COVID workers

National Doughnut Day pays tribute to the “Doughnut Lassies” of the First World War

Houston mill to re-open June 8

Ends lengthy shutdown which began in March

Fibre installation for South Hazelton begins

Citywest says it will install cable in the summer and home installations in the fall

Annual bird count thrills organizer

Count took place over 48 hours

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

‘Great Regional Air Hug’ being organized by the Vanderhoof International Airshow Society

A multi-aircraft flyover over the region is being planned for August 15.

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Williams Lake RCMP capture fugitive walking along Highway 97 in city limits

Witness said they could hear police yelling for suspect to ‘get down’

Most Read