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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

The impact of COVID-19 on temporary residents

by Michael Scott

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across Canada. We are immediately aware of the impact of the pandemic on ourselves, and the dangers implicit in Manitoba and Canada at large, but have you fully understood the impact on our neighbours? You can consider this question by examining the answer in the gospel of Luke, or in a very specific way for the reader, by considering the neighbour as newcomers, who co-exist with Canadian permanent residents. The temporary residents include foreign students, workers and visitors. It is important for us to become aware of these neighbours and their challenges in a COVID Canada.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt economic activity throughout Canada, large numbers of permanent residents, temporary workers, and international students report a marked decline in their financial situation due to a loss of jobs and income. In her recent study, entitled How has COVID-19 Impacted the Financial Well-Being of Immigrants, Temporary Workers, and International Students in Canada, WES associate director Joan Atlin reports that 15 per cent of all respondents to a June survey reported that they lost a job as a result of the health crisis.

The marketplace has seen loses and gains. Employment rose by 418,500 in July bringing to 1.7 million the number of job reclaimed over the past three months. Canada lost three million jobs in March and April as the height of the pandemic. The employment rebound in Canada has outpaced the U.S.

Job loses impacted both permanent residents and permit holders alike. Both groups included persons who lost their primary source of income. Atlin’s study showed that the effect was more strongly felt by temporary residents of Canada. She showed that more than 26 per cent of international foreign students and overseas foreign workers reported losing their primary source of income, while over a third (34 percent) found it difficult to afford rent or utilities. The impact of job loss for temporary residents was greater because many were and/or are not eligible for emergency benefits.

Despite widespread financial difficulties, temporary residents were often not eligible to collect Employment Insurance (EI) or the Canada Emergency Response Benefits (CERB). Many of the temporary residents did not meet 420-700 insurable hours of work in the last 52 weeks for EI or the previous year’s minimum income of $5,000 for CERB. The CERB is due to expire in October and those who are eligible will be transitioned to EI. International students who lost their jobs because of COVID may be eligible and can check if they are eligible.

The other challenge facing temporary residents is a lack of information about support services available to them. The challenge for many of Atlin’s respondents is that some (24 per cent) thought they were not eligible for assistance and a further 11 per cent did not know how to contact a social service agency.

Joan Atlin advocates for an “immigrant-inclusive recovery” and it is difficult to find fault with her recommendation. Canada is strongly invested in bringing both temporary and permanent residents from abroad. Immigration remains a key to our economic recovery from COVID-19 and helps maintain our international place as a choice destination. Effective August 24, 2020 Canada instituted a change to allow foreign visitors to apply for work permits inside Canada. We agree with Atlin that Canada needs to be mindful to the plight of the temporary foreign students and workers inside our country and to ensure that they are not left behind. Visitors, international foreign students, foreign workers and other classes of immigrants (family class etc.) are essential for the country’s long-term prosperity. Immigration helped build Canada and immigration will help us recover from the pandemic.

Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: mscott.ici@gmail.com.

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