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refugees working in healthcare

Canada to give PR status to refugees working in healthcare during COVID-19

Canada has announced that starting on December 14 and until August 31, 2021, immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will be accepting applications for permanent residence from refugee claimants who provided direct healthcare to Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new measures also extend to the spouses and common-law partners of refugees working in healthcare who died from contracting coronavirus in Canada. These family members of deceased claimants may be eligible if they arrived in Canada before August 14, 2020.

In a bulletin issued December 9, 2020, Canada’s minister of immigration, Marco Mendicino, noted that recent media reports and stakeholder interventions have drawn attention to the extraordinary contribution of refugees working in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in long-term care centres in Quebec. In some cases, these individuals contracted COVID-19 and some may have passed away due to this illness and left behind family members in Canada.

As these individuals face an uncertain future in Canada, it has been suggested that the current circumstances merit exceptional measures to provide these individuals with Permanent Residence status in recognition of their service during the pandemic.

On August 14, 2020, Minister Mendicino announced the Government’s intention to implement this special measure. Two temporary public policies have since been developed—one for refugees living in Canada outside Quebec, and the other for refugee claimants residing in Quebec. Quebec will select those qualifying for this special measure who wish to reside in Quebec. 


To qualify, individuals must meet all of the following criteria:

  • have claimed asylum before March 13, 2020
  • were issued a work permit after they made a claim for asylum
  • have worked in the health-care sector, in health institutions (for example, hospitals, long-term care homes, home care through an organization or agency, assisted living facilities)
  • have worked in a designated occupation for no less than 120 hours between March 13, 2020 and August 14, 2020. The designated occupations that are included in this special measure are orderlies, nurses, nurses’ aides and patient service associates, assistant orderlies and certain home support workers.
  • demonstrate 6 months of experience in the designated occupation before being granted permanent residence. Applicants will have until August 31, 2021 to acquire this experience.
  • have a Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ), if wishing to reside in Quebec
  • meet existing admissibility requirements, including those related to criminality, security and health  

As with all applicants for humanitarian and compassionate consideration, and in line with the government’s commitment to family reunification, in-Canada family members of the principal applicant would be included in the application and granted permanent residency, if the application is approved.

Applicants’ internship experience (both paid and unpaid) will be considered, as long as it is an essential part of a post-secondary study program or vocational training program in one of the designated occupations. An internship performed as part of a professional order requirement in one of the designated occupations will also be considered.

Those who have been found ineligible to make an asylum claim, or who have withdrawn or abandoned their claims, would not be eligible to apply.

How to apply

To apply, applicants residing across Canada (outside Quebec) must submit an application for permanent residence to IRCC. The department will assess eligibility and ensure that admissibility requirements are met. Applicants may then be granted permanent residence.

Applicants residing in Quebec must first submit an application for permanent residence to IRCC. Once IRCC has determined they meet the requirements, the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration du Québec will validate whether the applicants meet the requirements under the Special program for asylum seekers during the COVID-19 period and will issue a Quebec Selection Certificate. IRCC will grant permanent residence to applicants once all eligibility requirements are met.

See also Claiming Refugee Status in Canada: What You Need to Know