Operational Bulletin 623 – June 7, 2016

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Guidelines for application of special measures for persons directly affected by a crisis situation: wildfires in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas

Effective date

May 3, 2016

Expiry date

August 3, 2016Note *

Summary

This Operational Bulletin (OB) provides special operational instructions related to temporary special measures for Canadian citizens and for protected persons, temporary residents and permanent residents of Canada directly affected by the crisis situation resulting from the wildfires in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas.

Note: From this point forward, references to “the crisis situation” in these instructions refer to the wildfires in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas.

Background

As a result of this crisis situation, Canadian passports and other documents belonging to Canadian citizens, protected persons, temporary residents and permanent residents may have been lost, destroyed or damaged. In addition, foreign workers may be temporarily out of work, and international students may be temporarily unable to continue their studies if their designated learning institution is not accessible, or their transfer to another designated learning institution may be delayed pending the issuance of official documentation from a designated learning institution in the affected area.

With respect to these potential disruptions in the status and authorizations of persons and the loss of immigration documents due to the crisis situation, and as part of the Government of Canada’s response to support those affected by the wildfires in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas, under section 25.2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Minister has authorized a public policy with special measures for temporary residents and approved special measures for citizens and permanent residents.

Affected area

The geographical area affected by this crisis remains in a fluid and active situation. However, as the focus of federal emergency support since the effective date of these special measures (May 3, 2016) has been the Alberta communities of Fort McMurray, Fort McMurray First Nation, Fort McKay First Nation, Gregoire Lake Estate and Anzac, these are considered the “affected area” for the purposes of these special measures (Fort McMurray and the surrounding areas) and operational instructions.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) continues to monitor the situation and will revise the “affected area” if applicable.

These special measures do not limit the authority of officers under section A25.1, and all applications are to be dealt with compassionately and assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Contacting IRCC

A dedicated email address has been activated by the IRCC Call Centre to receive all enquiries related to this crisis situation: CIC.Alberta-Fire-Alberta-Feu.CIC@cic.gc.ca.

Every message sent to this email address must include all of the following details in the subject line:

  • urgent: alberta fire” annotation
  • Type of application
  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Country of birth

Example:
urgent: alberta fire – Study permit request – Smith, John – DOB month-day-year – Name of country of birth

In the body of the email, applicants should indicate their unique client identifier (UCI) or application number(s) to expedite the processing of their request.

All inquiries, contact information updates, and requests or applications made under these special measures must include the “urgent: alberta fire” annotation.

Paper applications: Affected persons who submit paper applications must indicate “urgent: alberta fire” on the outside of the final envelope (e.g., if the application is sent by courier, write the statement on the courier envelope); it is also recommended that this be indicated on the first page of the correspondence/application.

Applications made online: Affected persons who submit electronic applications should immediately send a follow-up email to CIC.Alberta-Fire-Alberta-Feu.CIC@cic.gc.ca with their full name, date of birth and country of birth, as well as their UCI or application identification number to allow IRCC to flag the application for priority processing. These messages must indicate “urgent: alberta fire” in the subject line. If completing an application online, applicants are required to upload a copy of the supporting documents relevant to the type of application.

Self-identification of affected persons

These special measures apply only to persons directly affected by this crisis situation. It remains the responsibility of those persons to identify themselves as such (“self-identify” to IRCC) with proof of residence, proof of loss of employment, proof that their designated learning institution is not operational and/or proof of enrolment or a pending registration/enrolment to another designated learning institution in the affected area to IRCC in all correspondence or applications, as explained in these instructions.

To identify themselves as “affected persons”, applicants must provide an explanation of their situation in a signed letter with their application, along with acceptable proof (as applicable) of

  • residence in an affected area: a government-issued identity document (original or a copy) or utility bill showing a residential address located in the affected area;
  • workplace in an affected area: the name and address of the employer as well as a signed letter from the employer or a media article stating the place of employment is not operational;
  • designated learning institution in an affected area: the name and address of the designated learning institution as well as a signed letter from the designated learning institution or a media article stating the learning institution is not operational.

The signed letter or the email from affected applicants to the dedicated email address will serve as “self-identification” and a request that the application be considered under the special measures.

To be eligible for consideration under the special measures, applications must be made by August 3, 2016 (or November 3, 2016, for certain study permit extension measures).

Updates to applicant addresses

Affected applicants who no longer are residing at the address provided to IRCC in their initial application should provide updated contact information (a temporary or permanent address where they can receive mail or packages and a cell or telephone number where they can be reached during the crisis situation) to IRCC via the dedicated email address according to the Contacting IRCC section of these instructions.

Affected applicants without a temporary mailing address (such as those residing in an evacuation centre) can request special pick-up arrangements from a local IRCC office in Edmonton or Calgary via the dedicated email address according to the Contacting IRCC section of these instructions. Where feasible, the local IRCC office may make special arrangements to either print the relevant replacement documents, or have them routed to that office for pick-up. In these instances, the local IRCC office will liaise directly with the affected applicant or other IRCC processing offices. Applicants are not to contact or present themselves to the local IRCC offices until directly instructed to do so.

Non-compliance for non-reply to requests for additional information: Persons have been displaced as a result of this crisis and may not be reachable with contact information they originally provided to IRCC on their applications or by other means. Decisions should not be made on the basis of non-reply from applicants in the affected area to requests for additional information from May 3, 2016, onwards (until the expiry of these special measures). In these instances, files should be put aside until contact with the applicant has been re-established or until these special measures expire (whichever comes first). Any applicants who were contacted before the issuance of these special measures from whom a response was expected or required before May 3, 2016, but was not received, may be subject to the standard procedures on the basis of non-reply.

Special measures and related procedures

Priority processing

Crisis-related applications (including requests for replacement documents) are to be processed on a priority basis, and all requests will be considered in a compassionate and flexible manner on a case-by-case basis.

With the exception of study permit extension requests, all requests under these special measures should have been made by August 3, 2016. Students may continue to request study permit extensions until November 3, 2016 (processing fees will apply to study permit extension requests received between August 4, 2016, and November 3, 2016) to grant students sufficient time to obtain their letter of acceptance and confirm their enrolment at a designated learning institution or to transfer to an alternate designated learning institution.

Validity of replacement documents: With the exception of permanent resident card (PRC) replacements, all replacement documents must match previously held documents in regards to validity, conditions, etc. PRC replacements continue to be issued with a (standard) five-year validity period regardless of the validity of the lost or destroyed PRC.

Canadian citizens

Citizenship certificates: To request replacement citizenship certificates, affected Canadian citizens should follow the process outlined here: Application for a citizenship certificate. The proof of citizenship application fee ($75) for the replacement is not to be charged to the applicant.

Canadian passports: For information on special assistance measures for passports, see the following: Notice – Alberta Wildfires special assistance measures for passports and travel documents

Permanent residents of Canada

Permanent resident cards (PRC): To request replacement of a PRC, affected permanent residents should follow the process outlined here: Application for a permanent resident card. The PRC application fee ($50) for the replacement is not to be charged to the applicant.

Permanent resident travel documents (PRTD): Affected permanent residents who have travelled outside Canada without their PRC because it was lost or destroyed directly as a result of the crisis situation must obtain a PRTD before they return to Canada by following the processing outlined here: Permanent resident travel document. Requests for PRTDs are to be processed on a priority basis at Canadian visa offices abroad, and the application fee to replace or issue a PRTD ($50) is not to be charged to the applicant.

PRTD applications made at a visa application centre (VAC): Affected applicants who paid application fees during the effective period of the special measures that are indicated in these special measures as “not to be charged to the applicant” or as waived under these special measures can request a refund via the dedicated email address according to the Contacting IRCC section of these instructions. However, VAC service charges will not be refunded. VACs are independent from IRCC, and the Department does not control whether they charge fees.

Landing documents: To request the replacement of lost, damaged or destroyed landing documents, affected permanent residents should follow the process outlined here: Verification of status or replacement of an immigration document. The replacement of an immigration document fee ($30) or the verification of status application fee ($30) are not to be charged to the applicant.

Temporary residents

Fee waivers: Under these special measures, the following fees related to temporary residence documentation replacement or issuance are waived:

  • Temporary resident document replacement application, including work or study permit replacements ($30) [R311(2)]
  • Restoration of temporary resident status ($200) [R306(1)]
  • Visitor record fee ($100) [R305]
  • Work permit application fee (including extensions) ($155) [R299(1)]
  • Open work permit privilege fee ($100) [R303.2(1)] (when applicable)
  • Verification of status application fee ($30) [R311(2)]
  • Study permit extension fee ($150) [R300(1)]

Extension of status: The public policy authorizes officers to grant an exemption from paragraphs 181(1)(a), 201(1)(a) and 217(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) to allow additional time for affected foreign nationals to extend their temporary status if an application is submitted by August 3, 2016 (study permit holders have until November 3, 2016), and waiving the requirement to submit an application for renewal or extension prior to the expiry of the present document. This applies to

  • foreign nationals who had temporary resident status on May 3, 2016, and whose status will expire before August 3, 2016 (with the exception of study permit holders);
  • foreign nationals who had a work permit valid on May 3, 2016, but whose work permit will expire before August 3, 2016;
  • foreign nationals who had a study permit valid on May 3, 2016, but whose study permit will expire before November 3, 2016

Restoration period: There are no special measures affecting the duration of the standard 90-day restoration period. The 90-day restoration period requirement remains in effect. Affected applicants who were out of status on May 3, 2016, must apply for restoration of status within their 90-day restoration period. However, affected applicants are not required to pay for restoration of status under subsection R306(1) for restoration applications made between May 3, 2016, and August 3, 2016.

Note: An applicant who requires an extension beyond the date of expiry of these special measures is required to submit a regular extension application along with standard fees.

Passport validity: The special measures do not waive the requirement of section R52 for foreign nationals to hold a valid passport or applicable visa. There are no special measures allowing them to submit their application for restoration or an extension before receiving their replacement passport or travel document, nor are there special measures that waive any visa-related fees or change visa issuance procedures.

Replacement of documents: To request replacement of work permits, study permits and visitor records, affected temporary residents should complete the process outlined here: Verification of status or replacement of an immigration document.

Existing work permit holders: The public policy authorizes affected temporary foreign workers to continue working on expired work permits until expiry of these special measures as long as they continue to work within the conditions of their expired permit (with the same employer, occupation, etc.).

Study permits: Until November 3, 2016, the public policy authorizes officers to waive the requirement for affected students in the affected area to be enrolled and actively pursuing their studies if their designated learning institution was affected by this crisis situation, and provides greater flexibility to extend study permits (i.e., extension applications could be submitted even if a study permit has expired, provided this is done by November 3, 2016). Officers are also authorized, under the public policy, to waive the study permit extension fee ($150) until August 3, 2016. Study permit extension requests received as of August 4, 2016, will be subject to the applicable fee.

Study permit holders are encouraged to wait until they receive their letter of acceptance from their designated learning institution before applying for their study permit extension. However, as the 90-day restoration period is still maintained, students who were out of status prior to May 3, 2016, should apply to restore their status before the end of the 90-day period even if they have not yet received their letter of acceptance. Applications for restoration of status as a student can be processed without the letter of acceptance but not without a valid passport or travel document. To request a study permit extension, affected foreign students should follow the process outlined here: Applying to change conditions or extend your stay in Canada – Student. This is required for all study permit holders, including minor children.

Study permit holders and work authorizations: The special measures do not change the provisions of paragraphs R186(f), (v) and (w). Therefore, as currently required under the IRPR,

  • students who were enrolled in full-time studies at the time of the crisis and whose semester was interrupted as a result of the crisis should be considered to be enrolled “full-time”;
  • the period of time that foreign students cannot attend their designated learning institution because it was affected by the crisis situation is considered a “regularly scheduled break”;
  • affected foreign students who were eligible to work on and off campus prior to May 3, 2016, are authorized to work full-time until their institution is functional.

The special measures do not change the requirements or procedures of the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. However, affected foreign students who will submit an application for a post-graduation work permit and have been affected by the crisis situation are exempted from the requirements to hold a valid study permit upon application, and to submit their application within 90 days upon completion of their program of study.

Visitor records for students not requiring a study permit: In assessing visitor record extensions for affected students, officers should use their discretion and judgment in cases where a foreign national enrolled in a course or program of study of six months or less [authorized to study without a study permit under paragraph R188(c)] was unable to complete their course or program of study within the period for their stay authorized upon their initial entry due to the crisis situation and requires an extension to complete the course or program. However, the special measures do not change the requirements under paragraph R188(c).

Protected persons

Refugee travel documents: For information on special assistance measures for travel documents, see the following: Notice – Alberta wildfires special assistance measures for passports and travel documents.

Refugee protection claimant document (RPCD): Affected refugee claimants should inquire about a replacement RPCD by emailing IRCC via the dedicated email address according to the Contacting IRCC section of these instructions. The location of the client’s file will be determined and arrangements made for the client to report to that office in person, or to their nearest IRCC office. A certified photocopy of the original RPCD on file may be provided. There is no fee for replacement of a RPCD. If applicable, refugee claimants may also request replacement of the individual’s Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) eligibility document due to loss of either their IFHP certificate or loss of their RPCD. Applicants may submit an application for confirmation of IFHP coverage by completing the Application for Interim Federal Health Program Coverage (PDF, 780.15KB) form.

Other immigration documents: Affected protected persons requiring other replacement documents should follow the process outline here: Verification of status or replacement of an immigration document. The application fee ($30) for the replacement in these cases is not to be charged to the applicant.

Refund requests

Applications made between May 3, 2016, and August 3, 2016, should not include any fee payments. Online applications are to be marked “fee exempt” under the special measures as a request that the fee not be charged in the appropriate section of the online application.

Affected applicants who made their application since May 3, 2016, and paid the applicable fee to IRCC, can request a refund under consideration of the special measures by sending an email to IRCC via the dedicated email address according to the Contacting IRCC section of these instructions.

New applications

New applications for temporary or permanent residence and/or work or study permits destined to the affected area are not covered by these special measures and are to be processed under regular procedures. Standard fees and requirements apply.

However, officers should confirm that work locations or designated learning institutions in the affected area are not affected by the crisis situation prior to issuing work or study permits.

Immigration medical examinations

New immigration medical examinations are not required for replacement of lost or destroyed documents, nor are they required specifically as a result of this crisis situation. Standard procedures apply where required, that is new applicants must complete an immigration medical examination in order for officers to finalize an application. A complete list of panel physicians is available on the IRCC website. Immigration medical examinations will be processed on a priority basis for applications that meet the eligibility for priority processing. Panel physicians are independent from IRCC, and the Department does not control whether they charge fees.

Medical insurance

Sponsors and applicants should continue to be made aware of the availability of private medical insurance prior to arrival in Canada. Not all provinces and territories extend immediate health coverage to recent arrivals, including temporary residents and permanent residents. Temporary residents and permanent residents should ensure their medical insurance is extended for any situations resulting from this crisis. IRCC does not reimburse the cost of medical insurance.

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