WHILE vaccines, vaccine passports and vaxications are tempting, reachable goals to restore normalcy in travel and migration mobility, the Covid-19 virus remains the indecipherable variable holding up a new normal.
For international travel “to come back,” more people must be vaccinated, and a government has to feel that it is safe to open its borders to visitors — and migrants.
On April 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that people who are fully vaccinated with a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States.
An individual is considered “fully vaccinated two weeks after having received the last required dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.”
UK’s Global Travel Taskforce sets out a new traffic light system and green watchlist to safely reopen international travel.
The traffic light system categorizes countries “based on risk alongside the restrictions required for travel and the vaccine roll-out from international Covid-19 variants.”
Countries will be assigned traffic light codes (green, amber and red) based on key factors: the percentage of their population that have been vaccinated; rate of infection; prevalence of variants of concern; and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.”
A red traffic light designation means nationals/citizens from a red-listed country are banned from entry into the UK. The Philippines is on the red list.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic pond, Euro Weekly projects that “outbound travel will rebound quickly from the slump of the past year with almost two-thirds of ‘travelers’ intent on going abroad in 2021, according to travel market analyst IPK International. An IPK January 2021 survey released at ITB Berlin, suggests that 62 percent of ‘international travelers’ intend to travel abroad this year.”
This past weekend saw the highest levels of air passenger traffic in over a year. “Over 1.35 million Americans were screened in airports across the United States, marking the busiest day since the inception of the global pandemic last year,” the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported.
Then there is the promise and ongoing commitment of the Biden administration to solve the backlog of visa applications at all consular posts worldwide.
As America’s door opens, which other windows of the world follow suit?
New Zealand reopens with caveats
Quarantine-free travel now allows more movement between New Zealand and Australia. For the rest of the world seeking to enter NZ temporarily or otherwise, visa applications reopen on April 19, 2021, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has announced. However, INZ warns travelers to “prepare for disruption to travel plans.”
Previously, international students were the first group allowed to apply for entry (border exceptions); only 1,250 (250 Ph.D., 1,000 bachelor’s degree and postgraduate students) will be allowed in — and only if they hold, or have held, a visa to study in New Zealand.
Which means no new student applicant from overseas may be issued visas. For the border-exempt students, they must have NZ$15,000 per year for living costs.
The program for skilled workers seeking permanent resident status is still suspended. So, with the parent resident visa — limited to just 1,000 per year. If it’s any consolation, expressions of interest (EOI) for both programs are still being accepted. Only the selection process is suspended.
More funds requirement
For parents of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, this would result in a build-up, long queues and short-lived expectations of being invited. If the parent resident does not withdraw the EOI, it remains in the pool but will be subject to changes such as the income requirement.
The required income for sponsors of parents was increased on Feb. 24, 2020. Even if the level of income does not change, the economic impact of Covid-19 would make it more difficult for sponsors to meet the income requirement for two of the three years prior to the parent’s application for residence.
If an eligible NZ sponsor (who was lucky enough to remain employed during the pandemic) is sponsoring only one parent, the income must be NZ$53,040. If sponsoring both parents, the amount goes up to NZ $106,080.
In 2020, aspiring sponsors in the customer service, hospitality and tourism, manufacturing and operations, transport and logistics were not likely to meet this income requirement for 1 parent based on the salary guide report of careers.govt.nz last year.
Australia slightly open
SkillSelect started its quarterly selection process by invitation this year after being on hold in 2020.
In 2018, the invitation rounds were held twice a month. In August 2020, selection of candidates was held monthly until October 21 of last year before it went into pandemic-induced hiatus.
This month, the next invitation round would most likely mirror the number of invitations issued for the same two subclasses: skilled independent (189) and skilled work regional (491) given the still-recovering nature of Australia’s economy.
Even the lucky ones invited to apply may have to wait until travel restrictions are lifted or take the required negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and observe post-arrival quarantine protocols.
Despite a rosy outlook to recover in the next two to three years, skilled migrants and international students who have completed their academic programs — both groups already in Australia, are preferred. Overseas applicants for skilled migration will have to wait until the economy recovers significantly and businesses need skills and talents for work that Australian citizens are not keen on doing.
Canada: revenge mobility
With over $180 billion in household and business excess cash, according to Statistics Canada and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Canada could look to great recovery years ahead for domestic travel, accommodation and hospitality industries.
CIBC sees the spending spree from one of two groups affected by Covid-19: “The first are those that used government programs like the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to pay their bills and continue to struggle making ends meet in a tough economy. The second are full-time workers with benefits who put off spending money on vacations and are now sitting on extra cash.”
The second group with extra money is seen as the revenge mobility spenders whose itineraries are held in check by an embarrassment of cash and fluidity. Traveling now could be seen as an insult to a neighbor, friend or relative who are among the 512,000 long-term unemployed, according to the January 2021 Labor Force Survey of StatCan. These are people who have been looking for work or who have been on temporary lay-off for 27 weeks or more.
On the other side of the demographic equation, the noncitizens (international students and temporary workers) continue to outpace their counterparts overseas in the Express Entry selection process.
Last week, 5,000 Express Entry applicants were invited under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) with the lowest score of 432 — 17 points less than the last CEC draw on March 18. In fact, the month before that, not only was the CRS score to qualify 357 points lower than the April 1 threshold, there were 22,332 more CEC applicants invited.
CEC is one of three qualifying programs under Canada’s Express Entry immigrant selection system implemented by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
The same silver lining for intending immigrants to New Zealand and Australia goes for residency aspirants to Canada. Express Entry candidate profile submission is ongoing. Hope is extended on yearly intervals since candidate profiles need to be renewed for those not invited to apply.
Renewing an application, however, has to take into consideration that the applicant would have been a year older (lower points) and needs to make up in other factors to be in the pool for another year.
The criterion with the most potential for adding points (and enhance invitation prospects) is language proficiency. A candidate’s score in English and/or French is combined with the foreign work experience and education. But even here, education obtained in Canada offers advantages than one acquired at home. Plus, being an international student means immediate availability for a job interview, enhanced opportunity for job offers and bonus points for having complete the academic program.
Then there is Canada’s unique postgraduate work permit (PGWP) stage where an international student who has completed a two-year post-secondary course could stay in Canada for up to three years to work full-time without the need to pay tuition to maintain the student status.
Finally, the spouse-factor advantage for an international student allows the spouse to work full-time from day one up to the whole PGWP period. And, even if the student spouse has not completed a two-year course, the working spouse may already be eligible for the CEC class if he or she has worked full-time for at least a year.
The common thread among these Desti-nations is the fact that processing of visa applications continues online. Some migration programs may be temporarily suspended but applications for permanent residency continues online.
There is a consensus that immigrants contribute to the economy and cultural diversity of the receiving country. Borders will reopen, migration doors will inch up toward full opening.
The message in the sky is clear: Immigrants are welcome. Not just now — yet.
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