Feds waive fees to replace documents destroyed by flooding in Alberta

OTTAWA – People whose citizenship or other immigration documents were destroyed by flooding in Alberta are getting a break from the federal government.

Fees to replace certain documents will be waived until Sept. 19 and those whose immigration status was set to expire will have it automatically extended or restored if they’re living in a flood-affected area.

“As Canadians we come together to ensure that we do what we can to help people get through times like these and to help them get back to their employment and caring for their families,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in a statement.

“This is another measure the federal government is taking so that those affected by the flooding have one less thing to worry about.”

The special measures are aimed at those who need to apply for urgent immigration documents, extend work or study permits or replace documents damaged by flood.

People will need to prove they’ve been affected by the floods by having a residential address in an affected community or by registering with the Red Cross.

In order to qualify under the policy, temporary residents must have had legal status on June 20 or been within the 90-day grace period allowed for extensions on that date.

Those affected should phone 1-888-242-2100 and press seven to speak to a government representative. They can also e-mail with the words “urgent: flood” in the subject line.

The special measures program will also apply to employers seeking to bring in temporary foreign workers.

Under normal circumstances, employers have to prove they’ve tried to recruit people in Canada and explain the results in order for the government to approve their applications.

But a statement on the department’s website says that requirement will be waived for short duration applications.

The fee exemption will apply to work permits, permanent residency cards and other immigration documents, including citizenship certificates.

A spokeswoman for the department said it won’t apply to passports, though she could not immediately explain why.

Replacement fees for lost or damaged immigration and citizenship documents range from $30 to $75, according to figures on the department’s website.

But the cost of a passport is much higher — and just went up this week with the launch of the federal government’s new 10-year “ePassport.”

The new passport is a high-tech version of its predecessor that includes an embedded electronic chip containing the holder’s personal information and other security features designed to combat fraud.

The new passport will cost $160, while the five-year version — formerly $87 —now costs $120. For children, the cost has increased to $57 from $37, if ordered domestically.

Passport Canada said the increases were necessary in order to maintain operations, let alone offer enhanced-security documents.

Canada had been the only G8 country that didn’t issue high-tech passports to the general public, although it has been issuing chip-enhanced diplomatic and special passports since 2009.

The launch of the new passport and fee scheme comes as the Immigration department takes over responsibility for passport services from the Foreign Affairs department.