The Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) applauds the Canadian government’s April 22, 2022 announcements aimed at supporting immigrants and the economy. CILA also wishes to use this opportunity to offer suggestions for further improvement to the immigration system.
CILA urges IRCC to expand its OWP eligibility
The forthcoming 18-month Open Work Permit (OWP) is welcome news for both the estimated 50,000 Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders who stand to benefit, and the Canadian economy. Employers are already facing historic labour shortages and cannot afford to lose more talent.
At the same time, CILA believes that IRCC can do more to accommodate the PGWP holders who saw their status expire between September and December 2021. Today’s announcement not only excludes these individuals who lost their status through no fault of their own, but also excludes those who saw their PGWP expire since the start of 2022 and who obeyed the law and left Canada. CILA asks IRCC to reconsider the eligibility criteria of the new OWP so that these two cohorts can also benefit from this temporary measure, which again, would provide Canadian employers with access to more labour.
Ensure that OWP applicants have the right to legal counsel
IRCC noted today that it needs more time to open the intake for the new OWP so that it can offer a quick and efficient IT solution to applicants. CILA is concerned this may once again result in IRCC excluding lawyers from accessing the OWP application portal to assist clients. CILA hopes the IRCC portal does not exclude the legal right of applicants to retain immigration lawyers as these individuals seek to remain and work in Canada.
CILA calls on IRCC to allow more in-Canada applicants to be able to travel abroad
CILA is also pleased to hear those with applications pending under the Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence Program (TR2PR) will not only be able to secure OWPs until the end of 2024, but will also be able to travel outside Canada while their applications for OWPs are pending.
However, today’s announcement does not address the many other temporary residents in Canada with maintained status who are currently having to wait between 4 and 6 months for a decision and are not able to travel outside of Canada. By creating two classes of applicants with implied status, IRCC is adding to the confusion applicants, employers, and the Canada Border Services Agency are already wrestling with amid the pandemic.
CILA has previously called on IRCC to allow all temporary residents the ability to travel outside of Canada while an application to extend their temporary status is pending.
Similarly those with expired PR cards as well as new immigrants are waiting months to receive their PR cards. As a result, they are unable to travel abroad since the PR card is needed for re-entry to Canada. CILA has called on the government multiple times to provide a temporary document for a limited period of time to facilitate the travel of permanent residents while awaiting the issuance of a PR card.
How IRCC can support more families
CILA welcomes IRCC taking steps to support family reunification by allowing the immediate family members of the TR2PR Program to apply for OWPs
On the other hand, CILA believes the spouses of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are unfairly treated since they are not provided with a similar opportunity for an OWP. Often, the spouses of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who are outside Canada, are not even granted visitors visas to travel to Canada, let alone being allowed to apply for an OWP. This is not only a missed opportunity to tap into more talent, but more importantly, is patently unfair to their partners in Canada who are sponsoring them.
Meanwhile, spousal sponsorship applicants that are in Canada who do have the ability to apply for an OWP must nevertheless wait months for the OWP to be issued, almost to the date their permanent residence application is approved.
Overall, CILA is very encouraged with today’s announcements and believe these changes are a step in the right direction. Nonetheless, we believe more can and should be done to address gaps within the system, such as those referenced above. CILA looks forward to continuing to dialogue with IRCC so we can collectively work together to advance Canada’s immigration objectives in support of our post-pandemic recovery.