CILA comments on Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026


The Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) welcomes today’s Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026 announcement and the federal government’s ongoing commitment to supporting newcomers. 

In addition, CILA welcomes the launch of IRCC’s new immigration strategy yesterday, An Immigration System for Canada’s Future, and appreciates the remarks made by Minister Marc Miller about the department’s desire to address shortcomings in the immigration system. 

CILA shares the view immigration is vital to promoting economic growth, family reunification, humanitarian assistance, and Canada’s francophone character. 

CILA wishes to use this opportunity to draw attention to key areas that can enhance the integrity and performance of Canada’s immigration system.  

Disclaimer: The views below do not necessarily represent those of the entire CILA membership. 

Creating a more welcoming experience for newcomers 

On October 19, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada released a report highlighting shortcomings with how IRCC is processing permanent residence applications. CILA regrets to note these shortcomings continue to extend to other IRCC lines of business including for PR cards, citizenship, and temporary residents. 

Unfortunately, client experience has suffered since the pandemic with little sign of improvement. As noted on its own website, IRCC continues to struggle to achieve its service standards and clients must often wait in limbo while IRCC processes their applications with minimal communication. 

The CILA membership possesses a tremendous amount of experience that is available to provide IRCC with technocratic advice on improving client experience, a goal which IRCC has been actively pursuing and which it stressed once again in yesterday’s launch of its new strategy. 

Some of the many ways IRCC can improve client experience include: 

  • Allowing the partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to apply for an open work permit upon entry to Canada, provided their Canadian partner submitted a sponsorship application beforehand. This would enable sponsored partners to enter the Canadian labour market more quickly. 
  • Treating permanent residents the same way as Canadian citizens by allowing them to renew their PR cards at passport offices with a 10-day service standard. Applicants that require further review by IRCC could be provided with a temporary one-year PR card. 
  • Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) so those with maintained status can travel abroad while their new application is being processed. A potential solution is allowing them to re-enter Canada with their IRCC Acknowledgment of Receipt (AOR). 
  • Issuing Temporary Resident Visas (TRVs) together with temporary residence extensions to reduce the money and time required for clients to submit another application, and also to save time for IRCC. 

Immigration lawyers are allies in IRCC’s quest to improve client experience. Immigration lawyers submit accurate and complete applications and provide timely responses to IRCC, which enables IRCC to make final decisions on applications more quickly. Moreover, lawyers assist IRCC by triaging cases that are more complex and facilitating those that are less complex.  

Hence, IRCC should not continue to discourage the public from hiring authorized representatives but instead focus communication on warning the public to only deal with authorized representatives. The Canadian Revenue Agency does not discourage the public from engaging an accountant to assist with filing a tax return and similarly, IRCC should refrain from discouraging the public from retaining the serves of an experienced and authorized professional. Filing an immigration application is as complicated as filing a tax return and is also associated with greater risks of loss of livelihood, removal from Canada, and separation from family.   

CILA also wishes to emphasize once again that lawyers are regulated by law societies that have years of experience in ensuring professional and ethical behaviour of members of the Bar and disciplining those that fail to meet professional standards. The public is protected when they hire a lawyer and this will mitigate Members of Parliament and IRCC having to address issues of unscrupulous representatives and agents that prey on vulnerable clients. Lawyers are governed by actively enforced rules of professional conduct and specifically as they relate to receiving and providing commissions. 

Aligning immigration with labour market needs 

CILA is supportive of the various measures IRCC has in place, and has recently introduced, to strengthen the link between the immigration system and labour shortages. These include reforms to Express Entry such as enabling physicians to use their self-employment in Canada towards Express Entry eligibility criteria and the introduction of category-based selection. 

CILA believes that IRCC should pursue more aggressive measures to enable vital workers in industries such as trades, construction, and health to gain permanent residence. For instance, the federal government could expand the list of trades and construction-related occupations in its occupation-specific Express Entry draws, as well as look to reform its eligibility criteria for such workers so that more of them can become eligible for permanent residence. IRCC and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) could also introduce a facilitated Labour Market Impact Assessment for trades and construction workers that exempts advertising requirements as long as the prevailing wage and full-time hours are offered and employers meet all other criteria. On the health care side, an additional example is enabling more personal care workers to enter Canada under the Caregiver Program so that more families can be assisted in caring for their children, disabled persons, and the elderly. 

In addition to supporting Canada’s infrastructure and health care needs, such measures would have the added benefit of helping enhance support for immigration at a time when several public opinion polls have recently indicated softening support. Immigration is part of the solution to improving Canada’s housing affordability and health care system. 

More integrity measures for international students 

CILA welcomes the reforms announced on October 27 by Minister Miller on strengthening international student program integrity. The international student program offers many benefits to Canada, but its profound growth over the past 15 years has also led to a host of integrity challenges.  

CILA believes IRCC can take additional steps to inform prospective international students about life in Canada, as well as set realistic expectations about their immigration prospects after they complete their studies here. 

Given the rapid growth in the international student program, it is more vital than ever IRCC relay information such as: 

  • Education agents are paid commissions to place international students at Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs). Hence, agents may not necessarily be looking out for a student’s best interests—for example, by placing them at a DLI that does not make a student eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). 
  • Housing shortages in Canada and realistic costs of living across the country.  
  • The competitive nature of Canada’s economic class immigration process, and that studying in Canada does not guarantee you will be able to transition to permanent residence. 

IRCC should consider other measures, such as potentially increasing language proficiency and proof of financial support standards so that new international students are well-equipped to succeed in Canada. 

Additional initiatives can also be pursued to enable even more international students with occupation backgrounds in-demand to transition to permanent residence. For instance, IRCC could bring back the Post-Graduate Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) if an international student has an offer of employment. This would help to address genuine labour shortages and give LMIA-backed international graduates a better chance to gain permanent residence.  

Read CILA’s other international student program recommendations here. 

CILA is available to help IRCC achieve the goals laid out in An Immigration System for Canada’s Future 

To conclude, while Canada’s immigration system faces a host of challenges, IRCC deserves credit for openly acknowledging these challenges as it seeks to develop a more modern and globally competitive immigration system. An Immigration System for Canada’s Future lays out a comprehensive framework on achieving the goals of creating a more welcoming experience for newcomers, aligning immigration with labour market needs, and developing a comprehensive and coordinated growth plan. CILA reiterates its membership has a tremendous amount of expertise that can assist IRCC and other government partners in successfully executing this strategy so that Canada can continue to reap the economic and social rewards of immigration. 

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