The Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) is pleased with the modest newcomer increase announced today under the new Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024.
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The gradual increase will give Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) time to improve its client experience, tackle its backlogs, and make the technological modernizations necessary to better manage the immigration system moving forward.
The new levels plan is beneficial to families and will provide safety to more refugees. On the other hand, CILA regrets that economic class immigrants will be negatively impacted by this plan as IRCC looks to reduce its backlogs. CILA once again calls on IRCC to share its backlog reduction plan so that applicants know where they stand in the queue.
Express Entry: CILA is disappointed with the halving of Express Entry admissions in 2022 and calls on IRCC to reverse course by immediately resuming invitations to Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates.
FSWP candidates have unfairly paid the price throughout the pandemic. This has included expired holders of Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) being neglected at the start of the pandemic, FSWP processing being significantly reduced in 2021, and IRCC pausing invitations to FSWP candidates since December 2020.
Welcoming more immigrants under the FSWP is key to supporting Canada’s labour force and economic growth. Temporarily cutting Express Entry admissions will undermine IRCC’s stated goal of strengthening the labour force via immigration.
Ongoing disruptions to the FSWP will also hurt Canada’s international competitiveness as global talent will be forced to look elsewhere due to dimmer prospects for them in Canada over the next two years.
While it is good news that IRCC plans to bring Express Entry levels back to normal by 2024, this will be of little comfort to the many Canadian employers in desperate need of talent to address their immediate labour shortages.
The halving of Express Entry admissions this year will also be of grave consequence to Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates. The pause in CEC invitations since September 2021 is creating significant hardship for thousands of international students and temporary foreign workers who have spent years contributing to Canada’s economy and society, and who now have fewer permanent residence spots available to them. Many such individuals risk losing their legal status in Canada which may cause them to leave the country. This will also hurt Canadian employers and the economy. CILA calls on IRCC to quickly offer bridging permits to those with Express Entry profiles who have jobs, regardless of whether they have received an Express Entry Invitation to Apply. Alternatively, IRCC could re-introduce a one-time extension to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders like it did in early 2021.
Provincial Nominee Program (PNP): CILA is pleased to see that IRCC will be increasing its PNP admissions targets from 80,000 to 93,000 immigrants by 2024. Since its launch in 1998, the PNP has been successful in promoting a broader distribution of immigration across Canada and addressing local labour market needs. The PNP is crucial to regions across the country amid labour shortages caused by Canada’s aging population and shifts to the economy amid the pandemic.
Start-up Visa Program: CILA believes processing times for Canada’s Start-up Visa Program (SUVP) are not globally competitive and is disappointed to see that admission targets remain unchanged under the new levels plan. IRCC has noted that processing times for the SUVP are now up to six years which is far too slow to support an innovation-driven economy.
Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP): The new immigration levels plan is ambitious and is premised on acute labour shortages across Canada. Employers experiencing labour shortages need continued access to international talent to meet the demand for their products and services in Canada and international markets. To complement the new levels plans, IRCC in conjunction with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) should immediately expand the list of occupations eligible for premium processing under the Global Talent Stream. IRCC should immediately devote resources to applications eligible for two week processing under the Global Skills Strategy (GSS). Pending applications under the GSS remain backlogged by several months thereby negating the purpose of introducing the GSS.
An added support for Canadian employers would be for IRCC and ESDC to waive national recruitment requirements for all occupations processed under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) where labour shortages are well documented by industry and government data. A good practice that can be replicated across Canada is the Quebec List of Occupations Eligible for Facilitated Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs). By immediately helping employers address their labour needs over the next two years or more, IRCC and ESDC can reduce government red tape that only serves to delay and frustrate international recruitment.
Spouses and Partners: CILA reiterates its call for IRCC to extend its Spousal Open Work Permit Pilot Program to spouses and partners living outside of Canada. It is unfair to offer work permits to inland sponsorship applicants as well as the partners of study and work permit holders, but force outland sponsorship applicants to remain separated or unemployed while inside Canada. Allowing spouses and common-law partners to work would allow these applicants to contribute to the labour market immediately.
Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP): The increase in Canada’s PGP intake over the coming years is welcome and will help to support families across the country. At the same time, CILA encourages IRCC to consult widely on how to effectively manage the PGP moving forward.
Afghan refugees: CILA welcomes the Canadian government’s desire to fulfill its international humanitarian obligations by welcoming more refugees. CILA hopes Canada will be able to resettle Afghan refugees as quickly as possible to achieve its goal of providing safety to 40,000 Afghans.