Citizenship applications full-year 2021 operational data

IRCC released the full 2021 data on the number of applications for citizenship. Given the delays in IRCC entering application data in GCMS (for both Permanent Residents and citizenship), this three-month old data reflects an accurate number.

The month-by-month overview:

With the full-year data, I can now update the overview chart of the impact of COVID-19 on the range of immigration-related programs 2021-18 (How the government used the pandemic to sharply increase immigration), showing that applications declined by 10.3 percent compared to new citizens, 37.6 percent.:

The average for applications in 2021 was about 19,000 monthly, with small variations.

Given current processing trends, an average of 31,000 for the first quarter, IRCC should be able to continue chipping away at the backlog of 400,000 (April 11-12) unless applications increase significantly.

Lastly, my standard chart, comparing applications, new citizens and new Permanent Residents:

John Ivison: Liberals thwart badly needed skilled immigrants with mendacious political meddling

Header overly strong but substance important:

In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Parag Khanna of globalization experts FutureMap predicted that the Great Lockdown will be followed by the Great Migration, as the best and brightest move to exploit opportunities and fill labour shortages.

It would seem an inopportune time for the government of Canada to stop accepting applications from highly skilled workers from overseas. Yet that is exactly what the Liberals have done.

As my colleague Ryan Tumilty reported on Saturday, the high-skilled worker stream is backlogged, so despite nationwide labour shortages, the government is pausing new invitations because the department can’t process them.

The reason why Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is so backed up are entirely political.

For a variety of reasons, not least of which is that more immigration means more economic growth, the Liberals have committed to bringing in more than 400,000 permanent residents a year for the next three years.

Canada’s growth rate has been tepid in recent years, even with high levels of immigration. Absent the new arrivals, we’d be going backwards, as is clear from real GDP per capita data (in 2015, it was $51,158 per person; in 2020, it was $50,510, in constant 2012 dollars).

High levels of immigration are integral to the Liberal economic plan.

Yet those targets looked untenable during the pandemic, as international travel was suspended. Ottawa worked around the problem by granting permanent residency to thousands of temporary residents who were already employed or studying in Canada – the so-called Canada Experience Class.

The subsequent torrent of applications from students and temporary workers in Canada, coupled with the commitment to double the number of refugees coming from Afghanistan to 40,000, has resulted in bureaucratic resources becoming swamped. IRCC now has around 1.8 million applicants in a queue which is growing by about 20,000 every couple of months.

Part of the solution, according to an internal memo, is to cut the 110,500 skilled workers in the government’s target for next year by about half. The government says that there are still 76,000 skilled workers in the queue, so 2022 numbers won’t be affected. “The pause is temporary,” said a spokesperson for new immigration minister, Sean Fraser, who added that the government provided $85 million in new money to increase processing capacity.

But with around half of all businesses claiming to be experiencing labour shortages, the government has decided to meet its numerical targets, rather than focus where the needs are most pressing.

This is political meddling at its most mendacious. The government was able to boast about breaking the all-time immigration record in 2021, yet a quarter of those people were already here.

On refugees, no-one disagrees that Canada owes a duty of care to many people in Afghanistan but doubling the number of refugees from 20,000 to 40,000 will take two years to honour.

Andrew Griffith, a former director general at IRCC and author of a book on citizenship and immigration policy, said that the political choice to meet numerical targets, by allowing temporary residents to become permanent residents, meant that all other classes of immigrants became a lower priority. “It was a trade-off and, personally, I’m not convinced it was the right trade-off to make,” he said.

Griffith said the department would have warned the minister about the consequences of “bringing in the bodies” on the capacity constraints of other immigration streams. That advice appears to have been ignored.

The Liberals have so far stuck within the bounds that have traditionally governed Canada’s immigration policy, and which have ensured it has support in virtually all parties.

Immigration programs that are fair and economically-driven will continue to have widespread public support. People appreciate that we need new taxpayers to spread the burden of paying for an aging population.

In 2021, 58 percent of new immigrants were drawn from economic class programs; 26 percent from family class; and 16 percent from refugee and humanitarian class.

But the 2023 numbers may look quite different, if the number of high-skilled workers drops off dramatically and the number of refugees rises.

It has been a hallmark of this government that it has not been very effective at implementing policies, often because it is too focused on communications, and not enough on making things happen after they’ve been announced. This reflects a prime minister, who, in the words of one of his own senior members of staff, it “much more about: ‘what’s new?’”.

“He’s good at getting people super-excited, setting bold visions. But it creates real challenges in execution,” the staffer said.

This is a classic example. The “1 percent of population” immigration target probably got the inner circle “super-excited”, as, no doubt, did the 40,000 Afghan refugee promise.

But it may well be that there are consequences to those decisions which will see Canada miss out on tens of thousands of the globe’s most able engineers, heavy duty mechanics, plumbers, computer programmers, carpenters and database analysts.

Source: John Ivison: Liberals thwart badly needed skilled immigrants with mendacious political meddling

And, slightly different take, from Matthew Claxton:

What with COVID-19, and winter storms bearing down, and two days left until Christmas, it’s fair to say that few of us were paying attention to Canadian immigration policy on Dec. 23.

Which is a shame, because an announcement from the Department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship showed that we’ve had a quiet revolution in how Canada accepts new permanent residents.

The government announced that 2021 was a record year for the arrival of new permanent residents – in total, 401,000 people had “landed” as permanent residents. Permanent residency is a major step towards Canadian citizenship, and it’s a massive driver of our population growth.

But in that announcement was a confirmation of something that Immigration has mentioned a few times in passing during the pandemic.

More than half of the folks who officially “landed” as permanent residents were already here.

“As we continue to struggle with the pandemic, we made the most of the talent already within our borders,” the announcement said. “The majority of these new permanent residents were already in Canada on temporary status.”

Yep. We increased our population of permanent residents by moving a bunch of people from one column in a government ledger to the other!

A significant number of permanent residents have always come from the ranks of temporary residents. In 2019, 74,586 of the 341,180 new permanent residents were already here on temporary status. But that’s just 21 per cent of the total number of new permanent residents, not more than 50 per cent!

In 2020, massive disruptions in travel due to the pandemic caused immigration rates to plummet just as the federal Liberal pledge to ramp up immigration levels was supposed to be coming into effect.

In the first year of the pandemic Canada admitted just 184,500 new permanent residents barely more than half the number from the year before.

I don’t actually have any particular objection to this change as policy. Making it easier to transition from being a temporary resident to a permanent one seems only just and fair, to me. If you’re good enough to work here or go to school here, surely you’re good enough to stay.

But the federal government didn’t make this change because they wanted to change the mix of people coming to Canada and becoming permanent residents. It wasn’t based on the idea that allowing increasing temporary residents to become permanent would be good for them, or good for Canada’s economy or culture.

It was done to hit an arbitrary number. The government had pledged to bring in more than 400,000 new permanent residents. Never mind how many were already here, some of them for years.

It doesn’t speak well that the government would see people, most of whom are future Canadian citizens, as mere numbers, a target that needed to be hit to meet an arbitrary goal.

Source: Painful Truth: Liberals hit artificial milestone on immigration – Aldergrove Star

Immigration likely to miss targets again in 2021: RBC

Not a great surprise. RBC also called relatively early the decline in 2020, estimating a decrease of 170,000 compared to 2019 https://bit.ly/covid-immigration-rbc :

Immigration, a key driver of the Canadian population and economic growth, is likely to remain stalled in 2021, says RBC Economics in a new report.

In 2020, Canada only managed to meet just over half of its pre-pandemic immigration target of 341,000 new residents, RBC said, as 184,000 people settled in the country amid an array of border restrictions caused by Covid-19.

The government is aiming to add 1.2 million new residents over the next three years to help make up for the shortfall in 2020, the report noted.

However, RBC projected that the ongoing effects of the pandemic will see immigration totals fall short again in 2021, with 275,000 new permanent residents predicted for the year ahead.

Continued border restrictions, significant quarantine requirements and substantial processing delays are all weighing against strong immigration totals for the current year, the report noted.

Additionally, the number of new applicants for permanent residency has dropped notably, and there isn’t much of a backlog of immigrants who have been approved but haven’t yet moved to Canada. This suggests that “even if borders open up soon, it will still take time to increase the flow of new immigrants back to pre-pandemic levels,” the report said.

“In the long-run, Canada does have the capacity to hit the ambitious targets set out last fall and population growth from new immigration will again return as the main driver. However, with the effects of the pandemic looking more likely to remain into the spring and summer, the headwinds listed above will keep immigration into Canada low throughout most of 2021.”

Source: https://www.investmentexecutive.com/news/research-and-markets/immigration-likely-to-miss-targets-again-in-2021-rbc/

RBC report: https://thoughtleadership.rbc.com/canadian-immigration-interrupted-a-look-ahead-into-2021?_ga=2.80358033.760756181.1613593885-1292850278.1613593885

Updated IRCC ministerial mandate letter

While the bulk of the letter consists of standard government-wide priorities, the specific ones for IRCC Minister Mendicino are below.

No sign of recognizing the reality that 2021 levels are unlikely to be met given ongoing COVID waves and related travel restrictions, making the “modest and responsible” increases in the previous mandate letter increasingly out of date:

In addition to the priorities set out in my mandate letter to you in 2019, as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, you will implement on a priority basis the following commitments, as set out in the Speech from the Throne 2020 and building off the investments in the Fall Economic Statement 2020.

  • Continue to bring newcomers to Canada safely to drive economic growth and recovery, as recently set out in the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan, including by:
    • Expanding pilot programming to welcome skilled refugees through economic immigration streams;
    • Continuing to support expedited family reunification; and
    • Continuing work on sectoral and regional pilot programs.
  • Continue to implement measures that create pathways to permanent residency for those who have provided health care in long-term care homes or medical facilities or performed other essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Continue working with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Health to protect the health and safety of Canadians through safe, responsible and compassionate management of the border with the United States and other ports of entry into Canada.
  • Continue exploring pathways to permanent residency and citizenship for temporary foreign workers.
  • Support the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to continue to fully support and protect workers who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and secure labour to fill workforce gaps in farming and food processing.
  • Continue working with provinces and territories to support high-quality settlement services and facilitate the successful settlement and integration of new Canadians. This includes continuing to support French-language training, while respecting provincial jurisdiction and complementing existing measures, supported by the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages.
  • Support the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to implement recommendations and lessons learned from the report of the Special Advisor for Canada’s ongoing response to the Ukraine International Airlines tragedy, including commemorating the lives of the victims and supporting their families, pursuing truth and accountability from Iran, and preventing future disasters through the Safer Skies Initiative.

Source: https://pm.gc.ca/en/mandate-letters/2021/01/15/minister-immigration-refugees-and-citizenship-supplementary-mandate

For handy reference, the 2019 commitments are below:

I will expect you to work with your colleagues and through established legislative, regulatory and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities. In particular, you will:

  • Ensure the effective implementation of Canada’s increased annual Immigration Levels Plan for 2020-2022, attracting more than a million new permanent residents to Canada over that time. This continues our modest and responsible increases to immigration, with a focus on welcoming highly skilled people who can help build a stronger Canada.
  • Advance the full implementation of the new professional governance regime for immigration and citizenship consultants under the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act, bringing strengthened government oversight and new compliance and enforcement tools into effect.
  • Work with the provinces and territories to ensure a renewed focus on the delivery of high-quality settlement services to ensure the successful settlement and integration of new Canadians. This will require a rigorous approach to data in order to accurately measure outcomes.
  • Work on reducing application processing times, improving the department’s service delivery and client services to make them timelier and less complicated, and enhancing system efficiency, including in the asylum system.
  • Complete the legislative work on changes to the Canadian Oath of Citizenship to reflect the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
  • Introduce a dedicated refugee stream to provide safe haven for human rights advocates, journalists and humanitarian workers at risk, with a target of helping resettle as many as 250 people a year.
  • Introduce a Municipal Nominee Program that will allow local communities, chambers of commerce and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants. At least 5,000 new spaces will be dedicated for this program.
  • You will also take the steps required to make the Atlantic Immigration Pilot permanent. At least 5,000 new spaces will be dedicated for this program.
  • Bring forward a plan to eliminate fees for citizenship for those who have fulfilled the requirements needed to obtain it.
  • Support the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on irregular migration, including the new Border Enforcement Strategy and continued work with the United States to modernize the Safe Third Country Agreement.
  • With the support of the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development and the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, work to implement pilot programing to encourage more newcomers to settle in rural Canada.
  • Work with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to continue to advance reforms and investments in the capacity of the asylum system to ensure it is efficient while meeting Canada’s international legal obligations.

These priorities draw heavily from our election platform commitments. As mentioned, you are encouraged to seek opportunities to work across Parliament in the fulfillment of these commitments and to identify additional priorities.

Source: https://pm.gc.ca/en/mandate-letters/2019/12/13/minister-immigration-refugees-and-citizenship-mandate-letter