Douglas Todd: Economists question decision to boost immigration during pandemic

Good and needed questioning:

Canadian economists are questioning why Ottawa is setting record immigration targets in the middle of unprecedented unemployment caused by the pandemic.

More than 1.7 million Canadians are looking for work, and the economists are warning that the Liberals’ aggressive new target of more than 400,000 new immigrants in 2021 will likely hurt the country’s low-skilled workers, particularly those who have recently become permanent residents.

Source: Douglas Todd: Economists question decision to boost immigration during pandemic

Law firms scramble to help clients capitalize on shift in Canada’s immigration policy

Money quote: “it doesn’t speak favourably of the integrity and predictability of our immigration system:”

Law firms are urging their clients to get in Canada’s express pool of immigration candidates as soon as possible after the federal government invited a record number of people in that system to apply for permanent residency to help hit ambitious targets.

On Feb. 13, Immigration Canada issued the invitations to more than 27,000 people in the Express Entry system, which is aimed at expediting the intake of skilled workers. That round of invitations – known as a draw – focused on those who had at least one year of recent work experience in Canada.

The number was more than five times larger than the previous record. To hit that mark, the federal government had to drastically reduce the immigration scores needed for an invitation to apply.

The decision sent a jolt through the legal community, with initial confusion giving way to a flurry of phone calls. Many lawyers had steered clients away from Express Entry because it was unlikely they could get a high enough score.

The situation has prompted a rethink. Several law firms contacted by The Globe and Mail are now telling clients that anyone who can get into the Express Entry pool should do so, given the potential for the federal government to surprise again.

“At this point, it seems like all bets are off, and we have no predictability in terms of who’s going to be selected and who’s not,” said Meika Lalonde, partner at McCrea Immigration Law in Vancouver. “We do know that the government has some ambitious immigration targets that it wants to fill this year. So there is a possibility that they’ll draw again at a remarkably low score.”

Owing to the pandemic, Canada has just had an exceptionally weak year for immigration. About 184,000 new permanent residents were added in 2020, well short of the 341,000 target. To make up for that, Immigration Canada raised its targets for the next three years, starting with an intake of 401,000 in 2021.

With border restrictions still in place, Ottawa is focused on foreign workers and students already here. Most of the invitations issued on Feb. 13 were to people in Canada, the federal government said.

Launched in 2015, Express Entry is one of several pathways for immigration. When people go into that pool, they’re assigned a score in points based on age, education, work experience and other factors. Draws are usually held every two weeks and have a cut-off score for who gets invited.

The cut-off is usually at much more than 400 points. Successful candidates in the category of people with Canadian work experience have often been under 30 years old and had advanced degrees and strong English or French skills.

This time, the cut-off score was slashed to 75. That meant nearly everyone in the Canadian-experience stream of Express Entry got an invitation, all but depleting that source of candidates.

“I actually thought it was a mistake,” said Adrienne Smith, partner at Battista Smith Migration Law Group in Toronto. “I was completely shocked.”

Once she learned it was real, Ms. Smith advised clients to try to get into the express pool. “I just don’t want to have another client that misses out on this potential draw,” she said.

The message was the same from Sonia Matkowsky, an immigration lawyer in Toronto: “I do advise individuals [who would get] lower scores to enter the pool,” she said. “Especially this year. Anything can happen.”

It’s unclear how the coming months will play out. While the Canadian-experience stream was nearly emptied, it’s undoubtedly starting to grow again. The question is whether the cut-off score will be low in future draws.

Several lawyers say they think the federal government will eventually shift its focus outside the country. Thousands of Express Entry candidates are abroad and lack Canadian work experience, but otherwise have desirable credentials. Their entry is complicated by border restrictions.

“A lot of our clients overseas were also contacting us,” Ms. Smith said. “I think the hope and the anticipation is that in order to meet the 400,000-person target, that [the government is] going to have to move to overseas applicants next.”

Even then, the 2021 target should be tough to hit. In a recent report, RBC Economics estimated that Canada would add only 275,000 new permanent residents this year.

Some lawyers said the recent draw undermined the purpose of the Express Entry system, which is intended as a way to fast-track the top candidates rather than send a blanket invitation to virtually everyone.

“It’s a very good news story for a lot of individuals,” Ms. Lalonde said. “But I would say it doesn’t speak favourably of the integrity and predictability of our immigration system.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-immigration-strategies-take-u-turn-after-surprise-government-decision/

Canada’s record-setting invitation to immigrants after COVID shortfall an ‘absolute shock’

More reaction to the minimal Express Entry score of 75 and essentially opening to all with work experience in Canada. Money quote: “The draw transforms a well-structured and predictable system into a lottery ticket,” said [immigration lawyer Sergio] Karas. “It makes the system look worthless and game-able.”:

If you’re an immigrant living in Canada and looking for permanent residency, this might be your lucky year.

Canada has set a record for the number of skilled migrants invited to apply for permanent residence on a single day, as the government scrambles to make up for an immigration shortage caused by COVID-19 and the resulting travel restrictions.

On Saturday, Feb. 13, the immigration department held its latest draw from a pool of candidates and issued 27,332 invitations — five times more than its previous high of 5,000 people — to hopeful candidates already living in the country.

The news caught immigration experts and applicants by surprise and created a buzz on social media, with pundits tagging it #SaturdaySurprise from Canada.

“It was an absolute shock to everyone. We all thought there was a glitch on our screens and the numbers were incorrect,” said Kareem El-Assal, managing editor of immigration news site CIC News and policy director at CanadaVisa.com.

The plan is not without its critics, however, who say the strategy could open up the program to people with limited qualifications who would have been out of luck had it not been for Ottawa’s attempt to meet its immigration targets in the middle of a pandemic.

Applying for permanent residency is usually a long and competitive process.

Skilled immigrants who are interested must create a profile in a government management system called Express Entry, where they score points for things such as age, language skills, educational attainments and work experience.

The highest rankings are then invited via routine draws to apply for immigration. While an individual typically needs a minimum score of 400 points or above to make the cutoff, the lowest-ranked person invited in the latest round only had a score of 75. (The immigration department posts the results of each draw on its website.)

This latest draw applies to people in what’s called Canadian Experience Class, meaning they’ve worked in the country.

The instance of requirement loosening means some applicants, with scores too low to normally be considered, are now being encouraged to create a profile and try their luck, experts say.

“Between now and the next draw, you are going to have more Canadian Experience Class candidates entering the pool,” said El-Assal.

“If I’m in Canada right now and I meet the minimum requirements, I will be rushing to submit my profile ASAP because there’s a very good chance that I will be invited.”

Given the challenges presented by the travel restrictions and reduced processing capacity, El-Assal expects the immigration department will continue to prioritize immigration candidates from within Canada before it looks further abroad.

Canada had set to bring in 340,000 new permanent residents in 2020, but ultimately only 180,000 landed here, the lowest annual immigration intake since 1998, according to El-Assal.

This year, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino planned to bump up immigration levels to 401,000 in order to make immigration part of Canada’s economic recovery post-COVID-19.

But as the pandemic continues, international travel remains slow, and immigration with it.

“They’ve got these massive (immigration) levels that they have to hit and they took a real beating last year. They thought the border would be more open now but they are not. They’re scrambling to find a way to meet those targets,” said Alberta-based immigration lawyer Mark Holthe, chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration section.

“This was a really wonderful development. So many people have invested so much time and effort in getting here in the first place, whether it’s the hundreds of thousands of dollars that (foreign) students have paid and worked here. They’re paying taxes. They’re contributing. It’s not like they’re on handouts.”

In a news release, the immigration department said 90 per cent of the 27,332 people invited in this round are already living in Canada, with at least one year of Canadian work experience.

“This means they’re unaffected by current travel restrictions and won’t face the same barriers as overseas applicants when gathering the required documentation and undergoing criminality and medical screening,” it said.

“Those invited to apply who are not currently living in Canada will be able to travel once restrictions are lifted.”

However, Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas said trying to meet the immigration target by lowering the bar is a “terrible” way to make policies.

The latest draw unfairly rewards the low scorers, who “took a flyer” and entered the pool, he said, even if they have poor qualifications, poor language skills and poor job prospects while qualified applicants who are still collecting documentation and not yet in the system lose out.

“The draw transforms a well-structured and predictable system into a lottery ticket,” said Karas. “It makes the system look worthless and game-able.”

Since immigration employees are still working from home, he questioned whether the department has the processing capacity for the flood of applications coming from this draw without compromising the processing time or quality of decisions.

Independent immigration policy analyst Richard Kurland said the system is nimble and flexible as it’s supposed to in adapting to the challenging environment under the pandemic.

“Due to COVID, fewer people registered in the system, resulting in a lower pass mark,” he said. “Now, the publicity (of this news) will flood the system with new candidates. You’ll likely see a lot more people registering just in case immigration lightning strikes twice, increasing the pass mark again.”

Source: Canada’s record-setting invitation to immigrants after COVID shortfall an ‘absolute shock’

Express Entry: 4346 CEC candidates invited

Meeting the levels target at any cost: score of 75 compared to normal average in the high 400s.

To put this into context, essentially any one 18 and 35 or anyone with a one-year degree, diploma or certificate from  a university, college, trade or technical school, or other institute, will obtain a score of 75, irrespective of any other factors.

Hard to see that this represents a merit-based appoach to selecting immigrants but does have the political advantage of helping meeting target immigration levels:

Canada invited 27,332 candidates to apply for permanent residence in its latest Express Entry draw— you read that right.

Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) invited candidates from the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) on February 13. This unprecedented Express Entry invitation round only required candidates to have a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score of at least 75— the lowest CRS requirement ever.

Today’s draw was almost six times larger than the largest Express Entry draws ever (5,000 ITAs were issued in four straight draws between November 18 and December 23 last year). Prior to today, the lowest CRS cut-off requirement ever was 199 points in the May 16, 2017 draw which only invited Federal Skilled Trades Program candidates. Express Entry was launched in January 2015.

On Wednesday, Canada also held an Express Entry draw inviting 654 Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates to apply for permanent residence, that makes a total of 27,986 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) issued this week.

IRCC implemented the tie-break rule, meaning candidates who had the minimum score of 75 were only included if they submitted their Express Entry profile before September 12, 2020 at 15:31 UTC.

Today’s draw goes to show IRCC’s commitment to achieving its target of 401,000 new immigrants in 2021. Of those, IRCC is aiming to welcome 108,500 newcomersthrough Express Entry-managed programs, according to its 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan. Next year that target increases to 110,500, and then to 113,750 in 2023. Canada has given Federal High Skilled programs— which are managed by the Express Entry system— the largest share of new immigrant allocations for the next three years. This means the Express Entry system will continue to be Canada’s main source of new immigrants for the foreseeable future.

Canada’s immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, recently said that IRCC will make efforts to achieve the ambitious immigration targets by transitioning more temporary residents to permanent residents during the pandemic.

The unprecedented draw today seems to indicate that IRCC is aiming to issue as many invitations as it can at the beginning of this year so that it can complete the permanent residence landings of successful Express Entry candidates later in 2021. This would provide IRCC with a greater opportunity to achieve its immigration levels target amid ongoing coronavirus disruptions across the world. At the same time IRCC and Mendicino continue to stress that they will also look to global talent including those currently outside of Canada to support the country’s post-pandemic recovery.

Source: Express Entry: 4346 CEC candidates invited