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’

Ibbitson: Ottawa needs an aggressive immigration plan

Will be interesting to see how this largely opening the gates to anyone already in Canada will affect overall economic integration and outcomes.

This fixation of meeting the target level in the middle of a downturn and at a time of ongoing travel restrictions has an element of unreality, given the recent RBC report predicting only 275,000 new Permanent Residents compared to the target of 401,000 (less than 70 percent) and what I am seeing in observing monthly data.

Many of his points are, of course, valid, particularly greater recognition of lower skilled/paid essential workers, increased competition to attract immigrants by the USA and European countries, and a possible decline in potential interest in emigration from current source countries given their declining birthrates.

His commentary is, like so many, silent on the anticipated impact of automation and AI on the economy and labour force:

If you are studying or working in Canada on a visa, if you are here as an asylum claimant, even if your visa has expired and you are an undocumented resident, the odds have never been better that you could soon be on the path to citizenship.

In order to maintain immigration targets, the federal government is aggressively courting non-Canadians who are living here to apply to become permanent residents.

This may stoke resentment among some old-stock Canadians who don’t like the change, literally, in the complexion of the population. But there is no alternative, if Canada is to grow and prosper.

Because borders were closed by the pandemic, we accepted only 184,000 new permanent residents last year, rather than the target of 341,000. Most of those granted status were already in the country when the pandemic hit.

To make up the loss, the Liberal government has set goals of 401,000 new permanent residents this year. But with borders still closed, a recent Royal Bank report predicted we’ll be lucky to get to 275,000 in 2021.

“With the effects of the pandemic looking more likely to remain into the spring and summer, the headwinds … will keep immigration into Canada low throughout most of 2021,” wrote senior economist Andrew Agopsowicz.

There are between a million and a million and a half people in Canada who are here on work or student visas, who are seeking asylum, or who are undocumented because their visa expired or for some other reason.

To show it’s serious about converting as many as possible to permanent residents, the federal government greatly lowered the entrance requirement in its most recent call for applications under the Express Entry system, which fast-tracks economic-class applicants.

“It’s a catch-all draw, meant to transition many of those who are eligible to be permanent residents and who are currently residing in Canada,” explained Kareem El-Assal, director of policy at Canadavisa.com, the website of an immigration law firm.

Mr. El-Assal believes that Canada can meet the target of 401,000 new permanent residents this year by drawing on the pool of people already here and by bringing in family-class immigrants, who are permitted to enter Canada under pandemic rules.

I would argue that Ottawa and the provinces should also look for qualified workers from the pool of asylum claimants and undocumented workers as well, subject to the appropriate background checks. Right now we need workers more than we need to enforce bureaucratic rules.

The government’s determination to meet its immigration targets coincides with a lesson many have learned about the value of so-called low-skilled work in areas such as agrifood and health care.

“The pandemic revealed that many people who were described as low-skilled were really essential workers,” said Usha George, director of the Centre for Immigration and Settlement at Ryerson University. When many Canadians were forced out of work or had to work from home because of lockdowns, “they contributed to keeping us all going,” she said.

Our immigration system is geared to attracting high-skilled workers in the professions and trades. But our economy also depends on people whose work we undervalue, and they too should be welcomed to Canada as permanent residents.

Surveys show a significant minority of Canadians believe that immigration levels are too high. There is plenty of evidence on social media that some Canadians of European background resent high levels of non-European immigration.

But Canada’s fertility rate has been declining since the 1970s, and is now more than half a baby shy of replacement rate. Without immigrants, our population would soon start to decline.

Meanwhile, India and the Philippines, two major source countries of immigrants to Canada, have brought their fertility rates down to replacement rate, or very close to it. And factoring in the robust economic growth they were enjoying before the pandemic, there could soon be fewer people available – or interested – in coming.

Aging societies across the developed world need immigrants to fill vacant jobs and to pay taxes to support the elderly, whatever nativist know-nothings may think.

In the not-too-distant future, rather than the federal and provincial governments choosing which applicants get to come to Canada, we will be begging potential newcomers to pick us over the American and European competition. The sooner we get used to that idea, the better.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-ottawa-needs-an-aggressive-immigration-plan/

Canada should stay the course on immigration

The immigration industry perspective. The overall demographic arguments for staying the course need to take into account that previous recessions and downturns have generally impacted short and longer term economic integration, the expected medium-term impact of COVID-19 on hospitality, travel and retail sectors, along with the longer-term impact of AI and automation on labour force needs.

Will see degree to which it is reflected in the forthcoming immigration plan:

Canada will soon make a major announcement that will shape its economic trajectory for years to come.

By Friday, immigration minister Marco Mendicino will unveil Canada’s new Immigration Levels Plan which will detail the number of newcomers the country seeks to welcome in 2021.

This announcement is usually standard fare.

Since the late-1980s, Liberal and Conservative governments alike have gradually increased Canada’s newcomer intake. The rationale is simple. Newcomers help offset the negative economic and fiscal impacts created by Canada’s aging population and low birth rate.

Nothing about 2020, however, has been standard fare.

The coronavirus pandemic will result in Canada falling well short of the 341,000 newcomer target it had set for 2020.

Intuitively, one may think it no longer makes sense to target a comparable level of immigration next year. Borders have been shut to contain the virus. Canada has a weaker economy and high unemployment.

But reducing the target due to COVID-19 would be a mistake for the following reasons.

The pandemic has not changed the need to welcome newcomers to replenish the over 9 million baby boomers who will be of retirement age by 2030. Our birth rate is too low to replenish the boomers and there is talk that economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic may induce a baby bust.

We will need to rely more on technological advances to meet our future workforce needs but we still need talented Canadians and immigrants to support advances in technology. In addition, Canada’s economy can only grow so much in the absence of the labour force growth that was being fueled by immigration prior to the pandemic.

A case can be made that higher immigration is now even more important.

Economic activity will weaken even further if we have a baby bust.

Government debt is rising to keep the economy afloat during the pandemic, but future generations will eventually need to service the debt.

Hence, welcoming more immigrants will be vital to supporting the growth we will need to turn our post-COVID economic and fiscal fortunes around.

One may legitimately argue that it is unwise to welcome more immigrants during a period of high unemployment.

The rebuttal for this argument is that immigration stimulates job creation in the short run as newcomers spend money to get themselves established in Canada.

Job creation will accelerate once the pandemic is over. We need to begin preparing for the post-COVID economic recovery now. Prior to the pandemic, Canada enjoyed some of its lowest unemployment rates ever in part due to its aging population and low birth rate. We will eventually return to relatively low unemployment and we will need immigrants to fill vacancies.

A new study by Mendicino’s immigration department shows that immigrants who have recently arrived to Canada as skilled workers are performing superbly in the labour market. Given we are attracting the best of the best, we should not be too concerned about the ability of these immigrants to eventually land on their feet in Canada.

Finally, protecting the health and safety of Canadians remains the top priority. We should rest assured this will remain so irrespective of the target that Mendicino announces by Friday. The target does not necessarily mean Canada will welcome this number of newcomers next year if the pandemic lingers. Rather, Canada can enumerate its immigration target but only enable the Canadians of tomorrow to physically enter the country when public health experts deem that this can be achieved safely.

Immigration was important to Canada’s economic prosperity prior to COVID-19 and is set to play an even larger role in our economic and fiscal health after the pandemic. The Canadian government would be wise to stay the course on immigration. The best decision would be to announce immigration targets for 2021 and beyond that are in line with the level of newcomer admissions Canada targeted before the pandemic.

Source: Canada should stay the course on immigration

Has Trump increased U.S. immigration to Canada?

Good analysis by Kareem El-Assal (spoiler, mainly US residents, not citizens, overall not much in percentage terms):

Each year, Canada targets roughly 60 per cent of its new permanent resident arrivals under economic class immigration programs. In addition, it welcomes just over 25 per cent under the family class, and the remaining 15 per cent on refugee and humanitarian grounds.

When we solely focus on immigrants arriving from the United States under the economic class, we see there has been an exponential increase since 2015.

One may think the purpose of looking at the 2015 to 2020 period is to assess the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump on immigration to Canada.

However, using 2015 as the reference period is useful because it marks the year Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) overhauled the way it manages economic class applications. That year, it introduced Express Entry to manage skilled worker applications in a more dynamic and quick fashion.

The number of immigrants coming to Canada from the U.S. under Express Entryhas risen by leaps and bounds. Upon Express Entry’s launch in 2015, only 600 U.S. residents obtained invitations to apply for permanent residence. Last year, this figure stood at over 10,000 people.

The big question is: How much of this is due to Trump?

Understanding U.S. immigration to Canada

It is important to make a distinction between U.S. citizens immigrating to Canada, and U.S. residents immigrating to Canada.

Most of those who move north as skilled workers are actually U.S. residents. They are individuals who lived in the U.S. for whatever reason, be it as workers or students, for example, and then decided that they wanted to pursue permanent residence in Canada.

The number of U.S. citizens arriving as economic class immigrants has also increased on an absolute basis since 2015. There were 4,800 individuals who did so in 2019 compared with 3,300 in 2015.

One may attribute this to Trump, however it would be a mistake to do so.

On a relative basis, U.S. citizens have comprised about 2 per cent of all new economic class immigrants welcomed by Canada since 2015.

The reason that more such U.S. citizens have come to Canada over this period is because Canada has increased its overall immigration levels from 272,000 in 2015 to 341,000 in 2019.

So, there has not been a “Trump bump” among U.S. citizens immigrating to Canada.

Now, what about U.S. residents immigrating to Canada?

“Trump Bump” is likely one factor for higher immigration among U.S. residents

IRCC’s Express Entry data shows that just over 10,000 individuals residing in the U.S. obtained permanent residence invitations in 2019. This figure was also 10,000 in 2018, but was 6,000 in 2017, and only 600 in 2015.

IRCC’s data suggests that roughly 85 per cent of these individuals were non-U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. upon the time of invitation. We presume this by subtracting the number of total invitations from the number of U.S. citizens who received invitations (about 10,200 total invitations subtracted by 1,600 U.S. citizens).

One explanation is that again, Canada’s overall immigration increased and IRCC has steadily processed more applications through Express Entry over this period. However, this cannot explain the nearly twenty-fold growth in U.S. residents succeeding under Express Entry.

There are other factors that we need to look at, and Trump is one of them.

In the absence of concrete evidence, we cannot assume a causal linkage between the Trump presidency and higher immigration from the U.S. However, it is highly probably that the immigration uncertainty in the U.S. has contributed to more residents in the U.S. moving to Canada.

It is important to remember, however, that while Trump may not have helped matters, uncertainty for immigrant hopefuls in the U.S. has existed for decades now. Although the U.S. has a population that is nine times bigger than Canada’s and a labour market that is eight times bigger, it welcomes about the same number of skilled immigrants each year as Canada.

This means there are simply not enough spots available for individuals looking to remain in the U.S. as permanent residents.

This issue long predates Trump and is one likely to linger following the November 3rd presidential election. Irrespective of who wins the election, the U.S. is unlikely to increase its permanent residence allocation to a level that would satisfy the demand of aspiring skilled workers and American employers. Come January 2021, the President and Congress will be laser-focused on America’s COVID-19 recovery.

On a practical level, it may prove difficult for U.S. politicians to explore welcoming more immigrants given the ongoing recession in the U.S. caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Hence, we can expect immigration among U.S. residents to remain strong in the coming years as such individuals move to Canada in pursuit of certainty.

Certainty is exactly what Canada offers the growing number of U.S. residents that have moved here since 2015. Canada has a stable immigration system with a growing level of permanent residence spots that successful candidates can secure in six months or less. This is a system that Canada put in place prior to Trump’s arrival, and will help it lure many more talented individuals from its southern neighbour well beyond the Trump presidency.

Source: Has Trump increased U.S. immigration to Canada?

Quebec should reconsider immigration changes

On the non-competitiveness of recent Quebec changes to PEQ:

Recently announced reforms to the Quebec Experience Program should be reconsidered.

Since 2010, the Quebec Experience Program (or “PEQ” in French) has offered a fast-track to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers and international students that lived in Quebec. Such individuals could often get their Quebec Selection Certificate in around 20 business days, and then go ahead and submit their permanent residence application to the federal government.

This was excellent policy by Quebec.

Government research shows that such individuals integrate quickly into Canada’s economy and society since they are young, well-educated, speak English and French and have Canadian work experience.

In addition, it made sense for Quebec to fast-track their applications since unlike immigration candidates outside of Canada, such individuals are already here. It would be very inconvenient to have them leave Quebec when they have already established themselves in the province and are contributing to the economy as workers and consumers.

Problems with Quebec’s new work experience requirements

The province is increasing the work experience requirements that future applicants will need to obtain to become eligible for the PEQ.

Currently, a temporary foreign worker (TFW) needs 12 months of eligible Quebec work experience within the preceding 24 months of submitting their application to meet the PEQ’s criteria. Students do not need Quebec work experience to be eligible.

Quebec will now require 36 months of work experience from TFWs and between 12-24 months of work experience from foreign students (depending on their program of study in Quebec).

A benefit of the stricter PEQ criteria is it will help more Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP) candidates immigrate to the province through its Arrima Portal.

Currently, highly-qualified QSWP candidates are not able to obtain permanent residence under what is a more competitive process than what PEQ applicants need to go through.

However, Quebec is now introducing stricter work experience requirements for the PEQ than what is currently in place nationally. This means it will become more difficult for foreign workers and students to obtain permanent residence in Quebec.

One may argue that this is a good thing, since those that do become immigrants (whether through the QSWP or QEP) are more likely to succeed in the province.

But, many of the foreign workers and students who are poised to succeed will be unlikely to meet the high bar that Quebec has set.

It is quite normal across Canada for federal and provincial programs to have work experience requirements in place for existing TFWs and international students that want to transition to permanent residence. However, typically, the Canadian work experience requirement is set at 12 months. Whether Quebec likes it or not, it is in competition with other provinces to attract and retain global talent.

If I am a province that is offering the same product (in this case, Canadian permanent resident status), what is the incentive for a prospective immigrant to go through more hurdles when neighbouring provinces offer that product at a much lower cost? (i.e., only 12 months of work experience required versus 24-36 months for TFWs and some international students in Quebec).

Quebec’s higher standards will disincentivize TFWs and students from choosing Quebec.

Such individuals will either choose to go to other provinces at the start of their Canadian immigration journey, or will leave Quebec and move to another province when they are ready to apply for permanent residence.

Even if an individual is motivated to remain in Quebec, it may prove difficult for them to obtain the work experience they may need to be eligible for the PEQ.

For instance, some TFWs such as International Exchange Canada participants have work permits that are valid for no more than two years. Employers may not be willing spend the time and money required to petition the government to provide such individuals with one or more work permits (e.g., a work permit that requires a Labour Market Impact Assessment or “LMIA”).

One other point on this front: in the short run, it will become even more challenging for candidates to meet the new work experience requirements due to the economic damage that is being caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

New processing standard is also problematic

Quebec indicated that it will now seek to process PEQ applications within 6 months, rather than 20 business days, in order to harmonize its processing standard with the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.

Once again, Quebec is hurting its competitiveness since the quicker processing standard was one of the PEQ’s major selling points. Now, prospective immigration candidates may look to options outside of the province given that there will no longer be a significant advantage to applying to the PEQ.

Keep in mind that it was already taking nearly 23 months for PEQ candidates to obtain permanent residence (20 business days to get a Quebec Selection Certificate plus another 22 months for the federal government to process permanent residence applications).

Adding another fives months on top of that is unwise on its own, and even more so when you consider that successful Express Entry candidates are usually able to get permanent residence within six months.

A better solution would have been to identify how to reduce the length of time it takes Quebec to issue CSQs to QSWP candidates.

Changes come at a time when Quebec will need more immigration

No immigration program is perfect, and it is a good practice for Canada’s federal and provincial governments to seek reforms to their programs to help meet the country’s evolving economic and social needs.

However, not all reforms end up being beneficial.

In this case, time will likely prove that Quebec’s reforms are misplaced. By discouraging workers and students from remaining in the province due to uncompetitive work experience requirements and processing times, Quebec may end up with even lower immigration levels at a time when it will need higher immigration in the years to come due to its aging population and low birth rate.

This may be hard to fathom at the moment due to the COVID-19 crisis.

But, the crisis will eventually pass and Quebec will soon need more immigrants to complement its Quebec-born work force.

What better way of doing so, then by providing a fast-track to immigration for the workers and students that have already resided in Quebec and contributed for several years?

Source: Quebec should reconsider immigration changes

After coronavirus: Immigrants will be key to Canada’s economic recovery

While I value the work and analysis of Kareem El-Assal, I think that this presents an overly optimistic picture, or at least a pre-mature one as we really don’t know about how fast and complete the recovery will be, particularly when you consider the impact on retail, travel and hospitality industries.

And like so many pro-immigration narratives, it tends to gloss over whether the impact would be only on overall GDP or also with respect to per capita GDP where the benefits are less clear.

My guess is that we will only really know about one year from now, when most of the effects have hopefully worked their way through society:

The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating impact on economies around the world.

The IMF projects the global economy will contract by 3 per cent in 2020, in what it calls the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Just days before it announced travel restrictions to help contain the spread of COVID-19, Canada said it would welcome over 1 million immigrants between 2020-2022, mainly to help grow its economy.

Of course, little did Canadian government officials know at the time of the announcement that the global economy would be heading towards such a major contraction.

Should Canada welcome more immigrants?

The current state of affairs may lead one to legitimately question whether Canada should continue with its immigration plan, or scale it back.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 will require Canada to adjust its immigration plans.

However, it would not be sound economic policy to significantly reduce Canada’s immigration levels beyond the coronavirus crisis.

The reason for this is that Canada needs immigrants more than it ever has in its modern history to promote economic growth.

Why Canada needs more immigrants

Canada’s desire to welcome over 300,000 immigrants per year is meant to help alleviate its demographic challenges.

Canada has one of the world’s lowest birth rates and one of the world’s oldest populations. As more Canadians retire, it will struggle to replace them in the labour market since the country is not having enough children. This is where immigration comes in.

Immigration has been the main driver of Canada’s population growth since the 1990s, and will be the only driver of it by the early 2030s.

Population growth is important because it fuels labour force growth. The two ways to grow an economy is by adding more workers and using those workers more productively.

Today, immigration tends to account for all of Canada’s labour force growth, or the vast majority of it, in a given year. This means that Canada would constrain its economic growth potential if it welcomed fewer immigrants.

Canada will see a full economic recovery

The consensus among economists is that the Canadian and global economy should rebound fairly quickly once social distancing restrictions have been eased.

This means that more Canadians will be back to work, and there will also be more job opportunities for immigrants.

Canada’s economy pre-coronavirus is very telling of what we can expect once the economy is back to normal.

Leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, Canada’s unemployment rate was at record lows and its economy enjoyed a decade of growth following the 2008 global financial crisis. Remember that Canada maintained high levels of immigration even following that crisis, which in hindsight, was the correct economic decision to make.

One significant reason for the low unemployment rate pre-coronavirus is many of Canada’s over 9 million baby boomers were retiring, which caused a shortage of workers as the economy was expanding. This benefitted Canadian-born workers and immigrants alike.

Similarly, Canadian-born workers and immigrants are poised to benefit from the post-coronavirus economic rebound. In the coming years, it is realistic to expect Canada to deal with worker shortages again, and even more so than prior to COVID-19 as all of Canada’s 9 million baby boomers reach the age of retirement within the next decade.

Immigration policy always has long-term economic implications and we should not lose sight of that even in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Immigrants will help to create more jobs post-coronavirus

Canada’s economy is facing tough times, but immigration will play a pivotal role in supporting Canada’s economic recovery since immigrants will help to fill newly-created jobs and also support job creation in other ways.

Statistics Canada research shows that immigrants have a high propensity to start businesses. In one of its recent studies, Statistics Canada found that immigrant entrepreneurs created 25 per cent of new private sector jobs between 2003 and 2013, even though they accounted for 17 per cent of companies studied. In other words, immigrant entrepreneurs punched above their weight when it came to job creation.

Hence, immigrant entrepreneurs post-coronavirus will create businesses that will create new jobs for fellow Canadians.

Finally, immigrants bring significant savings with them which helps to fuel the economic activity that is critical to fueling job creation in Canada.

Consider the useful proxy of international students. According to the federal government, the over 600,000 international students in Canada contribute to over $22 billion in economic activity each year which supports nearly 200,000 Canadian jobs.

Canada has over 8 million immigrants, who make an even bigger contribution to economic growth and job creation than international students.

Source: After coronavirus: Immigrants will be key to Canada’s economic recovery

Canada is sending the right immigration signals to the world

Of note. Good summary:

Canada may be the most open country on the planet right now.

Countries around the world have shut their borders, closed their airports, and imposed lockdowns to fight the deadly coronavirus.

Canada, too, has implemented such emergency measures.

But, it is also seeking to strike a balance between containing COVID-19 while also enabling global talent and foreign nationals into the country. This is due to Canada’s recognition that newcomers are part of the solution to supporting its economy during this challenging period, as well as the country’s unwavering commitment to reuniting family members even in the wake of its travel restrictions.

Canada doing everything it can to accommodate immigrants

On March 16, 2020, Canada unveiled special immigration measures related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The most notable measure was the decision to restrict travel into the country until June 30th, although several major exceptions were made.

Recognizing that the immigration system would face significant disruptions due to developments that are both within its control as well as beyond its control, Canada has taken additional steps to try to keep its immigration system running as smoothly as possible.

For instance, Canada has stated that no immigration application will be refused due to incomplete documentation. Rather, the federal government will provide applicants with more time to obtain their documents before it makes a decision on their application.

Make no mistake about it, Canada’s immigration system is facing disruptions.

Canadian government officials must work remotely to protect their health and safety as well as the safety of their family, friends, and communities. They are also responding to competing priorities to navigate this crisis which is requiring them to divert their attention from their day-to-day immigration responsibilities.

Factors beyond Canada’s control include people overseas facing lockdowns, travel restrictions, service disruptions, and other obstacles that are hindering the ability of foreign nationals to come to Canada or submit a completed immigration application.

Nonetheless, Canada is doing its best to adapt which is sending the right signals to foreign nationals around the world.

That is: we will do everything we can to accommodate your immigration goals and help you during this period of need.

Permanent residents

Consider that despite all that is happening in the world, Canada continues to hold Express Entry draws.

Four Express Entry draws have taken place in the three weeks following the travel restrictions being announced, including two draws on April 9 that saw Canada issue a total of 3,900 invitations to apply for permanent residence.

In addition, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have all had Provincial Nominee Program draws.

Permanent residents outside of Canada are being accommodated in a number of ways. They are still able to travel to Canada. And, those who received a confirmation of permanent residence (COPR) prior to March 16 are also able to come to Canada.

International students

Some international students are exempt from Canada’s travel restrictions, but Canada took a step further recently to try to accommodate even more international students.

The decision to allow some international students to pursue online study and remain eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit was a major one. The majority of Canada’s international students are interested in transitioning to permanent residence. Hence, the PGWP is a critical stepping stone in helping them achieve their immigration goal.

Canada recognized it would be unfair to deem students ineligible for the PGWP due to circumstances completely out of the student’s control (that the student was forced to pursue online instructions due to the cancellation of classes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus).

Time will only tell if Canada chooses to take its PGWP flexibility one step further.

If public health officials advise the federal government to extend its coronavirus containment measures, Canada may feel the need to enable the September 2020 cohort of international students to also be able to access online courses while remaining eligible for the PGWP.

This may be necessary any way, given international students may struggle to find available flights or face other disruptions that could prevent them from being in Canada in time for September 2020 classes.

Foreign workers

Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) are largely exempt from the travel restrictions given how important they are to Canada’s economy. Canada has sought ways to make it easier for employers to hire TFWs by loosening Labour Market Impact Assessment rules in priority occupations in the agri-food and transportation sectors. Such flexibility is crucial to helping employers access workers to help sustain Canada’s food supply.

Assistance for newcomers in Canada

Much of the financial support announced by Canada in recent weeks is available to immigrants who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents, as well as international students and temporary foreign workers. Irrespective of their immigration status, individuals within Canada may be eligible for vital government income support such as Employment Insurance or the new Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.

Here, Canada is telling the world that even if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of our country, we will stand by you to provide you with as much support during this difficult time.

Immigration will help Canada recover from the coronavirus crisis

We are currently living in an unprecedented moment in history that is taking a significant toll on the emotional, physical, and financial health of us all.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that we will eventually get through this difficult period and once we get a chance to catch our breath, we will look back at how governments around the world responded to the crisis.

On the immigration front, it is difficult to criticize Canada’s response and it appears very likely that Canada will be lauded for the compassion it has shown to immigrants of all stripes during a period where it is very well within its right to shut down its borders and immigration system.

Immigration has various short-, medium-, and long-term benefits for Canada, and a very strong argument can be made that facilitating immigration even during this crisis is necessary.

In the short run, permanent residents, foreign workers, and international students will help to stimulate economic activity in Canada which will help to alleviate the economic strain Canada is currently under.

In the medium- and long-term, immigrants will be key to keeping Canada prosperous since they will spur economic activity as workers, consumers, and taxpayers.

Source: Canada is sending the right immigration signals to the world

Despite coronavirus, Canada needs immigrants

Suspect with travel restrictions and fewer international flights, may be harder for IRCC to meet this year’s target levels. Citizenship numbers will most likely drop given the cancellation of citizenship ceremonies:

Last week Canada announced its 2020-2022 Immigration Levels Plan as the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis was escalating.

Indeed, the announcement was overshadowed by the major economic and social turmoil that the coronavirus is having in Canada and abroad.

Here at home, Canada, just like most countries, appears headed towards a recession. COVID-19 has led to a price war between major oil producers globally, and the collapsing price of oil will have negative ramifications for Canada’s economy.

Moreover, weakened economic activity will hurt nearly every sector with certain ones in particular such as tourism and hospitality bearing significant blows.

To stymie the blows, the Bank of Canada announced an emergency cut to its overnight interest rate, just one week after it had already cut the rate. They may not be done, as some analysts forecast more cuts may be needed to help Canada’s economy weather the storm.

Overseas, we have seen the likes of states of emergency, travel bans, and other exceptional events such as stock market crashes.

Why 2020-2022 Immigration Levels Plan makes sense despite COVID-19

As such chaos engulfs the world, it is understandable that Canada’s decision to welcome over one million additional immigrants over the next three years is not the focus of attention at the moment.

Nonetheless, the COVID-19 crisis can help us understand why immigration will be so crucial to Canada’s economy moving forward.

Yes, Canada’s economy looks set to contract in 2020. As such, one could make the argument that increasing immigration at this moment is not ideal since newcomers will be arriving in Canada at a time when the labour market will struggle to absorb them.

However, current events serve as a reminder that Canada’s immigration policies are largely proactive in nature, and since the late 1980s, the decision of the number of immigrants to welcome has been largely detached from economic conditions on the ground.

While Canada welcomes immigrants to help fill immediate job vacancies, its immigration policies are also meant to strengthen the country’s economic standing years and decades from now. This means that even if newcomers arrive during an economic downturn, Canada expects the same newcomers to be catalysts for economic growth in the future.

A major reason for this is that all of Canada’s nine million baby boomers will reach retirement age by the end of this decade. Since Canada has a low birth rate, it is relying on immigration to drive the majority of its labour force growth.

Labour force growth is one of two ways to grow the economy, with the other way being to use the labour force more productively.

Hence, it still makes sense to admit high levels of newcomers even during periods of economic distress. While immigrants arriving in Canada in 2020 may face more difficulties than usual in finding work that aligns with their skills, education, and work experience, they will soon face the prospects of working in a country where the supply of labour will be significantly constrained as more baby boomers leave the workforce. This means that such immigrants will likely see more employers competing for their services, which would result in much better employment outcomes and salaries.

“Tap on, tap off” turned off in late 1980s

The proactive measure of welcoming high levels of newcomers even during recessions is a fairly new one in Canadian history.

Up until the late 1980s, Canada utilized a “tap on, tap off” approach to immigration levels. It welcomed higher levels of newcomers when the economy was strong, and reduced immigration during recessions. However, it moved away from this approach in the late 1980s after determining it needed to sustain high levels of immigration to alleviate the economic and fiscal strain that was soon to come due to its rapidly aging population and low birth rate. Since then, Canada has maintained high levels even during several recessions including the major one that occurred in 2008-09.

It can also be argued that a short-term benefit of welcoming immigrants during periods such as what Canada is experiencing today still helps the economy in the short-run since newcomers will help to stimulate demand in Canada through the purchase of goods and services which will help to relieve some of the economic stress being caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Announcing an ambitious immigration levels plan during such a crisis may not have appeared to be ideal timing on the surface, however, in practice, the timing of the announcement will prove immaterial.

Today’s higher immigration levels, even though we are experiencing a coronavirus crisis and economic pain, will result in greener economic pastures tomorrow as the influx of newcomers contributes to Canada’s economy as workers, consumers, and taxpayers.

Source: Despite coronavirus, Canada needs immigrants

How to improve Canada’s Parents and Grandparents immigration program in 2020

Interesting proposal by Kareem El-Assal for a Parents and Grandparents Human Capital Pilot:

January has typically marked the opening of the window for immigrants to express their interest in sponsoring family under Canada’s Parents and Grandparents Program, or PGP.

However, given the challenges Canada has had managing the PGP and the recent federal election in October, it remains unknown as to when the PGP intake window will open in 2020 and what the application process will look like.

This provides an opportunity to think of innovative solutions that could help improve the PGP. For instance, the federal government might consider launching a new Parents and Grandparents Human Capital Pilot.

PGP costs and benefits

Canada is keeping its PGP intake target stable at about 21,000 people under its 2019-2021 Immigration Levels Plan.

The PGP accounts for only six per cent of all newcomers to Canada because its economic benefits are not as strong as Canada’s other social immigration streams.

It is more beneficial to Canada’s economy to welcome spouses and other dependents, as well as refugees, who tend to arrive at a younger age and will contribute more in working hours and taxes than the average parent and grandparent. The time these former groups spend working in Canada will help to subsidize the health care they will require later in life, whereas parents and grandparents arrive in Canada at ages when they need health care the most, even though they will have yet to contribute in taxes.

There is, however, an economic justification for welcoming parents and grandparents. They provide child care, which enables their families to save money and earn more income by working extra hours. They also help to supplement the household income by working in Canada themselves. This helps us understand why data from the 2016 Census show that immigrant families tend to have nearly identical homeownership rates (69 per cent) and household incomes as Canadian-born families (CAD 85,000 annually).

We must also take into consideration the PGP’s social benefit: strong families are the bedrock of Canadian society.

Frustration abounds

Given that some 100,000 people tried to access a request to sponsor form in January 2019, vying for just 21,000 PGP spots, pleasing everyone is an impossible task and the PGP process has inevitably become a source of widespread frustration.

The federal government has recognized the limitations of the different approaches that it has tried to process PGP applications. It previously operated a first-come, first-served model where it would review applications in the order in which they were received. By 2011, this had produced a backlog of about 165,000 PGP applications. Processing times were over five years which meant that unfortunately, some parents and grandparents passed away before their application could be reviewed.

To tackle the backlog, Canada announced in 2011 that it would temporarily freeze new PGP applications and increased its PGP intake target from about 15,000 annually to 25,000 people in 2012 and 2013, before reducing it to the current target.

In 2017, the federal government introduced a lottery system for the PGP. Interested sponsors had 30 days to submit an expression of interest and the government then randomly selected candidates and invited them to apply to sponsor family.

While this approach was innovative, it had several limitations. Applicants were uncertain if their family member would ever make it into Canada. There were also applicants who were not serious about sponsoring their parents or grandparents—some of them were randomly selected but they never went ahead and submitted an application, regrettably causing delays for the federal government and more genuine candidates.

The federal government returned to a first-come, first-served approach in January 2019. The government set a date and time when the PGP Interest to Sponsor form would be made available online and accepted the first 27,000 submissions. This approach again proved problematic as more than 100,000 people tried to access the form at the same time and the submission period lasted about 10 minutes before the quota was met. Many could not access the form and others that did could not complete it on time, leading to renewed criticism of the process.

Federal government should not be afraid to innovate

We can expect another revamped version of the PGP in 2020. Since the demand to sponsor will continue to exceed the number of available spots, managing the PGP to everyone’s satisfaction will never be possible. But recent lessons provide us with a roadmap of how the federal government can proceed prudently.

First, dropping the expression of interest approach in favour of a return to an application-based model would solve a key headache for the government. This move would require giving stakeholders advance notice of when the application window will open so they can prepare their documentation. When the window does open, the federal government needs to give sponsors a reasonable amount of time to submit an electronic or paper-based application. To avoid overburdening the system, the federal government can increase efforts to attract genuine candidates by requiring that they pay the sponsorship fee in full upfront.

Second, the federal government can adjust its immigration levels based on the number of applications it receives. This would require more flexibility to, say, welcome up to an additional 10,000 PGP in certain years to ensure a reasonable processing standard (e.g., within three years).

Third, it can continue to promote its Super Visa that enables parents and grandparents to visit Canada multiple times for a period of up to 10 years. The Super Visa has been criticized for requiring these individuals to obtain private health insurance, which may be unaffordable for some families, but it at least provides families with certainty that they will be able to reunite with their loved ones. Moreover, encouraging greater use of the Super Visa would take the pressure off the PGP.

Fourth, the federal government can explore other innovative approaches to managing the PGP. Despite the criticism of its efforts to better handle the PGP in recent years, a key reason why Canada’s immigration system is so successful is the federal government’s willingness to find new solutions to longstanding challenges, such as managing backlogs. The introduction of the Express Entry system in January 2015 is a case in point.

Parents and Grandparents Human Capital Pilot

One innovation for consideration is introducing a human capital-based approach to managing some PGP applications. The federal government could launch an Economic Class pilot whereby parents and grandparents who are younger in age and have higher levels of education, work experience, and English or French proficiency would get first preference. The pilot would complement the existing PGP Family Class stream and the Super Visa.

One of the reasons the pilot would be novel is that candidates under federal Express Entry-managed programs receive fewer points once they hit a certain age (a candidate gets no points for their age once they turn 45).

Under the Parents and Grandparents Human Capital Pilot, the federal government could welcome up to 2,750 principal applicants per year (the maximum number allowed under a pilot). This figure would likely be more in the neighbourhood of 3,500 parents and grandparents per year since a share of principal applicants would be accompanied by their spouses.

This idea may be unpopular since critics could argue the PGP exists to strengthen Canadian society, not its economy. But this pilot could at least expedite processing for individuals who meet its criteria and would reduce the number of applications submitted to the PGP, which would help to improve PGP processing times.

Moreover, it is an idea that would be easier to sell to the Canadian public. Previous federal government research has indicated the PGP has less public support than other immigration streams. This is likely due to the perception the PGP has little economic benefit and is a burden to the health care system.

However, by bringing in parents and grandparents who are younger and possess stronger human capital, the federal government could make the argument that such individuals are more likely to contribute to the labour market as workers and could help subsidize the health care they will eventually need in Canada.

The future of the PGP in 2020 remains uncertain. The only certainty is it will remain difficult for Canada to manage a program with some 100,000 people vying for just 21,000 spots.

Source: How to improve Canada’s Parents and Grandparents immigration program in 2020

Canada expects a 40 per cent increase in citizenship among immigrants by 2024

Good overview by Kareem El-Assal, who included the need for a more meaningful performance standard:

A new Statistics Canada study that shows fewer recent immigrants are gaining Canadian citizenship is cause for concern, but improvements are on the horizon. 

Becoming a citizen is one of the defining life moments of Canada’s immigrants. It marks the end of their newcomer journey and the beginning of their journey as a Canadian with the same rights as those born in Canada. These include the right to vote, to run for political office, to gain preferential treatment when applying to government jobs, to travel with a Canadian passport, and to travel outside of Canada indefinitely.

Canada takes pride in supporting the citizenship journey of immigrants as the country’s high rate of citizenship acquisition is an important indicator that Canada does a good job of facilitating integration. A 2018 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that 91 per cent of immigrants who had lived in Canada for at least 10 years held citizenship, compared with the OECD average of 63 per cent. Other top destinations for immigrants such as Australia (81 per cent) and the United States (62 per cent) lag behind Canada by a wide margin.

Citizenship acquisition is down

Statistics Canada’s new study finds that citizenship acquisition stood at 86 per cent at the time of the 2016 Census compared with 82 per cent during the 1991 Census.

This promising finding, however, is overshadowed by the significant decline in citizenship acquisition among more recent immigrant cohorts.

In 1996, for example, 68 per cent of eligible immigrants who had been in Canada for five years were citizens, but this figure fell to 43 per cent in 2016. In fact, Statistics Canada’s analysis found that the citizenship rate for most immigrant cohorts fell in 2016 compared with the 2006 Census. Immigrants with low income, official language proficiency, and education have experienced the sharpest drop in naturalization.

Why has naturalization fallen among recent immigrants?

Statistics Canada’s analysis strongly suggests that citizenship policy changes made by Canada over the past decade have hurt naturalization rates.

In 2010, Canada introduced new language requirements and a new citizenship exam. Immigrants between the ages of 14 and 64 had to demonstrate a minimum language proficiency and obtain a pass mark of at least 75 per cent on their citizenship exam (the previous pass mark was 60 per cent). In 2017, these requirements were reversed to only apply to those aged between 18 and 54.

The rationale for these changes was to ensure immigrants were integrating into Canadian society by demonstrating their language proficiency and understanding of Canada’s history, geography, politics, laws, and economy. The government also introduced multiple versions of the citizenship test to reduce cheating and ensure immigrants had a strong knowledge of the topics that it covered.

In addition, the federal government increased the citizenship application fee from $100 to $300 for adults in February 2014 and then raised it again to $530 in January 2015. The fee for children remained the same at $100. Both adult and child applicants also had to pay an extra $100 “right of citizenship fee.”

The fee hikes were justified on the basis they helped the government recover the costs of processing citizenship applications.

Stricter language proficiency and citizenship test requirements have made it more difficult for immigrants with weak language skills and low education to become citizens.

Moreover, the increase in citizenship fees made it less affordable for low-income immigrants to apply for citizenship. Consider that it currently costs a total of $630 per person to apply for citizenship. A family of four needs to pay $1,500, which may be difficult if they are barely making ends meet.

Citizenship rates should increase

Recent policy shifts could improve naturalization rates in the coming years.

For instance, Canada has increased its economic class selection standards over the past decade, which means more immigrants are arriving with higher levels of language proficiency. Family class immigrants tend to have similar socio-economic characteristics as the Canadian citizens and permanent residents sponsoring them, which means that higher economic class selection standards should result in more family class immigrants arriving with higher human capital.

Reducing language test and citizenship exam requirements for only those between the ages of 18 and 54 will likely also improve citizenship rates since older immigrants tend to have weaker English or French skills than younger ones.

The cost will also no longer be a prohibitive factor in applying for citizenship if the Liberals enact their 2019 federal election campaign promise to waive citizenship fees entirely.

Set better performance standards

One major area for improvement, according to Andrew Griffith, a Canadian citizenship policy researcher, is the introduction of better performance standards that enable the federal government to track how quickly recent immigrants are becoming citizens.

In a recent column, Griffith observes that the federal government tends to measure success based on the total number of eligible immigrants who become citizens, irrespective of when they moved to Canada.

A limitation of this approach is it fails to capture how immigration and citizenship policy reforms and socioeconomic conditions are affecting citizenship uptake of recent immigrant arrivals.

Griffith argues that a more prudent approach to measuring Canada’s effectiveness in supporting integration and citizenship acquisition is by setting performance standards that formally measure the citizenship rates of recent immigrants (those in Canada 5-9 years).

This would enable Canada to make policy adjustments as required to promote higher citizenship rates among this cohort.

40 per cent increase by 2024?

The Liberal campaign platform forecasted they will spend $110 million in 2023-2024 to process citizenship applications compared with the $75 million to be spent over the coming federal government fiscal year.

This 40 per cent increase in spending suggests the government expects a 40 per cent increase in new citizens by 2024.

If this is the case, Canada will reverse its declining rate of naturalization among recent immigrants in the coming years — and that would further cement Canada’s leadership among its OECD peers in facilitating integration.

Source: https://www.cicnews.com/2019/11/canada-expects-a-40-per-cent-increase-in-citizenship-among-immigrants-by-2024-1113203.html