El-Assal on backlogs etc

Good and sound testimony before CIMM, with reasonable recommendations to improve transparency, accountability and collaboration (the harder of the three):

Canada’s immigration backlog stands at over two million people. It has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic. The permanent residence inventory has grown from 400,000 people to 530,000 people. The temporary residence inventory has doubled to 1.2 million people, and the citizenship inventory has gone from 230,000 people to 400,000 people.

    The backlog is undermining Canada’s economic, social and humanitarian objectives. We have the lowest unemployment rate on record and over 800,000 job vacancies. The backlog hurts our economic recovery effort, since we can’t bring newcomers into Canada quickly enough to address our labour shortages. For instance, it’s now taking 31 months to process Quebec’s skilled worker applications and 28 months to process paper-based provincial nominee program applications, even though the service standard for both is 11 months.

    The backlog is keeping families apart. For example, although the service standard for spousal sponsorship is 12 months, it’s taking us 20 months on average to process outland applications.

    On the humanitarian side, Canada is making refugees and displaced persons live in discomfort for far longer than necessary, as we’re currently seeing with Afghans and Ukrainians. It is absolutely imperative that we get the immigration system back on track.

    Within the next decade, all nine million baby boomers will reach retirement age. We’re going to need more immigrants to grow our labour force, tax base and economy. However, other countries will win the race for talent if Canada continues to struggle to provide immigrants with certainty that we’ll process their applications quickly and fairly. This will be to the detriment of our economic and fiscal health.

    I’d like to provide three recommendations to the committee.

    First, we need more transparency. 

    The government should be mandated to provide monthly updates to the public on the state of immigration policy and operations. Immigration in Canada is far too important to be a black box. We should not have to rely on access to information requests, as has been the case during the pandemic, to remain informed about the immigration system. The monthly update should contain critical information, such as the government’s policy priorities and its backlog reduction plan, among other details that can help to restore the trust in our immigration system that was eroded during the pandemic. Providing monthly updates would also reflect well on the government. People are more understanding and forgiving when you’re honest with them.

    Second, we need more accountability. 

    An independent study should be commissioned to better understand the operations of the immigration system during the pandemic. Right now, we have many unanswered questions. What are the causes of this backlog? The pandemic alone can’t entirely explain the situation we’re in. For instance, express entry was designed to avoid backlogs, so why then do we have an express entry backlog? We need an evidence-based study that answers these sorts of questions and provides us with guidance to ensure such backlogs never happen again.

    Third, we need to work more collaboratively. 

    Major decisions have been made during the pandemic with little consultation, leading to avoidable consequences. We’re blessed to live in a country with many immigration experts from law, academia, think tanks, business and the settlement sector, among others. They are assets to our immigration system. 

    Hence, my final recommendation is that the government form a national advisory council on immigration. The council’s mandate would be to provide the government with technocratic advice to inform our country’s major immigration decisions. We’re a diverse nation with diverse immigration objectives; we need diverse views reflected in our immigration policy.

    To conclude, I want us to remember that among these two million people waiting in the backlog are future colleagues, friends, neighbours, voters, politicians, and business and civil society leaders. They are Canada’s future, and we must treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Source: https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/CIMM/meeting-21/evidence

Immigration Plan 2022-24: Reports and Reactions

Expect to see more detailed analysis and commentary over coming days to round out the initial reporting.

Overall, the plan continues the government strategy of growing the economy through growing the numbers of immigrants.

This reflects the various interests of the “immigration industry” and business: more bodies means more consumers, more work for immigration lawyers and consultants, more funding for settlement organizations, more research opportunities for academics etc.

Not surprisingly, no questioning of these perspectives in articles and commentary to date (see my earlier Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast.). The government strategy continues to be based on overall GDP growth, not per capita GDP growth and productivity, a long standing issue that governments have tried to address with limited to no success.

The articles below capture some of the aspects which groups and individuals quoted have raised as concerns, but these are all in the context of general suppoort.

In terms of the politics of the plan, unlikely that this will create many issues for the government. The NDP generally supports higher numbers and the Conservatives will likely continue to focus on implementation and administrative issues, given the backlogs and that this is much safer than engaging in a debate over numbers, given their vulnerability to charges of being anti-immigration (unfair IMO but too tempting a target for the Liberals given the Conservatives still wear the legacy of the “barbaric practices tip line” and other ill-thought political messaging).

Given the overall shorter-term perspective of most immigration analysis and commentary, I continue to advocate for a royal commission or equivalent for a more independent and thorough look at immigration policy and programs with a longer-term perspective.

Media articles and commentary to date (nothing negative so far but expect some in more right leaning media and will continue to monitor):

The Star:

Canada plans to welcome more than 1.3 million new immigrants to the country over the next three years to help its economy recover from COVID-19 and to drive future growth.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s multi-year immigration-levels plan was announced Monday.

“If we’re not ready to significantly increase our ambition when it comes to immigration, we are going to be in a position where our economy will suffer, and it could put into jeopardy so many of the public services and social supports that make me very proud to be Canadian,” Fraser said.

But the plan comes amid calls from critics for the federal government to first reduce the ballooning backlog of 1.8 million applications piling up in the system as a result of slowed processing capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new plan calls for an annual intake that will reach 431,645 in 2022; 447,055 in 2023; and 451,000 in 2024 — equivalent to 1.14 per cent of the population by 2024.

This year, the number of new permanent residents will include 241,850 from the economic class; 105,000 through family reunification; and 76,545 as refugees and protected persons.

Canada reached its 2021 goal — bringing in a record 405,000 newcomers — largely by granting permanent residence to migrants such as international students and foreign workers who were already in Canada and therefore not hampered by pandemic travel restrictions and border closures.

However, the disruptions caused by COVID-19 here and abroad — and the unexpected Afghan refugee crisis — have created an unprecedented backlog in the immigration system that experts believe will take at least three years to clear.

As of December, there were 548,195 pending permanent residence applications; 775,741 temporary residence applications, including study and work permits; and 468,000 citizenship applications in the queue for processing.

Fraser said he hopes to rein in the backlog through additional hiring and by modernizing processing through new digital platforms.

The new plan will change the composition of the intake slightly this year, with the share of economic and skilled immigrants down from 60 per cent to 56 per cent. The portion of newcomers under the family class will also fall from 26 per cent to 24 per cent, while the ratio of refugees will go from 14 to 20 per cent.

Immigration policy analyst Kareem El-Assal said he’s unsure how reducing the share of economic migrants to Canada is going to benefit the country’s economy, which faces a labour shortage equivalent to nearly one million jobs.

“That’s what they’re trying to tell us. And then you look at the numbers and you see that’s not what’s happened,” said El-Assal, managing editor of immigration news site CIC News and policy director at CanadaVisa.com.

“You don’t have to spin anything for us. Just tell us, ‘This is what we’re doing temporarily. We’re going to be reducing the economic class share and the family class share temporarily for two years so that we can accommodate more refugees.’”

Calling the government plan “ambitious,” Ravi Jain of the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association said he was concerned about reducing the permanent residence quota for federal high skilled workers by half, from 111,000 to 55,900.

During the pandemic, many international students have been unable to earn the job experience they need to qualify for permanent residence despite the high tuition fees they have paid. Jain said Ottawa needs an immediate plan to extend their work permits in Canada.

“They’re going to be waiting potentially a few years and they’re going to need the status to be able to buy that time,” said the Toronto lawyer. “There are some major concerns around what to do about the people who are here and who won’t necessarily have a pathway for permanent residence.”

The federal government has devoted $827.3 million over five years to enable the department to develop and deliver an enterprise-wide digital platform, with an additional $85 million to hire staff to reduce backlogs.

But the system hasn’t transformed fast enough to meet the insatiable demand for immigration to Canada.

Shamira Madhany, managing director of World Education Services, said Canada can’t rest on its laurels, as other countries are also competing for skilled talents for their post-COVID economic recovery.

“What Canada has done here is basically saying, ‘Our borders are open for immigration,’” said Madhany. “In terms of our capacity (to absorb immigrants), it’s a different question. We need to make sure we have mechanisms and tools in place to leverage their prior skills and experience. We don’t want highly skilled people to come here to do low-skilled jobs.”

MP Jenny Kwan, the NDP immigration critic, said Fraser’s plan shows a continuation of the Liberals’ Band-Aid approach to systemic immigration problems.

“The government simply cannot continue to shift resources and immigration levels from one stream to another. This pattern of behaviour has and will continue to create further problems and chaos in the system,” said Kwan.

Source: Canada wants to welcome 1.3 million newcomers over three years — but can its immigration system keep up?

Globe and Mail:

The federal government aims to welcome nearly 432,000 immigrants to Canada this year, as a part of a three-year plan to fill critical labour-market gaps and support a post-pandemic economic recovery.

The annual immigration levels plan, tabled in Parliament Monday, projects Canada will admit 431,645 permanent residents in 2022, followed approximately by 447,000 in 2023 and 451,000 in 2024. The majority of the permanent resident spots – 56 per cent – will be designated for immigrants coming to Canada to fill job vacancies this year.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how key immigrants are to Canada’s success, as newcomers fill many front-line jobs.

“When I talk to restaurants, machine shops, health care providers or virtually any other business, I see help-wanted signs in windows,” Mr. Fraser said.

“By launching what is the most ambitious immigration plan in the history of Canada, we are going to equip the Canadian economy with the workers it needs.”

Ottawa says immigration accounts for 100 per cent of labour-force growth and, with five million Canadians set to retire by the end of this decade, the worker-to-retiree ratio will drop – demonstrating the need for increased immigration.

Goldy Hyder, president and chief executive officer of the Business Council of Canada, said the number of job vacancies in the country is near an all-time high and immigration will be a key driver of pandemic recovery. He welcomed the government’s immigration targets Monday, but he said the plan must be supported by increased processing capability and supports for newcomers.

“To help meet these new targets, we urge the government to expand the immigration system’s processing capacity by adding new processing centres, updating outdated IT systems, and increasing recruitment and training of border agents and settlement services personnel. A growing workforce should also be accompanied by increased investments in public services, housing, and infrastructure,” Mr. Hyder said in a statement.

Mr. Fraser said the government recently hired 500 new processing staff and set aside $85-million in new funding to reduce application backlogs.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan urged the government to introduce special immigration levels to give the 500,000 migrant workers already in Canada a path to settlement and help address the labour-skill shortage.

While the government plans to increase the number of economic immigrants it welcomes to Canada over the next three years, from nearly 242,000 this year to more than 267,000 in 2024, it will simultaneously reduce the number of refugees to whom it offers safe haven. Canada will resettle approximately 77,000 refugees this year, 74,000 in 2023 and 62,500 in 2024. Mr. Fraser said resettlement numbers will gradually decrease as Canada follows through with its commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees over the next two years. More than 7,550 Afghan refugees have been resettled in Canada since last August.

The reduction in refugee-resettlement targets – particularly the government’s plan to accept more privately sponsored refugees than government-assisted refugees – has sparked concern for advocates.

“The responsibility to resettle refugees lies with the government – to reflect that responsibility, the government should resettle more refugees than private citizens. Yet the levels show private sponsors are being asked to do one and a half times as much resettlement as the government,” the Canadian Council for Refugees said in a statement.

Overall immigration levels have grown substantially since the Liberals took power in 2015. Numbers continued to grow until 2020, when Canada only admitted 184,500 newcomers because of the challenges posed by the pandemic. Shuttered overseas visa offices, closed borders, quarantine restrictions and challenges booking flights heavily affected the immigration system.

Immigration numbers rebounded in 2021, when Canada welcomed 405,000 new permanent residents – breaking the all-time record set in 1913. The majority of the newcomers were already in Canada on temporary status, including temporary foreign workers in the skilled trades, health care and technology, and international students.

The government has not tabled an immigration levels plans since October, 2020. It normally announces it immigration targets by Nov. 1, but last year’s plan was delayed because of the federal election.

Source: Canada aims to welcome 432,000 immigrants in 2022 as part of three-year plan to fill labour gaps

Le Devoir

Ottawa espère également atteindre enfin sa cible d’immigration francophone hors Québec en 2023, soit 4,4 % de toutes les admissions, une cible ratée depuis des années selon le commissaire aux langues officielles.


En 2020, 184 606 résidents permanents ont été enregistrés au Canada, c’est-à-dire beaucoup moins que la cible annoncée de 341 000, confirme également ce rapport annuel. Ce nombre, selon le ministre Fraser, est néanmoins un « succès impressionnant compte tenu des fermetures et des restrictions frontalières » dues à la pandémie, y écrit-il.


Pour cette même année, on a compté 326 116 titulaires de permis de travail temporaire au pays, ce qui illustre une autre tendance lourde, soit l’augmentation des catégories temporaires. Ce qui s’appelle le « solde de résidents non permanents » représentait 1,3 million de personnes au 1er janvier 2020, selon des informations communiquées précédemment par le ministère fédéral de l’Immigration au Devoir. Les détenteurs de titre de séjour temporaire, toutes catégories de permis confondues, représentaient ainsi près de 3,5 % de la population totale la même année.


Il s’agissait lundi de la première annonce officielle de cibles depuis octobre 2020. En décembre dernier, le ministre Fraser avait affirmé dans une entrevue au Devoir vouloir être le gouvernement le plus ambitieux de tous les temps en matière d’immigration.


Pour 2021, il estime avoir atteint « cette réalisation historique » en accueillant plus de 401 000 nouveaux résidents permanents, avait-il annoncé par communiqué. La majorité de ces personnes était déjà à l’intérieur des frontières sous un statut temporaire et a accédé à la permanence par divers programmes.


Le record précédent datait de 1913, quand 400 900 nouveaux immigrants permanents avaient foulé le sol canadien. Le pays comptait alors seulement 7,6 millions d’habitants ; cet afflux représentait donc une proportion plus importante de sa population totale, soit plus de 5 %. En comparaison, la cible d’immigration pour 2022 équivaut à 1 % de tous les Canadiens.

Source: Ottawa dévoile des cibles d’immigration encore plus ambitieuses

New Canadian Media

Canada aims to attract about 1.3 million new immigrants over the next three years to help fill critical labour shortages and fuel post-pandemic growth.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) Sean Fraser announced the new targets on Monday as the government struggles to clear a backlog of about 1.8 million visa/citizenship and other applications in the queue exacerbated by pandemic-induced delays.

At the same time, the latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that job vacancies in the country remain high, with 874,700 unfilled positions.

In a statement, IRCC said there are still hundreds of thousands of positions in all sectors waiting to be filled. 

Immigrants  needed

“Immigration already accounts for almost 100% of labour force growth, and with 5 million Canadians set to retire by the end of this decade, the worker to retiree ratio will drop down to only 3:1,”  it said. “This is a clear sign that we have a strong economic need for increased immigration.”

The 2022–2024 Immigration Levels Plan aims to continue welcoming immigrants at a rate of about 1 per cent of Canada’s population, including 431,645 permanent residents in 2022 (an increase of about 21,000 people from its original plan), 447,055 in 2023, and 451,000 in 2024. 

“From farming and fishing to manufacturing, healthcare and the transportation sector, Canada relies on immigrants. Setting bold new immigration targets, as outlined in the 2022-2024 Levels Plan, will further help bring the immeasurable contribution of immigrants to our communities and across all sectors of the economy,” Fraser said during the announcement.

To support the new ambitious targets, which follows a record year of 405,000 new permanent residents in 2021, IRCC had earlier announced a plantomodernize Canada’s immigration system to fuel economic recovery and improve client experience.

Veteran Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, Richard Kurland, told  NCM  that “IRCC is banking on new information technology to deliver an aggressive program that will be faster for applicants and cheaper for government.”

“The objective is to have more people here, in less time, at less cost,” he said.

Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said “even with full employment, the country will need newcomers to help fill all the jobs available.”

“To help meet these new targets, we urge the government to expand the immigration system’s processing capacity by adding new processing centres, updating outdated IT systems, and increasing recruitment and training of border agents and settlement services personnel,” Hyder said in a statement.

Perpetuating problems’

Jenny Kwan, the Vancouver East MP, who also acts as the NDP Immigration Critic, said the government is actually scaling back the Federal Skilled Workers Program by almost 50 per cent by shifting resources and immigration levels from one stream to another. 

“The immigration levels released today shows that the government is perpetuating the problems they created when they failed to adjust the levels to accommodate the new (temporary to permanent resident pathway) immigration measure,” she said.

The measure, also known as TR2PR, is a limited-time pathway to permanent residence applicable only to temporary residents currently working in Canada and to their families.

According to a government memo cited by the National Post, the federal skilled workers program was being scaled back because IRCC simply can’t process the applications quickly enough. 

It also said the “reductions are due to admissions space required to accommodate the TR2PR stream and the resettlement of Afghan nationals to Canada.”

“This pattern of behaviour has and will continue to create further problems and chaos in the system,” Kwan told New Canadian Media in an email.

The Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) said it is pleased with the modest newcomer increase announced today, adding it will give IRCC time to improve its client experience, tackle its backlogs, and make the technological modernizations necessary to better manage the system moving forward.

However, it is calling for IRCC, in conjunction with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), to immediately expand the list of occupations eligible for premium processing under the Global Talent Stream.  

According to CILA, an added support for Canadian employers would be for IRCC and ESDC to waive national recruitment requirements for all occupations processed under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program where labour shortages are well documented by industry.

“By immediately helping employers address their labour needs over the next two years or more, IRCC and ESDC can reduce government red tape that only serves to delay and frustrate international recruitment,” the association said.

A visa as Valentine’s

Meanwhile, IRCC’s Valentine’s Day message on its Facebook site has been met with derision from those in limbo waiting for their visa, PR cards and citizenship documents.

Mahmoud AR wrote “ How about you guys give me a Valentine’s day gift by finishing my 30 month application for citizenship?”

“Please give my wife (a) visa as Valentine’s gift,” said Pargat Gill

Mary Joy Lee responded “Roses are red, Violets are blue, Finish Applications that are delayed & overdue.”

Source: Canada eyes 1.3 million immigrants to overcome labour pains

And among the advocates, starting with CILA:

The Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) is pleased with the modest newcomer increase announced today under the new Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024. 

The gradual increase will give Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) time to improve its client experience, tackle its backlogs, and make the technological modernizations necessary to better manage the immigration system moving forward.

The new levels plan is beneficial to families and will provide safety to more refugees. On the other hand, CILA regrets that economic class immigrants will be negatively impacted by this plan as IRCC looks to reduce its backlogs. CILA once again calls on IRCC to share its backlog reduction plan so that applicants know where they stand in the queue.

Economic Class 

Express Entry: CILA is disappointed with the halving of Express Entry admissions in 2022 and calls on IRCC to reverse course by immediately resuming invitations to Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates.

FSWP candidates have unfairly paid the price throughout the pandemic. This has included expired holders of Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) being neglected at the start of the pandemic, FSWP processing being significantly reduced in 2021, and IRCC pausing invitations to FSWP candidates since December 2020.

Welcoming more immigrants under the FSWP is key to supporting Canada’s labour force and economic growth. Temporarily cutting Express Entry admissions will undermine IRCC’s stated goal of strengthening the labour force via immigration. 

Ongoing disruptions to the FSWP will also hurt Canada’s international competitiveness as global talent will be forced to look elsewhere due to dimmer prospects for them in Canada over the next two years.

While it is good news that IRCC plans to bring Express Entry levels back to normal by 2024, this will be of little comfort to the many Canadian employers in desperate need of talent to address their immediate labour shortages.

The halving of Express Entry admissions this year will also be of grave consequence to Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates. The pause in CEC invitations since September 2021 is creating significant hardship for thousands of international students and temporary foreign workers who have spent years contributing to Canada’s economy and society, and who now have fewer permanent residence spots available to them. Many such individuals risk losing their legal status in Canada which may cause them to leave the country. This will also hurt Canadian employers and the economy. CILA calls on IRCC to quickly offer bridging permits to those with Express Entry profiles who have jobs, regardless of whether they have received an Express Entry Invitation to Apply. Alternatively, IRCC could re-introduce a one-time extension to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders like it did in early 2021.

Provincial Nominee Program (PNP): CILA is pleased to see that IRCC will be increasing its PNP admissions targets from 80,000 to 93,000 immigrants by 2024. Since its launch in 1998, the PNP has been successful in promoting a broader distribution of immigration across Canada and addressing local labour market needs. The PNP is crucial to regions across the country amid labour shortages caused by Canada’s aging population and shifts to the economy amid the pandemic.

Start-up Visa Program: CILA believes processing times for Canada’s Start-up Visa Program (SUVP) are not globally competitive and is disappointed to see that admission targets remain unchanged under the new levels plan. IRCC has noted that processing times for the SUVP are now up to six years which is far too slow to support an innovation-driven economy.

Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP): The new immigration levels plan is ambitious and is premised on acute labour shortages across Canada. Employers experiencing labour shortages need continued access to international talent to meet the demand for their products and services in Canada and international markets. To complement the new levels plans, IRCC in conjunction with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) should immediately expand the list of occupations eligible for premium processing under the Global Talent Stream. IRCC should immediately devote resources to applications eligible for two week processing under the Global Skills Strategy (GSS). Pending applications under the GSS remain backlogged by several months thereby negating the purpose of introducing the GSS.

An added support for Canadian employers would be for IRCC and ESDC to waive national recruitment requirements for all occupations processed under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) where labour shortages are well documented by industry and government data. A good practice that can be replicated across Canada is the Quebec List of Occupations Eligible for Facilitated Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs). By immediately helping employers address their labour needs over the next two years or more, IRCC and ESDC can reduce government red tape that only serves to delay and frustrate international recruitment.

Family Class 

Spouses and Partners: CILA reiterates its call for IRCC to extend its Spousal Open Work Permit Pilot Program to spouses and partners living outside of Canada. It is unfair to offer work permits to inland sponsorship applicants as well as the partners of study and work permit holders, but force outland sponsorship applicants to remain separated or unemployed while inside Canada. Allowing spouses and common-law partners to work would allow these applicants to contribute to the labour market immediately. In addition, CILA hopes IRCC will achieve its goal of returning to a 12-month service standard for spousal sponsorship applications by the end of this year.

Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP): The increase in Canada’s PGP intake over the coming years is welcome and will help to support families across the country. At the same time, CILA encourages IRCC to consult widely on how to effectively manage the PGP moving forward.

Refugee and Humanitarian Class

Afghan refugees: CILA welcomes the Canadian government’s desire to fulfill its international humanitarian obligations by welcoming more refugees. CILA hopes Canada will be able to resettle Afghan refugees as quickly as possible to achieve its goal of providing safety to 40,000 Afghans.

Source: CILA’s Statement on Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024

Canada’s decision to land over 400,000 immigrants in 2021 has come at a cost

Good analysis and reasonable recommendations by Kareem Al-Assal:

Consequences of the 401,000 newcomer target

On the flip side, IRCC has recognized the decision to pursue 401,000 landings in 2021 has resulted in negative consequences. Regrettably, these consequences could have been avoided had the Canadian government chosen to pursue a more sustainable immigration policy last year

The purpose of increasing the immigration target was primarily to promote population, labour force, and economic growth, while also continuing to reunite families and help refugees. Given that some 60 per cent of new immigrants fall under the economic class, it is safe to say Canada’s main immigration objective is economic in nature.

And yet ironically, the Canadian government’s goal last year undermined its own objective of supporting the economy via immigration. It decided to focus on transitioning more people from within Canada to permanent residence. Prior to the pandemic, about 30 per cent of new economic class permanent residents transitioned from within Canada, while 70 per cent arrived from abroad. Last year, this was reversed, as 70 per cent of new economic class landings came from within Canada, while 30 per cent came from abroad.

A first consequence of this decision is the reduced flow of new immigrants from abroad is contributing to weaker population, labour force, and economic growth. Canada’s population growth is the weakest since 1915/16. Prior to the pandemic, Canada’s population was growing by over one per cent per year which was the highest rate among highly developed countries. Some 80 per cent of annual population growth was thanks to immigrants moving to Canada.

Reducing the share of new economic class immigrants coming from abroad last year has also hurt the labour market. Immigrants were comprising 80 per cent or more of Canada’s new workers each year. The limited foreign arrivals is contributing to the highest job vacancy rate in Canadian history, with nearly 1 million jobs currently unfilled.

Pursuing the target has also led to IRCC reducing its selection standards. When it launched Express Entry in 2015, IRCC said the new Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) was a scientific way of selecting candidates best positioned to succeed in the labour market.

Prior to the pandemic, a candidate needed a CRS score of around 470 to be invited to apply for permanent residence. Last year, however, IRCC brought the score down to as low as 75, so it could get more in-Canada candidates to count towards its 401,000 admissions target. In other words, the Canadian government felt it was more important to achieve this target than to use the own evidence-based criteria it has set to evaluate an Express Entry candidate’s suitability to succeed in our economy.

This is not to say that those with lower CRS scores are unable to contribute to Canada. History shows that immigrants of all socio-economic backgrounds do make overwhelmingly positive contributions. But rather, this observation is meant to point out the disconnect in the Canadian government’s immigration policy.

It remains to be seen how well those who gained permanent residence via Express Entry with a lower CRS score will do in the labour market. Chances are they will do just fine, but IRCC and Statistics Canada research strongly suggests candidates with higher human capital end up with higher earnings and better overall labour market outcomes. If this holds true, IRCC will have given up the opportunity to select higher-potential immigration candidates in exchange for breaking Canada’s annual admissions record.

IRCC concedes that the focus on the target has made backlogs even worse. The department now sits on a backlog featuring 1.8 million people, up from 1.5 million in July 2021. This is because IRCC focused on processing in-Canada applications while existing and new applications were given less priority since they would not count towards the 401,000 admissions goal. Unfortunately, this is creating a vicious cycle.

The backlog will continue to slow the arrival of economic class immigrants from abroad, further stalling labour force and economic growth. In addition, family reunification and refugee resettlement processing will also remain slower.

As noted, IRCC and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser came out on January 31 to do some damage control by acknowledging the scale of the backlog problem and outlining the steps being taken to get processing times back to IRCC’s service standards.

This is a positive step but there are other things the government can do in the meantime to get the immigration system back on track.

Suggestions to get the immigration system back on track

It would be beneficial for IRCC to communicate to the public its strategy to tackle the backlogs. Applicants have a right to know where they stand and when they can expect decisions to be made on their files. It would be better for IRCC to be transparent and honest about the actual length of time it is taking to process a given application stream as opposed to the current approach of applicants being left in the dark for much of the process.

IRCC also needs to sustain its processing capacity at a high level throughout the year. Its processing capacity understandably fell immediately following the pandemic. However it was not until June 2021 that it began to finalize permanent residence applications at a much higher rate and they eventually managed to finalize over 500,000 in total last year.

According to IRCC, sustaining this level will see it get through its entire permanent residence inventory by the end of this year. IRCC should keep up this pace beyond 2022 so that all applicants see their files processed in a timely manner.

IRCC should also resume Express Entry invitations to Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates immediately for a variety of reasons.

First, Express Entry is crucial to Canada’s economic recovery and alleviating current labour shortages.

Second, given its current Express Entry inventory, IRCC should be able to reduce processing times for new Express Entry applications by the second half of the year, and hence issuing Invitations to Apply (ITA) now would not create significant additional pressure for the department since they will be in better position to process such applications in a timely manner once they are submitted (applicants have up to 60 days from when they receive an ITA to submit a completed permanent residence application).

Third, the rationale for pausing FSWP invitations (travel restrictions) has not existed since Canada lifted travel restrictions on all Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders in June 2021. It is also worth noting IRCC has been processing work permitstudy permit, and temporary resident visa applications of those abroad over the past year, so there is little justification for the slow pace of FSWP application processing.

Fourth, resuming draws would help to restore Canada’s global competitive standing. The pause in FSWP draws over the past year has caused global talent to consider their immigration options elsewhere.

Fifth, a sustained pause in draws will see thousands of CEC candidates lose their status in Canada and the absence of a solution by IRCC will force such individuals to leave Canada.

This leads to a final suggestion: IRCC should introduce another temporary public policy to allow those in Canada seeking to remain as a permanent resident to extend their temporary status in an easier way. For example, it can offer a one-time work permit extension to all CEC candidates residing in Canada that have been affected by the pause in Express Entry invitations to them since September 2021.

IRCC did something similar last year when it offered a one-time 18 month work permit extension to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders so they would have more time to obtain permanent residence. Among the benefits of this approach is it would give Canadian employers sustained access to such work permit holders and would mitigate the labour market risks of seeing tens of thousands of workers having to leave Canada due to the expiry of their work permit status.

The Canadian government can not undo the past, but what they can do is think creatively to come up with solutions to the negative consequences that have occurred due to their pursuit of over 400,000 immigrant landings in 2021. Coming up with effective solutions will be to everyone’s benefit and would be another major reason to commend IRCC.

Source: Canada’s decision to land over 400,000 immigrants in 2021 has come at a cost

Express Entry: The case for resuming invitations to FSWP and CEC candidates

Good assessment by Kareem El-Assal:

It is in Canada’s policy interests to resume Express Entry invitations to FSWP and CEC candidates in short order.

Upon its launch in 2015, Express Entry sought to invite the highest scoring candidates to apply for permanent residence. Its dynamic nature sought to end backlogs since IRCC only needs to process the applications of those it invited rather than processing every application it receives. Unfortunately, IRCC has departed from inviting the highest scoring candidates and backlogs have grown due to it shifting its resources to prioritizing permanent residence applications submitted within Canada as well as the processing of Afghan refugee applications.

Back in 2015, IRCC argued that using the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS)to score and rank candidates was the best way to identify new immigrants most likely to successfully integrate into Canada’s economy. The CRS was informed by many decades of Statistics Canada research and hence is meant to be a scientific way of selecting the Canadians of tomorrow. Thus, it is in Canada’s best interests to use the CRS as the main determinant for Express Entry invitations. One may even argue a stronger case can be made to stick with the CRS now, during an economically turbulent period, since Statistics Canada research also shows immigrants who land during a recession have weaker economic outcomes throughout their careers in Canada than those who land during stronger economic times.

An argument to stick to the CRS can also be made on grounds of fairness. Between 2015 and the end of 2020, IRCC had been overwhelmingly issuing Express Entry invitations based on CRS score but departed from this approach in January 2021 without warning. Many candidates entered the Express Entry pool after taking steps to maximize their CRS score or have taken steps since entering the pool to improve their CRS score. Such efforts have gone for naught through no fault of their own due to IRCC shifting the goalposts on them with no advanced notice (IRCC remains quiet on its Express Entry plans for 2022).

The growth in the Express Entry backlog was avoidable since IRCC made the deliberate choice to expedite CEC application processing while holding off on processing FSWP and other applications. In the second half of 2021 it was processing about 14,000 CEC applications per month and just 600 FSWP applications monthly.

The backlog of FSWP and other applications of skilled workers abroad is proving costly since it is resulting in weaker population, labour force and economic growth. Canada’s population growth is the weakest since 1915/16 and the country is currently grappling with the highest job vacancy rate on record with nearly 1 million jobs currently unfilled. Crucial industries across the Canadian economy from health care, to transportation, to agri-food, and many others are in dire need of more workers. It goes without saying then, it is in Canada’s economic interests for IRCC to get the application processing of skilled workers abroad back on track so they can soon arrive to alleviate the labour shortages that are slowing the country’s economic recovery.

Finally, the pause in CEC draws since September is also concerning from both economic and fairness perspectives. CEC candidates tend to work for Canadian employers and are able to remain with them indefinitely after getting permanent residence via Express Entry. Many CEC candidates risk losing their legal status due to the absence of Express Entry invitations which may force them to leave the country. This would result in less economic activity in Canada and contribute to additional labour shortages and pressure for Canadian employers. From a fairness point of view, it would not be right to also shift the goalposts on such individuals with no advanced notice, and ask them to leave the country, after they have spent years contributing to Canada’s economy and society.

Source: Express Entry: The case for resuming invitations to FSWP and CEC candidates

Here’s how the federal election could change Canada’s immigration system

The Star’s take on the party platforms:

Jhoey Dulaca isn’t eligible to vote in the upcoming election, but the migrant worker from the Philippines is keeping an eye out for the political parties’ immigration plans.

The Toronto woman says she feels migrants’ voices have once again been muted and lost as the issue that matters most to them — ballooning backlogs and endless processing times as a result of the pandemic — have drawn little attention or debate from party leaders.

“No one is talking about the immigration backlog and long wait times,” says Dulaca, who came as a live-in caregiver in 2016 and just received her permanent residence in Canada on Aug. 18 after two long years of processing.

The 41-year-old single mother is unsure how long it will now take to reunite with her two daughters, Tess, 19, and Thea, 16, whom she has not seen for five years.

“All these parties are making policies that affect us and our families, but our voices are not heard because we cannot vote and we don’t matter.”

In recent election campaigns, immigration has rarely made headlines. The major parties’ platforms generally have more elements in common than those that distinguish them. The outlier was the 2015 election, when the Syrian refugee crisis dominated the campaign.

Experts say immigration has been a non-issue because parties — with the exception of the People’s Party of Canada under former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier — recognize the importance of minority votes and don’t want to appear racist or xenophobic.

“The parties try to focus on issues that are going to make them look good and will help them move up in the polls,” said Kareem El-Assal, policy director for CanadaVisa.com, an immigration information site run by a Quebec-based law firm.

“Most people that are being affected by the backlogs are not voters. There aren’t many votes to be won.”

But there are major issues that will determine the future of immigration in this country — not least among them Canada’s plans to deal with applications that have been piling up during the pandemic.

Digging out of a major backlog

To El-Assal, one of the biggest issues missing in the parties’ platforms is how they plan to manage growing backlogs as Canada’s immigration system slowly returns to normal in the wake of the pandemic.

“Immigration is going to be one of the most formative government policy areas over the next decade and beyond, especially amid the damage that’s been caused by the pandemic,” he said.

As a result of the pandemic, Ottawa closed the border with the U.S. with few exemptions. That has greatly reduced this country’s refugee backlog.

However, between February 2020 and this past July, the backlog of permanent residence applications skyrocketed by 70 per cent to 375,137, with the number of applications for temporary residence currently sitting at 702,660 cases. The backlog of citizenship applications has also ballooned to 369,677 people in the queue from 208,069 before the pandemic.

Experts and advocates have said Ottawa must prioritize and bring in the migrants who have already been vetted and approved for permanent residence but have been kept outside of Canada during the pandemic, while expediting the transition to online processing and eliminating red tape to quickly reduce backlog as new applications continue to flood the system.

In its 2021 budget, the Liberal government announced plans to invest $429 million over five years to modernize its IT infrastructure to manage and process immigration applications, but its campaign platform mentions none of that or its plan to streamline processing.

The Conservatives vows to address “administrative backlogs” by simplifying and streamlining processes, investing in IT infrastructure and tech to speed up application vetting, letting applicants correct “simple and honest” mistakes instead of sending back their applications.

The New Democrats say they would “take on the backlogs that are keeping families apart.”

Both parties’ plans lack details and specifics.

Beyond the numbers

None of the parties mention what they plan to do with Canada’s annual immigrant intake of 401,000 for 2021; 411,000 for 2022; and 421,000 in 2023 — except for the People’s Party of Canada, which proposes to reduce the annual intake to between 100,000 and 150,000.

However Andrew Griffith, fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Environics Institute, says Canada is in need of a “more fundamental re-examination” of what the immigration level should be: “What the mix should be, how the integration process works, how do we actually reduce hate and racism, and all of those things.”

Griffith proposes the establishment of an immigration commission to investigate those issues and the related policies.

“They can’t really be addressed by Parliament in an effective way because of the partisan nature.”

While debates about immigration are important, some say they can also open the door for all sorts of racist views around newcomers, further polarizing public opinion.

Robert Falconer, a research associate at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy who focuses on immigration and refugee policies, said parties and voters need to discuss what objectives immigration is going to serve and what the composition should look like.

“Sometimes,” says Falconer, “we have dumbed immigration down to just immigrants as economic agents — all they do is contribute or detract from our economy; when there is cultural, spiritual, religious, demographic considerations that are very, very important.”

Trying to maintain a labour market growth amid an aging population and low birth rate is part of the challenge, he said, but how to manage the demographic makeup and ensure newcomers from diverse background are welcomed is often overlooked.

“What are the parties saying about issues not directly stemming from immigration, but (that) strongly relate to it, which is issues of anti-racism, hate and multiculturalism?” Falconer asked.

In tackling anti-racism and hate, the Liberals are committed to a national plan on combatting hate, new legislation to police online content and strengthening the Human Rights Act and Criminal Code against perpetrators.

The Conservatives say they will protect Canadians from online hate while “preserving free speech” and celebrating Canadian heritage, including a $75-million fund to municipalities for the repair and restoration of historical monuments, statues and heritage buildings.

The NDP would ensure all major cities have dedicated hate-crime units within local police forces, and convene a national working group to counter online hate.

The Bloc includes “Quebec bashing” in relation to its platform on racism.

New ideas from the Conservative party

While there is much in common when it comes to immigration policies of the major parties, Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives have some “innovative” ideas, Griffith said.

Among them:

  • The introduction of a fee for those who would like to have their immigration applications expedited, with the revenues directed toward hiring additional staff to streamline processing time;
  • Replacing the current lottery system for immigration sponsorship of parents and grandparents with a first-come, first-served model that prioritizes applicants on criteria such as providing child care or family support, and language proficiency;
  • Replacing government-assisted refugee spots with private and joint sponsorship places, so all refugees resettling in Canada will do so under private or joint sponsorship programs, with exceptions in cases of emergency or specific programs.

“There are some interesting ideas in the Conservative platform that merits some discussion and debate. I mean, some I don’t think will go anywhere, but others may,” said Griffith, who has studied and compared the immigration platforms of all six parties in this election.

The proposed expedited processing fee, for instance, could create a two-tiered system between rich and poor applicants. A sponsorship of parents and grandparents based on an applicant’s ability to babysit may not sit well with the spirit of family reunification.

What to do with the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement?

In the 2019 federal election, a major issue was the surge in asylum seekers via the U.S. land border as a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-migrant policies. The development prompted a fierce debate over the so-called Safe Third Country Agreement.

The bilateral pact, which has been in place between Ottawa and Washington since 2004, is not mentioned in either the Liberal or the New Democrat platform.

That accord allows Canada to turn back potential refugees who arrive at land ports of entry on the basis they should pursue their claims in the U.S.

Like the People’s Party, the Conservatives propose a complete ban on migrants from the U.S. seeking asylum in Canada and recommends joint Canada-U.S. border patrols similar to what’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Green Party and Bloc Québécois, meanwhile, want the pact revoked altogether.

Refugee claimants and advocates have taken Ottawa to court over the constitutionality of the bilateral pact and the case is now before the Supreme Court of Canada, after the Liberal government successfully challenged a lower-court decision that found claimants’ charter rights were being breached.

Critics say the agreement, implemented under both the Liberal and Conservative governments, has not helped deter would be refugee claimants from crossing through unguarded parts of the border.

“I don’t know why the Liberals don’t take a position on it, but everything I’ve seen the Liberals do tells me that they actually align with the Conservatives’ position,” Falconer said.

“There are much more humane ways to address concerns in surges of asylum seekers that would again address the backlog that the Liberals and Conservatives tear their hair out over.”

Queen’s University immigration law professor Sharry Aiken said both parties understand patrolling the world’s longest shared border requires massive government resources. It would also likely encourage people to seek help from traffickers to sneak through the border and move underground for lack of access for asylum once inside Canada.

“That’s the exact problem in the United States, where there’s millions of undocumented people because there hasn’t been a way for them to actually make a claim through legal channels because of all of the different barriers in place that preclude access,” Aiken noted.

Temporary resident to permanent resident pathway

During the pandemic, the recognition of migrant workers doing essential work on farms, in nursing homes and driving food-delivery trucks prompted Ottawa to introduce one-time immigration programs for migrant workers and international students to become permanent residents.

The Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats all are in favour of expanding those pathways.

The Liberals categorically said the party would expand the pathways to permanent residence for migrant workers and former international students while the Conservatives would do it by offering a path for “low-skilled workers,” whose demand is “justified by concrete labour market data.”

All the NDP has to say about this issue is: “If someone is good enough to come and work here, then there should be a path for them to stay permanently.”

Expanding these temporary-to-permanent pathways, say migrants’ advocates, is wrong-headed because they reinforce, legitimize and justify Canada’s increasingly two-tiered immigration system, which exploits vulnerable temporary residents by dangling before them the prospects of permanent residency in the country down the road.

Political parties can’t adopt a Band-Aid approach and create a new pathway each time a group is falling through the cracks — Canada currently has more than 100 different skilled worker immigration programs, said Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Leaders and policymakers need to be bold and ensure equality and equity for migrants from the get-go, which can only be achieved by granting them permanent residence in Canada upon arrival, he noted.

“The term pathway to permanent residence misrepresents what it is,” said Hussan. “It’s really a pathway to precariousness.”

His group estimated there are half a million work permits issued in Canada today, up from 60,000 two decades ago, but only a fraction of the migrant workers will get a chance to become permanent residents.

“The entire immigration system has been turned into a system of temporariness. It has created a fundamentally divided society. The natural progression of a system of temporary migration, which we now have, is more people who are undocumented and more people who are being even more exploited,” Hussan said.

“We have turned this country’s immigration system into a revolving door temp agency run by employers that profits from it. Instead, we want to ensure equal rights for everyone in the country. And to do that, we must ensure that everyone has the same citizenship rights.”

‘More migrants are falling through the cracks’

Dulaca said she has had her share of owed wages and unpaid overtime from her Canadian employers, and she put up with it because she needed the jobs to support her daughters back home and, more importantly, to meet the employment requirement for her permanent residence.

“The politicians are creating more and more pathways, but these pathways are not the solutions and more migrants are falling through the cracks,” said Dulaca, who runs a support group on Facebook to help other migrant caregivers.

“We all come to Canada so we can give our children a better life, a better future. I can’t vote now and you bet I will exercise my voting rights when I become a Canadian citizen three years from now.”

Source: Here’s how the federal election could change Canada’s immigration system

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