ICYMI: Here’s Canada’s new plan to help foreign students and workers become permanent residents. Some say it isn’t nearly new enough

Of note:

After much hype over a new strategy to help more migrants become permanent residents, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has delivered a plan that largely reinstated the policy changes made during the pandemic.

A motion unanimously passed by Parliament in May gave Fraser 120 days to come up with a comprehensive strategy that would allow international students and temporary foreign workers of all skill levels pathways to permanent residence to address Canada’s persistent labour shortages.

On Tuesday, the minister tabled the 39-page “Strategy to Expand Transitions to Permanent Residency” in the House of Commons, after the release was delayed by the death of Queen Elizabeth II earlier this month.

“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has a number of measures, both already in place and upcoming, that will continue to find ways to support the transition of temporary foreign workers and international student graduates to permanent residents,” Fraser’s press secretary, Aidan Strickland, told the Star.

“We look forward to building on this work to meet Canada’s economic needs and fuel our growth.”

The plan builds on many of the ad-hoc changes that the immigration department has made to accommodate the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic that greatly hampered global travel and processing capacity of the immigration system due to lockdowns. It includes:

  • Raising annual targets of permanent residents admitted to Canada to 431,645 in 2022; 447,055 in 2023; and 451,000 in 2024 (the levels were announced in February);
  • Tweaking the selection system of skilled immigration including more power for the minister to hand-pick permanent residents — authority embedded in the federal budget bill passed in summer;
  • Enhancing current economic immigration programs such as the skill type of the national occupational classification system used to assess immigration eligibility; improving foreign credential recognition; and supporting the transition of international students and migrants in health professions to permanent residence; and
  • Continuing the transformation to a modernized and digitalized immigration system to expedite processing.

The report said a two-step immigration system transitioning workers and students to permanent residence improves job-skills matches driven by labour demand, but acknowledged these temporary residents can be exposed to exploitation and poor working conditions.

“This strategy is just a rehash of existing announcements. While the government yet again accepted that temporary migrants are exploited, there is no real strategy here to end the abuse,” said Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

“Everyone knows what needs to change: we need full and permanent immigration status for all, without exclusions or delay.”

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan also expressed disappointment with the minister’s response to the parliamentary motion.

“What the government provided is nothing more than the recycling of what is already in place. The minister is not proposing anything new to support the goals set out in Motion 44. This so-called strategy lacks any real information or details of what a true comprehensive plan would entail,” Kwan said in a statement.

“One would expect the government to incorporate any data gathered on labour market needs and skill shortages to align with immigration policies. Canadians should expect nothing less.”

Fraser’s plan did mention the department’s current review of the international student program, including rules and authorities in their transition to permanent residence, as well as the option to issue open work permits to family members of all foreign workers, a privilege currently enjoyed mainly by those in high-skilled, high-waged jobs.

“The Department is assessing the trade-offs between reducing administrative requirements on co-op and work-integrated learning with any potential integrity risks that could arise as a result,” said the report, referring to ideas to help international students participate in the labour market.

“IRCC must balance facilitative measures with program integrity checks to ensure that international students benefit from a positive and quality academic experience while in Canada.”

Officials are still weighing different options to add to the pathways for international students to stay here permanently, particularly if their education, training or work experience is relevant in addressing Canada’s emerging economic priorities.

Source: Here’s Canada’s new plan to help foreign students and workers become permanent residents. Some say it isn’t nearly new enough

Immigration minister says he’s working on a faster path to permanence for temporary residents

Of note. Quoted in article as is CERC’s Rupa Banergee:

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says his government is preparing to reinstate a program that would help to speed up the process of turning newcomers in Canada under temporary permits into permanent residents.

“We are looking right now at the best path forward to create a permanent pathway for temporary residents,” he told CBC’s The House in an interview airing this weekend.

A previous program called the “temporary resident to permanent resident pathway” — or TR to PR — was put in place last year for eight months after COVID-19 lockdowns shut the border to newcomers to prevent the spread of the virus.

It gave 90,000 essential workers, front-line health care workers and international students like Kushdeep Singh an accelerated path to permanent status.

Singh arrived in 2019 to study business administration at Norquest College in Edmonton. The temporary TR to PR program was announced just as he was preparing to write his final exams.

“When I first came to Canada I thought, ‘It’s gonna take almost about four years.’ Two years of my studies then two years of waiting for my PR application,” he said.

Instead, the approval came through in less than a year.

“And I told my mom. She was so, so happy,” he said. “I think she was happy because I know how hard she also worked for me, like all my journey since I came here and … how she also sacrifices, like sending me away from her, so that was a good moment.”

Clock is ticking

Fraser said the new program won’t be identical to the old one. He said he’s working under a tight 120-day timeline established in a motion approved by the Commons last month.

“That actually puts me on a clock to come up with a framework to establish this new permanent residency pathway, not just for international students, but also for temporary foreign workers,” he said.

“We’re in the depths of planning the policy so we can have a policy that’s not driven by a need to respond urgently in the face of an emergency, but actually to have a permanent pathway that provides a clear path for those seeking permanent residency who can enter Canada.”

Rupa Banerjee is a Canada research chair focusing on immigration issues at Toronto Metropolitan University. She said continuing to fast-track some people to permanent resident status is good policy.

“Focusing on individuals who are already in the country, that was an essential move at the time, when we had border closures and a lot of the pandemic restrictions,” she said during a separate panel discussion on The House.

“It also is really beneficial because we know that those who already have Canadian work experience, Canadian education, they do tend to fare better once they become permanent residents relative to those who come in one step straight from abroad.”

The federal government set a goal of accepting 432,000 newcomers this year alone. Fraser said his department is ahead of schedule, despite the pandemic and the unexpected pressures of working to resettle thousands of people fleeing conflict in both Afghanistan and Ukraine.

“This week we actually resettled the 200,000th permanent resident, more than a month and a half ahead of any year on record in Canada,” he said. “We are seeing similar trends across other lines of business like citizenship, like work permits, which in many instances are double the usual rate of processing.”

Too many pathways?

Despite the higher numbers, concerns remain about processing backlogs and what Andrew Griffith — a former senior bureaucrat with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada — calls an overly complicated immigration system with too many programs.

There are just so many pathways to immigrate to Canada. And I’m not convinced that anybody applying to Canada — or even the people who try to manage the program — that they have a full grip in terms of the program,” he said. “So there’s a real case, I think, to be made for simplification.”

Griffith argued the number of newcomers being accepted is less important than who is coming to Canada — what skills they bring and whether they can help this country improve productivity and economic growth.

Banerjee agreed that the number of newcomers is less important than who they are and whether there are services available to help them adjust to life here.

“The question is, can we actually integrate these individuals so that they can really contribute to the Canadian economy and also to Canadian society, more importantly?” he said.

Source: Immigration minister says he’s working on a faster path to permanence for temporary residents

Canada pausing intake of highly skilled immigrant workers amid heavy backlog 

Money quote: “These reductions are due to admissions space required to accommodate the TR2PR [Temporary to Permanent Resident] stream and the resettlement of Afghan nationals to Canada.”

The former was a policy choice in order to meet the government’s fixation on meeting its target of 401,000; the latter reflected lack of foresight, common to many countries, and thus the need to deal with the crisis:

Canada’s immigration system for high-skilled workers is severely backlogged and even amidst a labour shortage, the government is pausing new invitations because the department simply can’t process them quickly enough, according to a briefing document.

Immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens obtained the document through access to information and provided it to the National Post. In the memo, department officials outline that “an estimated 76,000” applicants are in the inventory for federal high-skilled worker applications, which is more than what the government needs to meet targets all the way out to 2023.

The same memo says the express entry pool, which includes skilled workers, skilled trades and people with experience living in Canada, has more than 207,000 people in it.

Canada’s immigration plan has a variety of different classes, including skilled workers, provincial nominees, family reunification and refugees. The government has continued to process applicants nominated by the provinces, but other economic immigrants have been stalled since last fall.

People applying through the high skilled worker and trades program submit a variety of documents including a language test and then wait for an invitation to finish their application before it is processed.

With travel bans in place, high-skilled worker applications from overseas have been on pause since September 2021. Last year, the government still managed to hit its record-high immigration targets, but did so mostly by inviting people already in Canada on temporary permits or as students to become permanent residents through a new temporary resident to permanent resident program (TR2PR).

The government’s current immigration plan forecasts bringing in 110,500 skilled workers next year, but the department says in a memo that could have to be cut by as much as half, because the department has so much other work.

“These reductions are due to admissions space required to accommodate the TR2PR stream and the resettlement of Afghan nationals to Canada,” reads the memo.

The Liberals initially pledged to bring 20,000 Afghans to Canada, but during the fall campaign doubled the pledge to 40,000. As of the most recent update 7,000 of them have arrived in Canada.

A new departmental immigration plan will be tabled in Parliament when the House of Commons resumes in February.

The department aims for a six-month processing time for federal skilled workers (FSW), but in the memo they warned that could rise dramatically.

“Processing times are currently at 20.4 months (over three times higher than the service standard) and are expected to continue to grow as older inventory is processed. The FSW processing time is expected to rise to 36 months throughout 2022.”

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser was not available for an interview, but Rémi Larivière, a spokeswoman for the department, said the government will still bring in highly skilled workers, because so many are already in the queue.

“The already existing robust inventory of skilled candidates to process means that there won’t be a reduction in 2022 of the number of new skilled permanent residents arriving in Canada to work and settle,” she said in an email. “This pause is temporary; invitations to apply under the FHS streams will resume once the processing inventory is reduced enough to create space for new intake.”

Larivière said the fall fiscal update included measures to help reduce the backlog.

“The Government of Canada has proposed to provide $85 million in 2022-23 so it can process more permanent and temporary resident applications and reduce processing times in key areas affected by the pandemic.”

Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan, the party’s immigration critic, said the delays are unacceptable.

“The massive backlog the Liberal government has created at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is not only hurting hard-working newcomers, families, immigrants and business owners, it also threatens billions of dollars of much-needed economic growth in Canada,” he said in a statement.

He said employers need workers and the government has to act quickly.

“Immigrants and Canadian employers cannot wait three years to have Federal Skilled Worker applications processed. It’s time for the Liberals to announce a precise date for when the pause on processing federal skilled worker invitations will come to an end.”

A Business Development Bank of Canada study from last fall found 55 per cent of Canadian businesses were dealing with labour shortages. They found that number was as high as 80 per cent in hospitality type businesses.

Potential immigrants to Canada are scored based on their level of education, language proficiency and other measures under the government’s Comprehensive Ranking System. The memo outlines that with the current state of applications someone would need a score over 500.

Betsy Kane, an Ottawa Immigration lawyer, said that is a very high score.

“What that’s going to mean is basically a young couple with very high education for both applicant and the person concerned, potentially only with executive-type job offers,” she said. “What it’s telling you is that only basically power couples are going to be who’s going to benefit from the 500-plus scores.”

Kane said with this backlog there are also going to be a lot of people on work or study permits who will need extensions because their application hasn’t been processed.

The federal Liberals have set targets to bring in more than 400,000 immigrants a year. Kane said they need more than lofty goals.

”The department has the capacity to do it. It just needs tools.”

She said that should include getting people back into the office to process applications, many of which come in on paper.

“This department is an essential service just like Canada Revenue Agency and just like the Canada Border Services Agency,” she said. “These guys should be back in the office.”

Sergio Karas, a Toronto immigration lawyer, said the department also has to start focusing more on what Canada’s employers need.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of adding personnel. I think it’s a matter of realigning priorities, and reassigning personnel to process the type of applications that the Canadian economy requires,” he said. “Employers are desperate for skilled trades for people who are highly skilled typically in the construction industry.”

Source: https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/canada-pausing-intake-of-highly-skilled-immigrant-workers-amid-heavy-backlog