Following Immigration Minister John McCallum’s speech on March 8, 2016 at the Brampton Multicultural Community Centre, many were left wondering about the direction presented for this year. While Minister McCallum was quoted saying that this is a “significant shift” in policy, it remains to be seen when these changes will be implemented, and of the efficacy of government officials in implementing the same in order to achieve the 2016 targets.
Speaking strictly from a numbers point of view, Canada will overall accept the most immigrants it has since the 1910s, with a target of 280,000 to 305,000 permanent residents by the end of 2016. While it may be the highest levels in over 100 years, it only surpasses the 2015 targets by a mere 7.4%. However, within this overall target, a clearer picture begins to emerge as to which categories are gaining importance, which will likely dictate changes in processing times as well as potentially application mechanisms.
The main sub-category, economic immigration, will account for approximately 160,000 newcomers. This figure represents only 52%-57% percent of the 2016 target, while in 2015, economic immigration accounted for 70% of the total number of newcomers. Out of all the changes and updates announced by Minister McCallum, it became clear that economic immigrants will bear the brunt of the changes. A specific subcategory of economic immigration, the Caregiver category is likely to be affected the most by these new numbers. Not only do the new numbers represent a decrease of nearly 26%, but this category is also subject to one of the lengthiest processing times at around 48 months. During this time applicants are usually separated from the rest of their families. Interestingly enough, this decision to decrease the numbers in the Caregiver class, comes at the same time as increases are announced for the Parent and Grandparents class.
The economic immigration stream includes the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class. Collectively, these categories involve applications submitted via the government’s Express Entry system. In 2015, the target was set at 74,000 applications for these classes of economic immigration, yet in 2016 this has dropped to a total of 58,400. Thus, applicants under Express Entry waiting for an Invitation To Apply (ITA) are likely to see higher cut-off scores, and less ITAs sent out overall. Perhaps coincidently, a day later following Minister McCallum’s speech, the Express Entry draw had a qualifying score of 473, and only sent invitations to 1,013 applicants. The previous draw on February 24th, 2016 had a qualifying score of 453, and sent out 1,484 invitations.
The other big winners in terms of increased numbers include Family Immigration (including the Spouse, Partners and Children, and Parents and Grandparents) and the Refugees and Protected Persons class. Specifically, 80,000 of Family Immigration applications will be accepted by the end of 2016, along with a statement by Minister McCallum that processing times will also decrease for these categories. Currently, sponsoring a spouse or common-law partner (in Canada) takes 26 months, while a spouse living outside of Canada takes 17 months. Sponsoring parents and grandparents is even lengthier, with the government processing applications received on or before November 4, 2011.
With respect to refugees, the admissions will increase by 125% compared to 2015 levels. This reflects the government’s ongoing commitment to resettle persons in need of assistance. It is noteworthy that this focus can already be seen, through the resettling of 25,000 Syrian refugees and, more subtle, through the ministerial name change from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
It is clear the new Federal Liberal government is looking to impose its convictions on immigration policy, quite early into their term, and quite drastically. The changes announced will have left many pundits questioning whether the policy numbers reflect an attempt at restoring the image of Canada, as a safe haven for refugees, and a land where family reunification is valued. This will certainly be good news for the vulnerable protected persons, and for potential applications under the family class. On the other hand increased competition in the economic streams of immigration is almost certain. As the numbers decrease for the Express Entry-related applications, it is obvious that competition within the pool, and consequently the scores will increase. As such, obtaining a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or a Provincial Nominee Certificate (PNC) to boost one’s Express Entry score will only become more important in 2016.
Dale & Lessmann LLP invites you to contact our experienced Immigration Practice Group for assistance in determining whether you qualify for Permanent Residency under a Family or Economic Class, or for further information on the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process.