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Canada to maintain immigration levels for 2009, though requirements may change

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Earlier this year, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Canada Minister Jason Kenney announced that Canada was considering a reduction in immigration numbers in 2009, based on economic uncertainty.  Having met with his provincial and territorial counterparts to study the demand for immigration in regional labour markets, Minister Kenney has announced that the need for immigration remains strong in Canada.  Immigration levels for 2009 will therefore not be reduced.

Though Canada has not been immune to rising unemployment numbers in the current economic downturn, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has decided that immigration numbers will not be reduced for 2009, maintaining a target of approximately 250,000 new Permanent Residents.

“Canada is facing a long-term labour shortage so the government is not going to turn off the immigration tap only to have to turn it back on later,” stated Minister Kenney.  British Columbia and Alberta alone are going to need an additional 600,000 foreign workers over the next five years, he went on to say, as aging workers retire and their economies continue to expand.

Canadian population and labour force growth rely heavily on immigration.  A recent Statistics Canada demographic report credits net international migration as the main driver of population and labour force growth.

“There continue to be acute labour market shortages in certain businesses, certain industries and certain regions.  And our government believes that the worst thing we could do during this time of economic difficulty is to starve those employers who are growing of the labour they need to fuel their prosperity.”

Nevertheless, as the worldwide economic downturn evolves, so too may Canadian immigration legislation.  As evidenced over the past year, Canada’s Immigration Minister has the authority to modify immigration regulations without notice to better respond to Canada’s labour market needs.

Most notably, the list of 38 qualifying occupations for the Federal Skilled Worker category of immigration (having a year of work experience in one of them is the common way to qualify) is based on Canada’s labour market needs, and is currently being evaluated to determine whether changes should be made.

Similarly, the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) has also been revising its list of qualifying occupations for the popular U.S. Visa Holder category, which fast-tracks applicants without requiring a job offer.

Potential applicants who are qualified for either of these programs under current work experience requirements are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible, to avoid being subject to new government regulations.

The good news for now is that, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, “We have no plans in Canada, nor are we under any pressure, to reduce immigration in any way during the recession.”

Do you qualify for Canadian immigration under the current system?