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Canadian Immigration Numbers May Soon Change

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Earlier this month, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney launched a series of consultations with stakeholders and the public to discuss the issue of Canadian immigration levels.

The purpose of the consultations is to seek feedback on how many immigrants should be accepted into Canada each year and to determine a reasonable mix between economic, family class and protected persons (refugees). When determining the levels of immigration, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) takes into account input from provinces and territories, the capacity of the economy and communities to welcome newcomers, and current and future economic conditions.

CIC also considers its ability to process applications in a timely manner, which has increasingly become a problem as many Canadian immigration offices are experiencing large backlogs. There is currently a backlog of nearly 165,000 parental and grandparent sponsorship applications alone. The Montreal Gazette recently hinted in an article that the Government of Canada may stop accepting immigration applications altogether in an attempt to clear the massive backlogs.

“There’s an unlimited number of people who want to come to Canada,” said Mr. Kenney in the Gazette article. “We used to have hundreds of thousands of applications more than we could process, and it’s stupid and unfair to make people wait seven, eight, nine years for their application to be even looked at. That’s the rationale for limiting the number of new applications.”

In the last few years, Canada has limited the number of immigration applications being accepted. On June 24, 2011, CIC announced that a total of 10,000 applications would be accepted for the Federal Skilled Worker Program with a limit of 500 applications being accepted per eligible occupation. This is a 50% reduction from the number of applications accepted in the Federal Skilled Worker Program last year. It is important to note that new applications are being processed more quickly than those submitted prior to the first Ministerial changes in 2008. Applicants who submitted their Federal Skilled Worker applications prior to February 2008 may submit a new application if they qualify under the new instructions.

With so many applicants wanting to enter Canada as economic immigrants, CIC has suggested that this would be a good opportunity to set higher standards for their Federal Skilled Worker Program. Earlier this year, CIC also held consultations regarding the Federal Skilled Worker Program and suggested that the selection criteria should be changed, including raising the level of language proficiency needed to qualify for the program and favouring younger applicants.

Attorney David Cohen commented on the recent speculations, “We’re still unsure which immigration programs will be capped and at what levels. For individuals who are qualified now, I would encourage them to submit their immigration applications as soon as possible as they may not be able to do so in the near future.”

The consultation period is expected to last until fall. While CIC has not yet announced when any changes will be made, and will report on any changes to immigration programs as soon as they are revealed.


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