Canada’s immigration system is set for a busy end to what has been an eventful 2020.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is expected to keep holding Express Entry draws throughout the holiday season. In previous years, there have been at least two draws in December. Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) activity is also expected to continue. In previous years PNP draws were held leading up to Christmas day, which is a nationwide statutory holiday in Canada.
In addition, there may be some upcoming news on mandate letters for Canada’s ministers, the Parents and Grandparents Program, and additional immigration pathways for international students and temporary foreign workers residing in Canada.
Here are five major immigration stories to follow for the rest of this year.
We can expect Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau to issue new mandate letters to his ministers before Christmas. The mandate letters from the prime minister outline the policy objectives that each minister will work to accomplish. They are made public so that Canadians can hold the government to account.
The letter to Canada’s immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, will give more details into what is on the government’s agenda in terms of immigration.
The new letter to Mendicino will guide his efforts as well as the efforts of IRCC, provinces and territories, and immigration stakeholders across Canada as they work to bring the immigration system back on track following the coronavirus pandemic.
Canada’s immigration priorities will include implementing the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan, and may include discussion on new initiatives such as the Municipal Nominee Program, and removing Canadian citizenship fees.
Two more Express Entry draws are anticipated in December. Canada just threw off its pattern of having draws every two weeks, with the most recent draw happening just seven days after the previous invitation round. The November 25 draw invited 5,000 immigration candidates to apply for permanent residence, and had a relatively low score requirement at 469.
Following that, there is likely going to be another draw on or around December 16. In previous years, there has been a gap of three to four weeks between the last draw of the year and the first draw of the new year.
This has been a banner year for Express Entry in spite of COVID-19 with Canada having already invited 92,350 immigration candidates in 2020, the highest level ever. Canada could end the year by surpassing 100,000 invitations to apply for the very first time since Express Entry was born in 2015.
Canadian provinces are expected to conduct PNP draws throughout the holiday season. It is not uncommon to see PNP activity up until days before the Christmas holiday on December 25.
Ontario is expected to hold a draw next month. Currently, the popular destination for new immigrants has at least 386 nominations left of their annual allocation. This, after receiving an additional 250 nominations for temporary foreign workers in intermediate skilled occupations.
IRCC opened the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) Interest to Sponsor forms in October and closed it in early November. It will likely hold its PGP 2020 draw by December and then anticipates it will receive applications from sponsors who were drawn from the lottery in January and February, 2021.
For 2020, IRCC will invite up to 10,000 sponsors to apply to sponsor parents and grandparents for Canadian immigration. Next year, IRCC is expected to invite up to 30,000 sponsors.
Mendicino recently told Bloomberg that Canada is looking into more ways to allow temporary residents to transition to permanent residents. This is supposed to help make up for the decline in new immigrants admitted to Canada during the pandemic, which has also resulted in a hit to Canada’s population and economic growth. Though we don’t know exactly when this announcement will be made, it’s worth keeping on the radar. While it could come as soon as by December, IRCC sometimes delays such major announcements until after the holidays.
There are a number of ways the federal government can create more pathways to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers and international students. Here are some of the options IRCC could employ to allow more temporary residents to become Canadian permanent residents.
Option 1: Change the CRS
The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) awards points to Express Entry candidates with both foreign and Canadian work experience and education. If the government wants to make it easier for temporary residents to immigrate, they may opt to increase the amount of points that Canadian work experience and education are worth under the CRS. The more CRS points an Express Entry candidate has, the more likely they will be invited to apply for permanent residence.
As it is now, single Express Entry candidates (i.e., candidates without a spouse or common-law partner) can get up to 210 CRS points for Canadian skilled work experience and education. They can get up to 80 points for Canadian work experience, as well as up to 100 points for having a combination of both post-secondary education and Canadian work experience, and Canadian work experience and foreign work experience. Candidates can also qualify for up to 30 additional points by having a Canadian education credential.
Already this year, Canada has made French language ability more valuable on the CRS. IRCC now awards up to 50 additional points for Express Entry candidates who speak French and English, compared with 30 CRS points before this change.
Option 2: Hold more Canadian Experience Class-specific draws
Another option the federal government has is to hold more Express Entry draws that are only for Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates. IRCC already implemented this strategy earlier this year. They held Express Entry draws only for CEC candidates, and the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) in an effort to prioritize immigration candidates who were already in the country in light of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Option 3: Modify eligibility criteria for the CEC
The federal government could also make it easier to be eligible for the CEC, by reducing the requirement for candidates to have at least 12 months of skilled work experience.
Immigrants were disproportionately represented in hard-hit sectors when nearly two million jobs were lost this past April. Similarly, people who are in Canada on a limited-time work permit may have also lost their jobs or had their hours cut due to COVID-19. This may hurt their ability to gain that one year of work experience they need to be eligible for the CEC.
Reducing the CEC work experience eligibility requirement from 12 months to nine, or six months, as examples, may allow some of these people who were affected to get into the Express Entry pool of candidates.
Option 4: Increase PNP allocations for provinces
IRCC can also give more immigration selection powers to the provinces and territories by increasing the number of people they are allowed to nominate through their Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). For example, IRCC can say to the provinces that the increased allocations can only be used towards nominating temporary residents already living in the respective jurisdiction.
Option 5: Launch new federal pilot programs
The federal government has the ability to launch new pilot programs to support Canada’s labour market needs. Pilots can run for a maximum of five years and allow up to 2,750 principal applicants to be admitted annually.
This option, however, would not be sufficient to provide a significant number of additional immigration spots to the hundreds of thousands of temporary residents currently in Canada.
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