Essential workers, international student graduates and French speakers in Canada will have six new pathways to permanent residency this May.
Canada’s immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, announced the new programs on April 14. Three of the new programs will pave the way for 90,000 new immigrants to get permanent status this year. The other three streams for French-speaking immigrants will have no intake cap.
The new programs will be for temporary workers employed in hospitals and long-term care homes, and those on the frontlines of other essential sectors, as well as international student graduates from Canadian educational institutions.
As of May 6, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will begin accepting applications under the following three streams:
The streams will remain open until November 5, 2021, or until they have reached their limit. These new public policies apply to workers in 40 healthcare occupations, as well as 95 other essential jobs across a range of fields, like caregiving and food production and distribution.
To be eligible, workers need at least one year of Canadian work experience in a healthcare profession or another pre-approved essential occupation. International graduates must have completed an eligible Canadian post-secondary program within the last four years, and no earlier than January 2017.
Graduates and workers must have proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages; meet general admissibility requirements; and be present, authorized to work and working in Canada at the time of their application to qualify. They also must be residing in any Canadian province other than Quebec.
“These new policies will help those with a temporary status to plan their future in Canada, play a key role in our economic recovery and help us build back better,” Mendicino said in a media release. “Our message to them is simple: your status may be temporary, but your contributions are lasting—and we want you to stay.”
The immigration minister had been hinting at the idea of facilitating immigration for temporary residents since the fall, after announcing the highest immigration targets Canada has ever seen. Mendicino said the move would be necessary in order to bounce back from a year of reduced immigration. Canada did not admit enough immigrants in 2020, and as a result, population growth fell to WWI levels.
Over the next three years, Canada is aiming to welcome about 1.2 million new immigrants. About 401,000 are supposed to become permanent residents in 2021 alone, yet the coronavirus-related travel restrictions are still in effect, hindering many from immigrating to Canada.
Canada’s immigration system already aims to facilitate transitions to permanent residence to those already residing in the country. Many of Canada’s over 100 different economic class programs award extra points to those with Canadian experience or exist specifically to facilitate such transitions. This is largely a function of Statistics Canada research showing that pre-landing Canadian experience supports integration into the country’s labour market. Moreover, facilitating such transitions has been key to Canada promoting a broader distribution of immigration across Canada. This approach helps smaller cities and communities retain the temporary foreign workers and international students that have established roots locally.
One of the ways Canada has been working toward achieving the 2021 target is by inviting very large numbers of immigration candidates to apply for permanent residence, who are living in Canada during a pandemic. About every two weeks since the start of the year, Canada has held Express Entry draws that only target candidates who are eligible for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), or who have previously been nominated through a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). Express Entry is the main way Canada welcomes economic class immigrants as it comprises over one-quarter of Canada’s annual newcomer admissions.
On February 13, Canada invited every CEC-eligible candidate from the Express Entry pool, a total of 27,332 candidates. This was by far the largest and most historic draw since Express Entry launched in January 2015. Before this draw, the most Express Entry candidates IRCC ever invited at one time was 5,000. The immigration department said the reason for the draw was part of an effort to help more immigration candidates who were working in Canada to stay in Canada. About 90 per cent of CEC candidates are already in Canada, meaning they will not be affected by travel restrictions, and they might not have the same difficulties in getting all their documents together compared to overseas applicants.
Canada is also relying on other economic class streams to transition those here to permanent residence this year to support its 401,000 immigration target. In addition to the aforementioned Express Entry system and PNP, programs such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and other federal streams will enable more individuals to gain permanent residence this year.
IRCC and the province of Quebec have already shown they are not averse to coming up with new ways to help those in Canada remain here permanently well beyond the pandemic. So-called “Guardian Angels” have won the hearts and minds of Canadians over the past year. These are asylum claimants that have been working on the front lines of Canada’s health care system helping to combat the pandemic. Beginning in December 2020, both IRCC and Quebec began to accept permanent residence applications from such individuals as a token of appreciation for their contributions to Canada during the pandemic.
Family class immigration is also contributing to Canada’s 401,000 target. Family class immigrants are exempt from Canada’s travel restrictions and are able to enter the country to complete their permanent residence landings. They comprise over one-quarter of the newcomer admissions Canada is seeking under its Immigration Levels Plan.
Long before the pandemic, Canadians have looked to immigration to help mitigate its demographic challenges, caused by an aging population and a low fertility rate.
Ever since 1971, Canada’s fertility rate has been below the replacement level of 2.1 babies per woman. This period of low fertility came after the baby boomer generation, when the birth rate was more than three children per woman between 1946 and 1965.
Canada’s 9 million baby boomers are reaching retirement age this decade. Without enough new workers to fill the gaps in the labour market, Canada will not be able to sustain a competitive economy. Furthermore, the younger generation will shoulder the pressures of caring for an older generation that outnumbers it, and in turn, the older generation may not receive adequate care.
As such, Canada has been seeking higher immigration to support the population and labour force growth it needs to maintain its high living standards.
Although it is still early, Canada already looks set to achieve its 401,000 newcomer target this year, thanks largely to its effort to facilitate permanent residence transitions for those already here. IRCC data shows Canada has welcomed nearly 50,000 new permanent residents through the first two months of 2021.
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