Why demand is strong for Canada’s 6 new immigration programs
Canada's recent announcement is being met with great fanfare.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is launching six streams for essential workers and international graduates on May 6. It will provide permanent residence to up to 50,000 essential workers and 40,000 graduates. The programs close on November 5, or when the quotas are met, whichever happens first. There are no quotas for French-speaking applicants.
Canada's rationale for the programs is it wants to transition as many of those in the country now to permanent residence to support its 401,000 new immigrant target for 2021. Those in Canada are more likely to be able to obtain permanent residence now since they are not subject to the same COVID-related travel restrictions that immigration candidates abroad face. The government believes high levels of immigration will support Canada's post-pandemic economic recovery.
The significant demand by immigration candidates in Canada to complete an English-language test is a major indicator of the level of interest in the programs.
Those wishing to obtain Canadian permanent residence under the economic class usually need to complete an English or French language test that has been approved by IRCC. This requirement is in place even if English or French is your mother tongue, or if you have lived, worked, or studied in an English or French-speaking environment (e.g., such as in Canada).
IELTS and CELPIP saw their websites crash following the announcement of the new programs. The language testers have not been able to keep up with demand as they also look to protect the health and safety of test takers and staff during the pandemic. Because IRCC did not consult with them prior to announcing the streams, IELTS and CELPIP will not be able to offer enough tests that meet demand in time for May 6.
Another way to measure demand for the new programs is by evaluating the detailed information provided by IRCC on the federal government's open data portal. The programs are available to those who have valid status to work in Canada. Hence, we can look at IRCC's work and study permit data to give us a better sense of what to expect on May 6.
Estimating the number of work and study permit holders currently in Canada
Canada had the following number of people holding valid permits as of December 31, 2020 (all numbers have been rounded for ease of reading):
- 717,000 IMP work permit holders. The International Mobility Program enables foreign nationals to hold a work permit in Canada that does not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (the LMIA is used by the federal government to assess how the hiring of a foreign national will affect workers in Canada);
- 77,000 TFWP work permit holders. Those who fall under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program need a positive LMIA in order to be eligible to work in Canada;
- 530,000 study permit holders.
In addition, the following number of work permits took effect in January and February 2021:
- 62,000 IMP work permits;
- 20,000 TFWP work permits.
Assuming the same average of new IMP and TFWP work permits also took effect in March and April 2021 (an assumption of another 82,000 work permits), we are looking at 164,000 total new work permits that will have taken effect in the first four months of 2021.
The grand total of work and study permit holders currently in Canada
The grand total becomes nearly 1.5 million work and study permit holders in Canada when the programs launch May 6. It is important to stress, however, this grand total over-estimates the number of people who will be vying for the six new permanent resident programs.
In fact, it is virtually impossible for IRCC or anyone else to provide a precise figure on the extent of demand for the streams. Reasons include:
- There is duplication among the permit numbers due to individuals transitioning between categories (e.g., a graduate transitioning from a study permit to a PGWP);
- Not all these people are interested in applying for permanent residence;
- Some have already obtained permanent residence or have submitted immigration applications. For instance, we know 52,708 Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates have been invited to apply for permanent residence under Express Entry in 2021. IRCC estimates some 90 per cent of these candidates reside in Canada. Hence, we can deduct this figure from the grand total. The same can be said for the other permit holders currently in Canada who are going through the immigration process (e.g., the partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents living here while IRCC processes their in-land sponsorship application);
- Some are not eligible to apply under the new streams. For instance, they do not have eligible work experience or will not be able to get their IELTS or CELPIP test result in time. Or maybe they will not graduate from their Canadian program before the new programs close;
- Others have since left Canada or their permits are no longer valid.
Permanent residence candidates have over 100 different immigration options to remain in Canada
The number of people who will apply beginning May 6 is uncertain, but, we can say with a great deal of confidence there will be plenty of work and study permit holders aiming to be among the some 90,000 individuals who gain permanent residence under the programs. We should not be surprised if the quotas are met quickly, within weeks or even days of the May 6 launch.
All is not lost if a candidate is not able to be among these 90,000 individuals. Candidates can still apply to other permanent residence programs and they currently have an advantage since IRCC and provincial governments are aiming to transition as many of them to permanent residence as possible during the pandemic.
Express Entry is the main way Canada welcomes economic class immigrants, and 95 per cent of permanent residence invitations in 2021 have gone to CEC candidates. Those looking to remain in Canada as permanent residents should see the new streams as one option, while also considering the more than 100 other economic class immigration options available to them.
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