Will Canada remain appealing to immigrants after the pandemic?
Canada was an extremely attractive destination to global talent prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic has, of course, changed a lot of things. Hence, it is worth re-evaluating whether these changes will impact Canada's appeal to newcomers after the pandemic.
Generally speaking, newcomers are attracted to Canada's high living standards including its economic opportunities, open immigration system, and welcoming attitude to people all around the world. International students have comprised an even larger share of Canada's newcomers over the past decade. In surveys conducted by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, international students cite Canada's reputation as a tolerant and non-discriminatory society, and reputation as a safe country as some of the top reasons why they choose to study here.
Nonetheless, the pandemic is creating major challenges that will linger after it is over which may undermine Canada's attractiveness. Delays in the processing of applications is frustrating to newcomers. Prominent groups of newcomers, such as the Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders who are still restricted from moving here, have a right to be less trusting of Canada's immigration system and Canada's desire to welcome them. Weaker economic conditions in Canada may also hurt our appeal. It can be challenging at the best of times for newcomers to find gainful employment in Canada and this may become even more challenging in the years to come as Canada and the rest of the world look to get their economies back on track.
There are several reasons, however, why it is likely that the pool of people looking to move to Canada will remain strong beyond the pandemic.
Why Canada looks set to remain appealing to global talent
In 2020, World Education Services (WES) surveyed nearly 28,000 prospective immigrants to gauge their interest in moving to Canada amid the pandemic. WES is among the organizations designated by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to assess the foreign credentials of those who submit a Canadian immigration application.
WES conducted three surveys in total and identified three key conclusions:
- Interest in immigrating to Canada had increased over the course of the pandemic in 2020.
- The number of respondents who were looking to delay immigration to Canada had declined.
- Respondents felt the economic conditions in their country would be worse than in Canada.
These findings are important since they underscore that interest in immigrating to Canada has not been negatively affected by the pandemic, and that potential newcomers may end up moving to Canada, despite the economic challenges here, because they believe economic conditions in their own countries will be even worse.
It is understandable why future immigrants may hold this view. Canada has borrowed unprecedented amounts of money to subsidize its economy during the pandemic. Fiscal stimulus has been injected to support people and employers, and to cover COVID-19 related costs. The Canadian government and Bank of Canada have justified this approach on a number of fronts. For instance, the federal government has argued that lower interest rates introduced by the Bank of Canada at the start of the crisis makes borrowing cheap, and will enable it to repay COVID-related debt once the economy recovers. The former Governor of the Bank of Canada argued that "A firefighter has never been criticized for using too much water."
In addition, it now appears more likely that Canada will get out of the pandemic sooner than most countries. Canada's vaccination campaign was slow out of the gate but vaccine shipments and vaccinations have been increasing in recent weeks. The United States is aiming to complete its vaccination campaign within the next few months. The sooner that occurs, the sooner that Canada's economy will be in a position to recover. The U.S. will be able to ease vaccine exports to countries such as Canada.
Higher rates of vaccinations in Canada would then enable the two countries to seriously considering lifting the border restrictions that have blunted growth in the Canadian economy over the past year. This would represent good news for Canadians and prospective immigrants alike as they should then be able to enjoy the fruits of a stronger Canadian economy. Moreover, with their vaccination campaigns complete, the U.S. and Canada could work together to assist the global community in vaccinating their populations and getting out of the pandemic themselves, which would give the global economy a shot in the arm.
It is also important to remember the key reasons for Canada's attractiveness to newcomers remain in place. Canada wants to welcome newcomers from all corners of the globe and currently has exemptions in place for groups such as temporary foreign workers, international students, family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, among others. Federal and provincial governments have been inviting new immigration candidates throughout the pandemic, and they will eventually be allowed to enter the country when conditions improve.
Canada has doubled down on its commitment to immigration by aiming to welcome over 400,000 new permanent residents per year between 2021 and 2023. Canada is the only country in the world that offers over 100 different pathways to economic class immigrants. Given how diverse these pathways are, Canada should have little difficulty finding enough candidates after the pandemic.
In addition, Canada should remain appealing to temporary foreign workers (TFWs) and international students due to the variety of educational, economic, and immigration opportunities available to them here. Certain TFWs, such as those who fall under the Global Talent Stream, are eligible for expedited work permits. Youth from fellow industrialized countries are eligible to obtain open work permits (and work in any job or for any employer of their choice) under the International Experience Class Program.
Canada offers one of the most appealing packages in the world to international students. Students can obtain a quality education at a globally competitive cost, work during and after their studies, and then have an advantage when applying to an immigration program. TFWs also benefit from the same advantage. The advantage is that various federal and provincial programs will award more points, or offer dedicated pathways to candidates who possess Canadian experience.
The future looks bright for Canadian immigration
Pandemic-related challenges in Canada and abroad are daunting, but all things considered, they are relatively short-term challenges that Canada should be able to address in support of its newcomer attraction efforts.
In addition to the aforementioned reasons, Canada should also remain appealing to newcomers due to two of its more unique features. Prior to the pandemic, Canada welcomed newcomers from some 175 different countries each year. The country's strong and diverse diaspora communities will continue to attract future waves of newcomers.
IRCC spends some $2 billion each year on immigrant settlement services such as language training and employment supports. Such spending will underscore the following message to newcomers: Canada is committed to helping you succeed even in spite of ongoing challenges that may arise following the pandemic.
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