How does Budget 2023 impact Canadian immigration?
Canada has released Budget 2023.
Each year, Canada releases a budget that sets the tone for spending in the upcoming fiscal year. It is a major influence in all aspects of life for Canadians and newcomers alike.
The budget shows Canada’s plans for spending and reflects the current government’s priorities. It also shows the outlook of Canada's fiscal and economic health. These are both major factors in Canada’s immigration strategy.
This year's budget focuses more heavily on healthcare spending, clean energy initiatives and affordability measures for Canadians who are feeling the most pressure from high inflation.
It contains policies that impact both Canadians and newcomers such as the creation of a national dental care plan for families with incomes lower than $90,000 per year and the creation of a tax-free home savings account. On April 1, financial institutions will be able to offer these accounts to provide first-time homebuyers with the ability to save up to $40,000 by contributing up to $8,000 a year. Contributions will be tax free.
Still, Canada's immigration programs are set to benefit from the budget. Funding will go toward supporting current programs and streamlining application processing. Budget 2023 contains an additional $55 million in spending towards Canada's immigration system. This is on top of the nearly $4.5 billion in spending, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) plans for the 2023-24 federal fiscal year.
The budget proposes to provide $10 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, with $14.6 million in remaining amortization for IRCC and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to implement biometrics. This will help expedite the processing of citizenship applications.
The budget also proposes to expand eligibility for the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) Program to travellers from low-risk countries. The government says the measure will cost $50.8 million over four years. The federal government hopes this will make Canada a more attractive destination for what it considers to be trusted travellers and free up resources for screening high-risk travellers. Currently, the service is only available in Brazil, but a list of eligible countries will be released in the coming weeks.
The budget provides further detail on how Canada plans to support Ukrainians who wish to come to Canada to escape the current unrest. On March 22, the government announced it would be extending the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel to July 15, 2023. To support this extension, the government will commit an additional $171.4 million over three years, starting in 2022-23.
Those who currently hold a CUAET permit now have until March 31, 2024, to travel to Canada. CUAET participants who are already in Canada have until the same date to extend or adjust their temporary status, with no fees.
To further the government's official mandate to expand the French language in communities outside of Quebec, the budget proposes $123.2 million to boost Francophone immigration in Canada, including support for Canadian employers to recruit French-speaking foreign workers, and increased support for these immigrants once they arrive in Canada.
Immigration announcements in recent budgets
Canada’s budgets often also signal or support upcoming legislative changes. For example, the 2022 budget supported further enhancing the Express Entry System by providing the Minister of Immigration with expanded authority to use Ministerial Instructions to help select candidates who best meet Canada’s labour market needs. These changes are set to begin in Q2 this year, but there is no fixed date.
Canada’s economic outlook
While Canada has a stable economy, the Bank of Canada (BoC) expects 2023 to experience a slowdown in economic growth as they raised interest rates and inflation continues to be higher than the targeted 2%. Inflation has fallen for the past seven months in a row and the BoC expects it to hit 2.6% by the end of the year.
Alongside the most recent increase in interest rates, the BoC noted that raising the interest rate will have a positive influence in the long term. This is because high interest rates will slow and decrease the rate of inflation which reached a high of 8.1% last June.
Overall, Canada is among the most stable economies in the G7. According to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, there are now 830,000 more Canadians working today than there were before the COVID-19 pandemic, or a 126% job recovery rate. The minister expects that Canada will see the strongest economic growth in the G7 in 2023.