The top Canadian immigration developments to expect for the rest of 2023

The top Canadian immigration developments to expect for the rest of 2023

Fall and the time leading up to Christmas are usually when Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Canada's immigration system make important updates.

Canada's immigration system is quite complex, but there are some important things to keep an eye on as the year ends. These include possible changes in what Canada sees as most important in immigration, how many people can get permanent residence, and any updates to programs for parents, grandparents, international students, and work permits.

New Ministerial Mandate Letter?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is considering the issuance of a fresh Ministerial Mandate letter in the upcoming months.

These mandate letters serve as directives from the Prime Minister to ministers, outlining the government's objectives for their term in office.

In essence, the letter addressed to Canada's Immigration Minister plays a pivotal role in shaping the nation's immigration policy and will be instrumental in guiding the actions of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in the foreseeable future.

The Prime Minister may opt to issue new mandate letters, particularly after a cabinet reshuffle, as was witnessed this summer when Marc Miller assumed the role of Canada's new immigration minister. However, it's important to note that there is no absolute requirement for the Prime Minister to issue such a letter, and Minister Miller may choose to continue the work initiated by his predecessor, Sean Fraser.

In the most recent mandate letter, the Prime Minister requested the minister's commitment to welcoming newcomers under the Immigration Levels Plan, with the aim of reuniting families and fostering Canada's economic growth and recovery in the post-pandemic era.

Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026

In years when there is no election happening, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has a legal duty to tell everyone about its Immigration Levels Plan by November 1st.

This plan explains how many people they want to become permanent residents, and it also breaks it down into different groups: some come for work, some for family reasons, and others because they need help. For example, in the plan for 2023-2025, Canada wants to let in 500,000 new permanent residents every year. Out of these, 301,250 will be here for work, and 114,000 will be from the Express Entry program.

We don't know yet if IRCC will change these targets when they announce the plan for 2024-2026 later this year. The Immigration Minister, Marc Miller, has said that he doesn't think they will make the targets lower. He believes that the need for immigration is very high, so they might keep the targets the same or even increase them

Office of the Auditor General Report on Processing Immigration Applications

The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) has the responsibility of examining how Canada's government operates internally. It looks for areas that need to get better and highlights what's going well.

At the end of this year, the OAG is planning to publish an audit report. This report will check if the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been handling permanent resident applications quickly and effectively. The goal is to make sure that IRCC is doing its job in helping Canada's economy, reuniting families, and assisting people in the humanitarian category.

It's important to note that this audit won't cover the processing of applications for temporary residents.

Express Entry

Express Entry has seen significant changes this year. In May, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introduced six new selection categories for category-based draws. Instead of relying solely on a high Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, these draws focus on specific candidate attributes. One category prioritizes strong French-language proficiency, while the remaining five target individuals with work experience in the following sectors:

  1. Healthcare
  2. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions
  3. Trades, including carpenters, plumbers, and contractors
  4. Transportation
  5. Agriculture and agri-food

As per a recent report from the Globe and Mail, IRCC intends to place a significant emphasis on candidates with STEM work experience. It is expected that between 28 percent and 31 percent of Express Entry invitations issued this year will go to individuals with experience in STEM fields, such as software developers and data scientists.

However, it's important to note that all-program draws, which include candidates from the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Federal Skilled Worker Program, have constituted the majority of Invitations to Apply (ITAs) throughout the summer, and there is no indication that this trend will change.

Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP)

The Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) is an initiative by IRCC that allows the parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to apply for family class sponsorship on an annual basis. In recent years, IRCC has typically announced the details of this program in the fall.

In 2022, sponsors were selected through a lottery system, considering only those who had applied between October 13, 2020, and November 3, 2020. This approach aimed to address a significant backlog of applications that had accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, IRCC invited 23,100 PGP participants. The current Immigration Levels Plan sets a target of admitting 28,500 new permanent residents through the PGP for 2023, with an increase to 36,000 by the end of 2025.

On September 8, IRCC announced the process for the PGP in 2023. Starting on October 10, IRCC will send invitations to apply to 24,200 potential sponsors who had expressed their interest back in 2020, with the goal of receiving up to 15,000 complete applications.

International Students

Minister Miller has stated that Canada is on track to welcome 900,000 international students this year. To support them, IRCC and Global Affairs Canada are currently reviewing Canada's international student program (ISP).

As the year progresses, more details will emerge about the Trusted Institutions Framework, a proposed two-tier model for issuing study permits to strengthen the integrity of the ISP. According to reports, Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) meeting the IRCC criteria for Trusted Institutions may benefit from faster study permit processing for admitted international students.

Further details on this framework are expected in the fall, along with information on other IRCC measures aimed at enhancing integrity in the International Student program.

Additionally, on December 31, IRCC's policy allowing certain students to work full-time (with no cap on hours worked) is set to expire. IRCC has indicated that it will assess this policy and make decisions about the next steps.

Tech Talent Strategy

On June 27, IRCC introduced a new Tech Talent Strategy designed to attract more newcomers in tech-related occupations.

As part of this strategy, IRCC plans to launch an Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program, allowing Canadian employers to hire foreign workers without the need for a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The Innovation Stream will grant employer-specific work permits for up to five years to individuals with job offers at government-identified companies contributing to Canada's economic goals. It will also issue open work permits to workers in select high-demand occupations.

IRCC is also committed to becoming a more appealing destination for digital nomads, foreign nationals who work remotely for employers outside Canada. More details will be released regarding a dedicated pathway for these workers. Currently, digital nomads do not require a work permit when they arrive in Canada on a Temporary Residence (visitor) visa and stay for up to six months. Additional information may be provided on how digital nomads transitioning to Canadian employment can obtain a work permit.

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