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Anticipated Canadian Immigration Trends for the Second Half of 2023

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Fall and the Christmas holiday season are typically busy times for updates from IRCC and Canada’s immigration system in general.

During this period, we should keep an eye out for potential changes in Canada’s immigration policies and permanent residence quotas. As well as updates to programs like those for parents and grandparents, international students, and work permits.

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Is a Fresh Ministerial Mandate Letter Expected?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might issue 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 goals for their term in office.

Simply put, the letter addressed to Canada’s Immigration Minister shapes the nation’s immigration policy and will play a crucial role in guiding the actions of the IRCC in the future.

After a cabinet reshuffle, like the one that occurred this summer when Marc Miller assumed the role of Canada’s new immigration minister, the Prime Minister may issue new mandate letters. However, there is no obligation for him to give such a letter. So he may opt to continue the work initiated by previous minister.

In the last mandate letter, the minister received the task of continuing to welcome newcomers under the Immigration Levels Plan to reunite families and bolster Canada’s economic growth and recovery post-pandemic.

Illustrative picture showing application form for Canadian permanent residency

Report by the Office of the Auditor General on the Processing of Immigration Applications

The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) scrutinizes the Canadian government’s internal operations, pinpointing improvement areas and recognizing achievements.

Anticipation is that the OAG will issue an audit by the year’s end to assess whether the IRCC has efficiently and promptly processed permanent resident applications, ensuring that the department aligns with its goals of supporting Canada’s economy, facilitating family reunification, and aiding humanitarian class applicants.

The processing of non-permanent resident applications is not within this audit’s scope.

The Immigration Levels Plan for 2024-2026

In years without elections, the IRCC is legally obliged to unveil its Immigration Levels Plan by November 1st.

This plan outlines the goals for permanent resident admissions, breaking them down by immigration class and specific programs. For instance, the 2023-2025 plan specifies that Canada aims to admit 500,000 new permanent residents annually by the end of 2025, with 301,250 falling under the economic class. Among them, 114,000 will be Express Entry candidates.

As we await the release of the 2024-2026 levels plan this year, it remains uncertain whether the IRCC will lower, increase, or maintain these targets. Immigration Minister Marc Miller believes that the marks are unlikely to decrease.

“I don’t foresee a scenario where we reduce immigration targets; the need is too substantial. Whether we consider revising them upward or not is something I need to explore, but certainly, I don’t anticipate lowering them,” stated Miller.

International Students

Minister Miller has indicated that Canada is on course to welcome 900,000 international students this year. IRCC and Global Affairs Canada are reviewing Canada’s international student program (ISP) to provide them with better support.

As the year unfolds, we can anticipate more information about the Trusted Institutions Framework, which proposes a two-tier model for study permit issuance to enhance the integrity of the ISP.

According to reports from ICEF, Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) meeting the IRCC’s Trusted Institution criteria could enjoy expedited study permit processing for admitted international students.

The fall expects to reveal additional framework details and information about other IRCC initiatives to enhance the integrity of the International Student program.

Furthermore, on December 31, the IRCC policy that allows certain students to work full-time (with no restrictions on the number of hours) is set to expire. IRCC has stated that it will review the policy and make decisions regarding future steps.

Express Entry Changes

Express Entry has seen significant adjustments this year. In May, IRCC introduced six new selection categories for category-based draws. A specific candidate attribute precedes a high Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score in these draws. One of these categories is reserved for individuals with strong French language proficiency, while the remaining five target those with work experience in the following sectors:

  • Healthcare
  • Transport
  • Agriculture and agri-food
  • Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions
  • Trades, such as carpenters, plumbers, and contractors

According to a recent report by the Globe and Mail, IRCC plans to emphasize candidates with STEM work experience. The report indicates that this year might see 28 percent and 31 percent of Express Entry invitations going to individuals with expertise in STEM professions, such as software developers and data scientists.

However, all-program draws, which encompass candidates from the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Federal Skilled Worker Program, have continued to dominate the majority of Invitations to Apply (ITAs) throughout the summer, with no signs of this trend changing.

Tech Talent Strategy

On June 27, IRCC unveiled a fresh Tech Talent Strategy to attract more newcomers to tech-related professions.

IRCC has disclosed its intention to introduce an Innovation Stream within the International Mobility Program later this year. This initiative will enable Canadian employers to hire foreign workers without needing a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

Within the framework of the Innovation Stream, IRCC will grant employer-specific work permits valid for up to five years to individuals with job offers from companies identified by the government as contributors to Canada’s economic objectives. Notably, this program will also issue open work permits to individuals in specific high-demand occupations.

Additionally, IRCC is committed to making Canada a more appealing destination for digital nomads and foreign nationals working remotely for employers outside Canada. Further details about a dedicated pathway for these workers will be released. Digital nomads do not require a work permit as they can enter on a Temporary Residence (visitor) visa and stay in Canada for up to six months. More information may emerge about how digital nomads who secure employment in Canada can transition to a Canadian work permit.

Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP)

The Parents and Grandparents Program, commonly called the PGP, is an annual initiative by IRCC that welcomes the parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to apply for family class sponsorship. Typically, IRCC unveils the Parents and Grandparents Program details in the autumn.

In 2022, the lottery system selected sponsors to apply. IRCC considered sponsors who had submitted their applications between October 13, 2020, and November 3, 2020. This approach addressed a significant backlog of applications accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, IRCC extended invitations to 23,100 participants for the PGP. As per the current Immigration Levels Plan, the target for new permanent resident admissions through the PGP stands at 28,500 for 2023, with the goal increasing to 36,000 by the end of 2025.

IRCC has not yet disclosed the specific process they will use for the PGP in 2023.

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