Have you ever wondered what drives the policy decisions made by the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)? Or maybe you just want a better idea as to the direction the Department is planning on heading in the coming year? Well look no further than the 2016/2017 Annual Report on Plans and Priorities for the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
In this post, I am going to share my thoughts on where I feel IRCC is headed in 2016 based on what has been shared within the Report. Because I am in a giving mood, I am going to provide a breakdown of the most important aspects of the Report so that you can save time doing more important things with your life ….
….like watching Heartland.
It’s definitely one of my family’s favourite television shows. One day I’m going to move out into the country, chase cows on my Quarter Horse and never pick up another government report in my life. Alas, that won’t likely be for another 20 years.
In this blog I’ve done the work for you. No need to read the Report. Spend 5 minutes reading my summary and you will be able to sound really intelligent as you wow your friends with incredible insights into the amazingly unpredictable and constantly changing world of Canadian Immigration.
In this Report, there has been a very clear attempt by Minister John McCallum and his department to distance themselves from the somewhat detached and economically fixed policies of the Conservatives to a more humanitarian and compassionate approach to immigration planning and priorities. At the forefront of these priorities is the reunification of families and the re-establishment of Canada as a welcoming place for refugees.
Aside from the fact the Report allocates an overwhelming 45% of the annual immigration budget to newcomer settlement and integration, I think the best indicator of the mindset of Minister McCallum can be found in the following statement within the Minister’s Message:
As Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, I am confident that the plans and priorities described in this report will support the Government of Canada’s commitment to building a strong immigration system that is grounded in compassion and economic opportunity for all, while continuing to protect the health and security of all Canadians.
This infusion of compassion can be clearly seen within the following new commitments that are to be, for the most part, implemented by March 2017:
- restoration of the Interim Federal Health Program Benefits;
- restoration of the age of dependants back to 22 from 19;
- re-examination of the 2 year conditional PR for sponsored spouses
- modification of the Express Entry process to give applicants with Canadian siblings a greater chance of qualifying (I suspect they will likely accomplish this by adjusting the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) to allocate additional points to candidates with Canadian siblings); and
- removal of the $1000 LMIA application fee for families seeking to hire caregivers for family members with physical or mental disabilities.
The Liberals also intend to continue forward with the following initiatives previously announced:
- repeal of Citizenship Act provisions that are unfair to certain Canadians and permanent residents;
- reduction of processing times of Citizenship applications, and family sponsorship; and
- review of visa requirements for some countries (e.g. Mexico)
What to look for within Economic Immigration
In short – not much change.
On the economic front, the Liberals do not seem to have nearly the appetite to work on these programs as they do within the family and refugee classes. There was very little within the report to suggest anything will change for international students or many temporary foreign works who were hit the hardest by the release of Express Entry in 2015.
There was token lip service to the value of each of these groups within Canadian immigration policy, but in the end, nothing was done to address the significant barriers they face in qualifying for permanent resident status in Canada. Prior to the implementation of Express Entry, most Post Grad Work Permit Holders had clear pathways to PR status in Canada. This has now all changed. Only the elite within the ranks of PGWP holders will ever be able to qualify for PR in Canada…unless something is done.
The Report seems to acknowledge this fact where it quietly acknowledges that only:
“Some PGWP holders will also be eligible to apply for permanent residence through the Canadian Experience Class or other programs.”
In another section, temporary foreign workers and international students are once again given a lukewarm endorsement regarding their importance within the Liberal’s immigration plan:
“Some temporary workers and international students represent a key talent pool to be retained as immigrants.”
The above statement sends a very clear message that most TFWs and International Students are simply not needed, nor wanted as permanent residents of Canada.
Many international students were hoping to see some modifications to the Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System so as to award International Graduates with extra CRS points for having graduated with a Canadian post secondary educational credential. Unfortunately, the Report is completely silent on this important issue.
When it comes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Canada, less emphasis has been placed on the transition of TFWs to PR status while much more emphasis has now been placed on employer compliance and the implementation of the new Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMP) regime.
After all is said and done, it is hard for me not to believe that the whole AMP regime is, once again, nothing more than a scare tactic for employers.
Although it is easy to see how an AMP regime could help to increase employer compliance, if the government had simply enforced the program in existence back in 2011, many of these measures would likely not have been necessary today.
International Experience Class
Some additional changes are expected to occur within the International Experience Class. Processing of IEC applications may no longer be first in, first out, but likely follow the path of Express Entry and require candidates to be drawn from a pool and given an Invitation to Apply for a work permit. So for those of you who are rushing to get your working holiday work permit applications processed for the summer, getting your application submitted first may not necessarily result in you getting a Canadian work permit.
Lifting of Visa Requirements for Mexico
The Liberals have also been promising for some time now that they intend to remove the visa restrictions for citizens of Mexico, and other countries. Well, this has once again been alluded to within this Report. I must admit that I am a little curious as to which other countries the government is contemplating opening our borders to. If only they could work out the issues stalling out the Free Trade negotiations with the European Union and Asia.
Softening of the Ruthless Approach to Application Processing
Finally, for all of you who have been languishing in the darkest abyss because of the downright ruthless approach IRCC has taken with respect to the processing of immigration applications – there may be some light in the horizon. One of the ongoing priorities outlined in the Report is “Enhancing Service Excellence.”
Now doesn’t that just sound wonderful?
With IRCC’s downright cruel “one touch” policy to the processing of applications, the following list of planned initiatives provides some clarity as to what they have in mind:
- easy, efficient, timely services to increase international competitiveness
- a continued push to online filing
- increased communication with clients
- a file process that is simplified and automated.
I’m all for automation, communication and simplification; however, with IRCC’s current approach, I have serious reservations as to whether or not “compassion” will ever find a place within the adjudication of economic class applications.
My hope is that this new Immigration Plan will be able to achieve its purpose by creating an immigration system that “balances compassion with economic opportunity” and provides equal chance at immigration for temporary foreign workers, international students, family members and refugees alike.
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Explore Additional Resources
- Report on Plans and Priorities 2016-2017: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/rpp/2016-2017/index.asp#a1.2.4
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- April 8, 2016 – Express Entry Part II – 4:00pm – 5:15pm
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