On November 1st, 2017, the Government of Canada announced its new, multi-year Immigration Levels Plan, dubbed the “most ambitious immigration plan in recent history” by the government. This plan aims to have 310,000 new permanent residents in 2018, 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000. More that half of these new permanent residents are expected to come from the Economic Immigration category (such as Federal High Skilled and Provincial Nominee Programs).

Immigration Plan with Clear Economic Goals

The main reason for this increase in new permanent residents is economic growth. Canada is looking for young and skilled workers to add value, and ultimately, to help Canada’s economy to grow. With an aging population and decline in fertility rates, Canada needs immigrants to contribute to the economy and fill in the gaps of those leaving the work force for retirement.

Accordingly, the biggest increase in targets comes from the economic category. The target for 2018 in the economic class is 177,500, which is up from the 2017 target of 172,500. Whereas the parents and grandparents and Humanitarian and Other categories are set at the same targets as 2017 (20,000 and 3,500 respectively).

Effect on the Express Entry Program

This means that in 2018, we are likely to see more draws in the Express Entry system and/or larger draws. The Canadian government will hope that this increase in permanent residence in the economic class will attract young and skilled immigrants who can truly contribute to Canada’s economy. However, Canada will also have to aim at keeping the draw scores high.

Express Entry works through a point system based on age, education, work experience and language skills of the applicant. Applicants submit a profile to IRCC and IRCC then holds random draws. Every profile above the draw get an invitation to apply for permanent residence. Canada’s aim will be to maintain high draw scores, but still entice enough immigrants to apply to the Express Entry Program to meet these new, higher targets for the program.

Family Reunification still an Issue

As mentioned above, while the targets for the economic class have increased, the target for parental sponsorship has not changed. This means that it will be even harder for permanent residents, current and new, to sponsor their parents. Last year, IRCC announced that they were changing the parental sponsorship program, replacing the old “first come first served” approach with a lottery system.

Under the new system, sponsors enter their expression of interest to IRCC early in the year, and IRCC randomly sends out 10,000 invitations to apply. There is a second round of invitations in September, inviting more sponsors to apply. The number of second round invitations depends on the number of incomplete or not submitted applications from the first round.

This new system makes it impossible for sponsors to know if they will ever be able to sponsor their parents. Applicants could continue to submit their interest in the program for years and never receive an invitation.

With more permanent residents coming to Canada, but no change in parental sponsorship intake, it will become much harder for permanent residents to sponsor their parents. Even though IRCC has a clear goal of “family reunification,” this goal appears to be taking a back seat under the new Immigration Plan.

This could affect the targets of the new plan, as young, skilled immigrants may not want to come to a country when they know there is very little chance their parents will eventually be able to join them.

Canada Opening the Door to Skilled Immigrant Workers

What is clear from this plan is that the Canadian Government is sending a message to foreign skilled workers: Canada wants you. However, to be really effective in attracting these workers, Canada may have to re-focus on one of its key objectives, family reunification.

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Michael Freeman

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