Today IRCC unveiled a detailed plan titled “An Immigration System for Canada’s Future.” This blueprint aims to address the immigration framework for Canada’s future. Keep in mind the strategy is simply a plan of what the department is hoping to achieve, as opposed to a rock-solid commitment to implement every point released. Here’s a breakdown of the key aspects of the plan:

Streamlining Immigration Processing:

A crucial aspect of Canada’s new immigration plan revolves around revamping its existing immigration processing framework to foster a more welcoming experience for newcomers. At the core of this transformation is the introduction of a novel digital platform named Digital Platform Modernization (DPM). This platform is envisioned to be a cornerstone in transitioning towards a more efficient, fair, and transparent immigration system.

The DPM is designed to enhance automation and digital self-service capabilities, significantly reducing the processing times and making the immigration journey more straightforward and focused on human experience. This digital overhaul is expected to expedite processing, improve program integrity, and transform the traditional way immigration services have been delivered.

Moreover, the plan outlines the government’s commitment to not await the completion of the new digital platform to initiate improvements. It emphasizes recognizing the human aspect of immigration, highlighting that individuals interacting with Canada’s immigration system are making life-altering decisions, and the delivery of services should reflect this fact.

While a digital application environment is desirable, the current online platforms that IRCC has rolled out in the past 24 months have been plagued with bugs, problems, and breakdowns. They have driven both lawyers and clients to the edge of their sanity. We hope IRCC gets it’s act together and builds online platforms that actually work, in the way the New Zealand government has done.

Enhancing Service Standards:

The blueprint underscores the imperative of elevating service standards across key programs to ensure a smooth immigration process. The strategy entails aligning application intake with the available admission spaces to prevent long waits that applicants often experience when the demand overshadows the available slots. This alignment is expected to allow applicants and their supporting networks to plan better for their arrival, facilitating easier settlement and integration into Canadian society.

The above statement suggests IRCC is considering using open and close processing windows. Such an approach would also introduce a myriad of uncertainty, since it will be difficult for applicants to plan ahead and time the submission of their applications to when the window is open. In our experience, open / close submission windows create more problems than they solve.

There is also a focus on expediting visitor visas, which is foreseen to benefit tourism and major international events and conferences held in Canada. As of June 6, 2023, the plan mentions an addition of 13 more countries to a partial visa exempt countries list, enabling travelers from 67 countries to apply for an electronic travel authorization (eTA) instead of a visa, with most eTA applications getting approved within minutes.

Legislative Amendments and Program Enhancements:

A significant part of the strategy involves evaluating the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to assess the necessity for legislative amendments or reform. The IRPA, being the legislation that stands up most of IRCC’s programs, policies, and procedures since 2002, necessitates a review to ensure its relevance and efficacy in the current immigration landscape.

Several pilots and programs are proposed to tackle barriers in accessing the international student program, especially for francophone applicants from sub-Saharan Africa. The strategy outlines developing a pilot with select post-secondary institutions to address barriers faced by students in meeting the financial requirements for study permits.

IRCC will also introduce a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) Verification as a mandatory requirement to enhance fraud prevention, where international student letters of acceptance will be verified directly between IRCC and all designated learning institutions. Additionally, a Recognized Institutions Framework will be established in consultation with designated learning institutions, provinces, and territories. Qualifying universities and colleges under this framework will experience faster study permit processing if they meet higher standards on key performance indicators like integrity, student support including housing, and sustainable student intake. This is a development we fully support.

Aligning Immigration with Labour Market Needs:

A pivotal initiative within the strategy is the proposal to introduce the role of a Chief International Talent Officer. This position is envisioned to align Canada’s immigration policies with a long-term skills and labour strategy. The individual in this role will be responsible for leveraging information regarding the skills needed for the future, ensuring that immigration policies are harmonized with Canada’s labour market and sectoral strategies. This alignment is aimed at effectively addressing the skills gap and meeting the industrial policy goals of Canada.

Moreover, to foster a conducive environment for international talent, the strategy outlines the launch of the first-ever tech talent strategy. This initiative includes provisions for an open work permit for H-1B visa holders to bolster the North American tech sector, which was successfully launched in July and was fully subscribed to in 48 hours.

IRCC’s report also proposes a digital nomad strategy to promote Canada as a desirable remote work destination, with options for individuals to remain in Canada upon receipt of a job offer. The development of additional avenues for highly talented individuals to migrate to Canada, with or without a job offer, is also part of this initiative. This tech talent strategy is designed to drive collective efforts in attracting and retaining individuals who can significantly contribute to Canada’s economic landscape.

Additionally, there are plans to enhance the Start-Up Visa Program. This includes prioritizing applications that are supported by venture capital, angel investor groups, and business incubators, and have capital committed. The strategy also highlights the necessity of focusing on international students with high-demand skills. New measures are proposed to better transition international students to the labour force, enhancing connections between students, post-secondary institutions, and employers.

In addressing the area of foreign credential recognition, the plan proposes enhancing efforts to ensure newcomers are well-informed about the requirements for credential recognition in Canada and encouraging them to initiate this process sooner than later. The government plans to promote awareness of programs providing financial assistance, including loans, to aid newcomers with the costs associated with the credential recognition process.

Furthermore, the strategy mentions the importance of bringing workers to Canada who can help alleviate social pressures in key areas like housing and health care. It suggests using dedicated Category-Based Selection draws in Express Entry to attract workers who can contribute in these crucial areas.

Comprehensive Growth Planning:

The plan emphasizes the importance of a coordinated growth plan which integrates housing, healthcare, and other essential services into immigration planning. Regional economic programs like the Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot are highlighted for their role in promoting economic recovery and sustaining growth. This is an important and necessary step in strategic immigration planning.

Community Support and Regional Immigration:

A more targeted support for the settlement and integration of newcomers is proposed, alongside exploring immigration pathways for foreign nationals committed to investing in housing in Canada. The plan also proposes making the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot a permanent program and developing a new Francophone Immigration Policy to enhance the vitality of Francophone minority communities.

Crisis Response Framework:

In light of growing global humanitarian crises, the plan proposes the development of a crisis response framework and a global incident response team. This aims to enable a quick, equitable, and sustainable immigration response to emerging global crises.

Continuous Adaptation and Partnership:

The strategy underscores the importance of continuous adaptation, innovation, and partnerships in achieving a successful transformation of Canada’s immigration system. This includes staying connected with all stakeholders, and ensuring an open line of communication for addressing emerging issues and sharing information.

This comprehensive plan delineates a path towards a more efficient, inclusive, and adaptive immigration system, ensuring Canada continues to thrive as a multicultural hub while addressing the modern-day challenges and opportunities presented by global migration trends.

We’ll be watching closely to see how the blueprint is operationalized.

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