2022 Immigration News and Developments

2022 has been a busy year in terms of immigration news and developments. We even got a new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (although this is nothing new -the Department has been a revolving door since Kenney left).

Canada has set out a bold plan to bring in 1.5 million Permanent Residents in the next few years:

Earlier this month, the federal government announced an aggressive plan to take in 500,000 immigrants a year by 2025, with almost 1.5 million new immigrants coming to the country over the next three years.

This plan would see Canada welcome about eight-times the number of permanent residents each year – per population – than the UK, and four-times more than its southern neighbour, the United States.

However, Canada is still not doing enough to reduce barriers for our highly skilled immigrants to practice in their fields; we are still failing to recognize their skills and credentials.

While age remains a significant barrier to immigrating to this country (as it should be for a host of reasons) immigration is driving the fastest population growth in our history.

There are concerns as to how all of these newcomers will affect Canada’s housing and other government services:

A new poll suggests the vast majority of Canadians are worried about how the federal Liberal government’s plan to dramatically increase immigration levels over the next few years will affect housing and government services.

A new poll suggests the vast majority of Canadians are worried about how the federal Liberal government’s plan to dramatically increase immigration levels over the next few years will affect housing and government services.

I can understand a sense of anxiety. Something has gone wrong with the delivery of basic services such as passports, airports and other federal services:

But for most people, the federal government exists like the Wizard of Oz: distant and obscure, either omnipotent or inept depending on the day. And most of the few areas where the feds do things directly for citizens – passports, immigration applications and air travel – have, for much of this year, been such shambolic disasters that it’s reasonable to wonder what exactly the man behind the curtain thinks he’s doing.

There will be growing pains as the Wall Street Journal notes:

And the pressure from immigration on housing keeps coming. In the second quarter, Canada recorded the fastest population growth over a three-month period since 1949, when Newfoundland and Labrador joined the country as its 10th province. Immigration accounted for 95% of that growth. Overall, Canada’s population sits at 38.9 million, up from 34.7 million a decade ago, with immigrants representing more than one-fifth of the populace.

“We can’t keep up with the amount of immigration coming to the country,” said Christopher Alexander, president of the Canadian unit of Re/Max Holdings Inc., the global real-estate listing company with 140,000 agents worldwide.

A rush is now under way among Canadian officials to build housing units and ease supply constraints. “There was a lack of forward thinking, lack of planning on the housing side, on what the actual [housing] need was going to be,” said Abe Oudshoorn, a professor at Western University’s nursing school in London, Ontario, and leader of a research group that since 2016 tracked the arrival of 51 immigrant families into Canada and their path to acquiring housing. He said the families his research group tracked remain stuck in housing that is either too costly or too small for their growing families.

Mike Moffatt, senior policy director at the University of Ottawa’s Smart Prosperity Institute, a think tank, said one reason housing starts lagged is because regional and local officials underestimated population growth and overestimated the amount of housing stock. “Our zoning laws were set for a slow-population-growth country. When our population started growing, our regulatory environment didn’t adapt to that reality,” he added.

Given those targets it’s now easier than ever to qualify for Permanent Residency under Express Entry:

Canada is now allowing foreign workers in 16 new occupations to apply for permanent residence, as the federal government looks to boost immigration to tackle labour shortages across the country.

In a statement on Wednesday, the immigration department said the new categories will build on plans to bring in global talent in high-demand sectors like health care, construction, and transportation.

This development was one long hoped for and many called for this expansion, including myself (at the end of 2020, so it only took 2 years):

… There should be greater employment mobility and a clear pathway to permanent residency for all essential and front-line workers irrespective of whether they are in so-called low-skill jobs. This change can be made easily through expanding the existing express entry system.

Despite the plans to bring in half a million per year, the two million plus backlog is still here.

How can an applicant navigate this seemingly broken system? I talked about it with then immigration critic MP Jasraj Singh Hallan.

One solution is making a demand and seeking redress at the Federal Court. As I discussed with Steven Meurrens and Deana Okuna-Nachoff in the beginning of the year, mandamus will be the story of 2022.

And now there’s disconcerting news that thousands of applications have been assigned to dormant decision makers. This may or may not be an actual issue –according to IRCC its a nothingburger, but given the management of the backlog to date, it’s undeniably a concern to applicants that have been waiting many months for an update.

Canada’s immigration department has assigned tens of thousands of applicants to immigration officers or placeholder codes that are inactive and no longer working within their system — some who’ve last logged in and processed files up to 16 years ago, and from airports and visa offices around the world.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data on “inactive users” on their Global Case Management System (GCMS) — its worldwide internal system used to process citizenship and immigration applications — show 59,456 open, pending or re-opened applications that were assigned to 779 former employees or dormant computer placeholder codes used to hold applicants in queue as of this February.

The department told CBC once a user is set as inactive, “it means they are no longer using the system and their access is no longer available.” 

IRCC did not provide answers to CBC questions by deadline. 

But in a scrum with reporters on Monday, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said assigning applicants to the IDs of ex-employees is “an ordinary process” for IRCC — “It’s part of an inventory management code, is the language of the department.”

When an employee becomes inactive, he said, their code is used to hold cases that have similarities “as part of our triage strategy.”

Fraser said it ensures the files “actually go to the place in our global system that will be able to process it most effectively.”

IRCC had pointed out in an earlier response that the processing of applications “may involve more than one officer” and applications can be shifted from one centre to another for efficiency.

As discussed in an earlier blog post, there was talk of an amnesty program for the tens of thousands (or more) of individuals that are here without status. It’s hard to pin down exact numbers because Canada doesn’t really have exit control and so we don’t know how many individuals are still here after expiry of status. From the Toronto Star:

It was encouraging then to hear news that the federal government is examining ways to provide permanent residency to undocumented residents. As the Star reported last week, work is well underway on an initiative to bring some security to the immigration status for these individuals.

It would be a critical step forward for fairness and equity.

Let’s start with who are they. Most legally entered Canada on temporary permits but can no longer meet eligibility criteria, usually after overstaying their authorized stay.

The mandate letter given to Sean Fraser last December after he took over as federal minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, set out the expectation that he would “explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers.”

That follows a campaign by advocacy groups pressing the government to provide a pathway to residency for these workers. In a July policy brief, the Migrant Rights Network (MRN) said that regularizing undocumented individuals “reduces inequality and social exclusion.

A more recent editorial from the Star carries a far more dispiriting tone:

There had been hopes the federal government was poised to unveil significant immigration reforms that would put many temporary residents on a path to permanent residency.

Unfortunately, those hopes appear to have been misplaced. What was unveiled last week was an underwhelming collection of warmed-over measures that the federal immigration department already had underway.

The plan, titled “Strategy to Expand Transitions to Permanent Residency,” rightly acknowledges the importance of providing permanent residence to temporary workers and foreign students to help address labour shortages in sectors such as health, hospitality, trades, IT and transportation.

I think it would be quite difficult to execute on such a program given the backlog and the hurdles already in place for those in Canada with valid temporary status (workers and students) to become permanent residents. There are other policy considerations at play as well. 

It is clear that barriers need to be reduced; there is no need for immigration to become the convoluted labyrinth that it has become, particularly for temporary residents:

Despite their clear potential, both groups face significant barriers to achieving permanent residency. Temporary workers usually have comparatively lower levels of education and a lack of professional experience, both of which prevent them from qualifying for standard economic immigration pathways. International students, particularly those who achieve credentials below the university degree level, face similar challenges.

The parent-grandparent sponsorship re-opened -albeit drawing from the pool of sponsors established in 2020. It is difficult to say whether the Department will continue doing this into the future. As demand exceeds resources, it’s all but clear that the program will mean a few winners and many more losers.

There are some welcome developments in terms of the “super-visa” including more flexible payment options for the sometimes costly medical insurance that is a requirement.

Thankfully the Department did announce measures to help extend those that hold Post Graduate Work Permits.

International students continue to face challenges in navigating the immigration system. There are numerous stories of isolation and exploitation.

As Nicholas Keung and Ann Pereira note in their excellent article, international students are seen simply as “cash cows” and more needs to be done to fix this “predatory” relationship.  

The Department also announced the temporary (for now) measure of lifting the cap on working during the school term. International students are no longer limited to working 20 hours during the week. 

Canada continues to support the Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s invasion:

In testimony to a Senate committee last week, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada Larisa Galadza said that to her knowledge, Canada is receiving 14,000 applications a week from Ukrainians, and about seven million civilians have fled Ukraine in total.

She noted that the fact Canada is providing a three-year visa to applicants lessens the pressure to travel immediately.

As always, do your research and choose your representative wisely.

A proposed class action has targeted an immigration consultant from the west coast:

In 2021, Medellin says a Vancouver immigration consultant pitched him and a room full of other Latin American workers on a wunderkind Canadian immigration program that could allow anyone to legally remain and work in the country.

Medellin and dozens of other migrant workers, mostly Mexicans, are suing that consultant, Liza Lucion, alleging she collected thousands in fees to apply for a Canadian immigration program that never existed.

The proposed class action lawsuit against Lucion, which is not yet certified, alleges the consultant’s actions deprived clients of their chance to apply for other, legitimate ways of staying in the country.

The lawsuit has been filed with the B.C. Supreme Court and Lucion has filed a statement of defence. The next step is a hearing on whether the class action lawsuit can proceed.

The annual report on immigration reveals that India is the top source country for permanent residents; 4 times the number of second place China. 

Look for China’s numbers to increase over time; there are clear indicators of a growing desire to emigrate.

These are just some of the immigration news and developments of 2022; let’s see what the new year brings (perhaps another election?).