Image via WikipediaTORONTO, ONTARIO -- 06/26/10 -- Canada is adjusting its 2010 immigration plan to put even greater emphasis on economic recovery and further reduce the federal skilled worker backlog, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney told a news conference today. "When I met with my provincial colleagues last week, they all stressed the importance of economic immigration," Minister Kenney said. "As we recover from the recession, increasing economic immigration will help ensure employers have the workers they need to supplement our domestic labour supply."
Each year, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) sets out a plan for the number of immigrants it intends to welcome within economic, family and humanitarian immigration categories. The planned range for 2010 is 240,000 - 265,000 immigrants. CIC generally achieves the midpoint of this range. In 2010, CIC anticipates achieving the upper end of this range, allowing Canada to welcome more immigrants in the economic category than originally planned. This includes federal skilled workers and record-level numbers of provincial nominees, without reducing the number in the family or humanitarian immigration categories.
Minister Kenney noted that some of his provincial colleagues expect the need will grow further in the years ahead. "This is something we will need to take into consideration when we consult more broadly on plans for future years," he said.
Even with higher numbers of economic immigrants, Canada still receives many more applications than can be processed in a timely way. As a result, the department is limiting the number of new applications it will consider in the federal skilled worker category every year.
"Canada will continue to welcome historically high numbers of immigrants, but we need to manage the number of new applications or risk creating new backlogs and longer processing times," Minister Kenney said. "We have more than enough applications on hand now to fill many of our needs, and we want to be fair to those people who have been waiting the longest."
Effective immediately, to be eligible to apply as a federal skilled worker, applicants must either have a job offer, or they must have experience in one of 29 in-demand occupations. These occupations were identified through analysis of updated labour market information and consultations with provinces, territories, stakeholders and the public.
For those applying under the occupation list, the government will limit the number of applications considered for processing to 20,000 per year as a way to better manage the supply of applications with labour market demand. Within the 20,000 limit, a maximum of 1,000 applications per occupation will be considered. The limit does not apply to applicants with a job offer.
In addition, all federal skilled worker and Canadian Experience Class applicants must submit the results of an independent language test before they will be considered.
Other than the language test result requirement, these changes apply only to the federal skilled worker immigration category. The authority for the changes, known as ministerial instructions, comes from amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act approved by Parliament in 2008 as part of the Action Plan for Faster Immigration.
The instructions are meant as a flexible tool to allow the government to keep the intake of applications for economic immigration in line with the number and types of jobs available in Canada, as well as reduce application backlogs and processing times.
Since the first instructions were issued in November 2008, the backlog of federal skilled worker applicants in process prior to the legislation has dropped from 640,000 to 380,000. The majority of decisions on new applications are being made in six to 12 months, compared with up to six years prior to the changes. But in the first quarter of 2010, the number of new applications rose significantly beyond the department's ability to process them in a timely way, leading to the recognition that a more refined approach is necessary.
"These changes bring Canada in line with the practices of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, our main competitors for skilled immigrants," said Minister Kenney. "They help match the supply of applicants to our processing capacity and today's post-recession job market needs. This is the only responsible way to manage our immigration system."
The Government is also proposing new eligibility criteria for the immigrant investor program so it makes an even greater contribution to the Canadian economy. Proposed regulatory changes will require new investors to have a personal net worth of $1.6M, up from $800,000, and make an investment of $800,000, up from $400,000. These proposals were pre-published today in the Canada Gazette for a 30-day public comment period.
Canada's current criteria for investors are the lowest in the world, and have not been changed since 1999. As a result the program draws a larger number of applicants than can be admitted every year under the immigration plan, and processing times are increasing.
Until the changes are finalized, the Government will stop accepting new investor applications to prevent a flood of applications before the new criteria take effect, which would stretch processing times even further. When the new criteria are in place, new applications will be processed alongside the old ones. In this way, Canada can begin to realize the benefits of the changes immediately.
"Canada needs investor immigrants," said Minister Kenney. "These changes are necessary to keep Canada's program competitive with that of other countries, and keep pace with the changing economy."