Economic and Family Immigration to Increase in 2017 – Overall Immigration Numbers to Remain Steady

The Liberal government recently released its annual Immigration Levels Plan for next year.  Released around the beginning of each year, the Immigration Levels Plan provides admissions targets for each of the various pathways that are available for people to become Canadian permanent residents.

For 2017, the Liberal government has ultimately decided to implement relatively modest increases in Canada’s immigration levels.

Targeting 300,000 new immigrants, the Liberal government chose not to dramatically boost next year’s immigration numbers, instead deciding to keep the anticipated number of new immigrants for next year at the same level as the number of immigrants that they are projecting to accept this year.

This past year’s immigration numbers, however, included Canada’s admirable initiative to welcome upwards of 25,000 refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, and there will therefore be a substantial decrease in the number of refugees resettled in Canada as permanent residents in 2017.  As a result, although the total number of immigrants targeted will not increase dramatically, the 2017 Levels Plan does suggest that there will be a not insignificant boost in the number of immigrants welcomed through our Economic and Family Reunification immigration streams.

For example, the Economic Immigration stream, which includes the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program and the Provincial Nominee Program, will see an overall increase of 7% over the 2016 levels.

An increase in the number of immigrants welcomed under the Federal Skilled Worker, Canadian Experience Class and Federal Skilled Trades programs is particularly interesting as it will have an important effect on the type of applicants who will be successful in the competitive points based Express Entry system.

We will likely see the threshold mark required for receiving an Invitation to Apply through Express Entry begin to drop as the government looks to meet its increased economic immigration targets by increasing the number of individuals that are selected during each round of invitation.  In fact, we may have already begun witnessing the early effects of next year’s higher targets as the most recent round of invitation which took place on November 2, 2016 was the largest in the history of the Express Entry Program, inviting more than 2,000 individuals to apply for permanent residence for the first time.

In addition to its higher targets for economic immigration programs, the government has also made a 5% boost to the number of immigrants it intends to welcome under Family Sponsorship programs.

By sticking to more moderate increases in economic and family class immigration, it appears that the immigration department will continue to focus on improving processing times and will continue building upon the efficiency gains that it has made in the past year unburdened by a need to also significantly ramp up the number of applications that it processes to completion.

While Immigration Minister John McCallum acknowledged his belief that “more immigrants for Canada would be good policy”, the overall targets announced last week fell short of what many were expecting after the government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth recommended that Canada increase its annual economic immigration targets by 150,000 over the next 5 years through a gradual ramp up of total immigration levels which would have called forth an immigration target of 315,000 for 2017.

While the total number of new immigrants won’t see a substantial boost next year, it seems that by focusing on processing efficiencies, the foundation is being laid for more immigrants to come to Canada in the coming years. An increase in economic immigration and the skilled, educated working age individuals that it will bring to Canada will certainly be an economic benefit to our otherwise aging population.

In their report, the Advisory Council and Economic Growth wrote that increasing annual economic targets by 150,000 over the next 5 years would add 0.3 percentage points to population growth in Canada, bringing annual population growth to 1.2% which would only be considerate moderate growth when compared with immigration and policy trends in other advanced economies.

In particular, the Advisory Council saw an increase in economic immigration targets as a way of offsetting the economic reality of Canada’s aging population and reducing the ratio of seniors to working-aged Canadians thereby reducing fiscal strains on the system and the need for tax increases or benefit cuts.

The Council recommended that the increased number of economic immigrants come primarily from two groups: workers that are specialized and/or fill Canadian talent shortages, and international students educated in Canada.

It is clear that the government sees Canadian international students as a great underutilized resource and there were dramatic changes to the Express Entry system that were just announced on November 10, 2016 that will likely make it much easier for international students to receive Invitations to Apply for Canadian permanent resident status.

McCuaig Desrochers LLP, a general practice law firm with Edmonton’s largest group of immigration lawyers.  This article first appeared in the November 2016 edition of the Millwoods Mosaic – the Multicultural Voice of Southeast Edmonton and is intended to provide general information only and should not to be relied on as legal advice or opinion.  We invite you to contact one of the members of our experienced immigration group for assistance.

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