Posted on - Mar 22, 2016

By Victor Ing

Victor Ing

On March 8, 2016, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Honourable John McCallum, announced the overall immigration targets for 2016. Ordinarily, the Minister is required to provide his annual report to Parliament on or before November 1 of each year. Given that last year was an election year that resulted in a change of government, a levels plan was not presented to Parliament for 2015.

The plan released two weeks ago by the Minister focuses heavily on the reunification of families in 2016. In a recent address to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade event held in Vancouver on March 18, 2016, Minister McCallum stated that reuniting families in Canada will help immigrants build successful lives. The Minister was emphatic that family members who come to Canada as dependants are as important to the Canadian economy as those immigrants who are approved for permanent residence under ‘economic classes’ such as provincial nominees and other skilled workers. The 2016 immigration plan will increase acceptance of family applications to about 80,000, while also reducing the inventory of backlogged family applications. Furthermore, the Minister plans to double the number of sponsorships for parents and grandparents that it will accept for processing in a calendar year from 5,000 to 10,000 and to admit 20,000 parents and grandparents by the end of 2016.

The 2016 plan for immigration levels is ambitious. Canada plans to admit about 300,000 permanent residents to Canada in 2016, which is the highest targeted levels of immigration in over a century. Liberal party immigration policy has long held that Canada’s targeted immigration levels should be about 1% of the population or about 360,000 per year. This will be the first time since 1913 that Canada reaches the 300,000 mark for immigration. However, the increased levels of immigration will primarily benefit families and also refugees as part of Canada’s ongoing humanitarian commitments to assist with the Syrian refugee crisis. To accommodate these increases in acceptance for families and refugees in 2016, the approval of economic immigrants is expected to be reduced to 160,600, which is a significant drop from 2015 levels.

At the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade event and a reception held on the same day, the Minister confirmed to attendees that the anticipated decrease in 2016 for economic immigrants is intended to be a temporary measure. The Minister stated that he fully expects that economic immigration numbers will be increased to regular levels for 2017. This year is meant to catch up with the backlogs in the family immigration streams with future years focusing on economic immigration. As part of his agenda, the Minister plans to make it more attractive and easier for international students to obtain Canadian permanent residence. Currently, international students are finding it difficult under the Express Entry system to obtain permanent residence because their Canadian education is being undervalued.

Finally, the Minister spoke about his views that he would like to make changes to Canada’s federal economic programs to be more competitive with the various provincial nominee programs that have gained popularity over the years, particularly for low or semi-skilled workers. The Minister identified gaps in the existing federal immigration programs and said that he would be considering changes to create additional pathways to permanent residence for low or semi-skilled workers in Canada.

The new plan announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada reaffirms Canada’s commitment to reunite families, to uphold its humanitarian traditions and to continue to prioritize economic immigration to Canada. It carries an overall message that Canada will be more welcoming to new immigrants and in greater numbers.

Victor Ing is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada, and provides a full range of immigration services.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Victor Ing or call him at 1-604-689-5444.

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