BlogCanada’s Immigration program for 2022 – What to expect and how to be prepared!

12 January 2022

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As a new year dawns, it is always interesting to contemplate what Canada’s immigration program will deliver in the coming months. The past couple of years have been very challenging for Canada’s immigration program in contending with the global pandemic. Processing of applications ground to a halt and backlogs developed in virtually every category of both permanent and temporary immigration. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) turned its attention to domestic inland processing shutting off the flow of the overseas applicants. This resulted in the number of immigrants arriving in Canada in 2020 being at its lowest level in nearly 20 years. Canada welcomed only 184, 500 individuals whereas IRCC’s projected target was 341,000 – that’s more than a 150,000-person shortfall! Well things dramatically improved in 2021 with the highest level of immigrants in a single year in Canada’s history. Recognizing that Canada’s economy depends on a steady stream of immigrants, let’s consider what might be in store for 2022 and how you can be ready what comes ahead.

1. The numbers will go up.

In virtually every aspect of immigration – the numbers will go up. 2021 proved to be a harbinger of what lies in store for 2022 and perhaps for many years to come. In 2021 Canada received the greatest number of immigrants in a single year in its history – 401,000 new permanent residents, surpassing the previous record from 1913 – nearly 100 years ago. Well, things are on track to shatter this record once again in 2022. Here are the predictions for the year ahead: * Targeted Immigration levels for 2022 are 411,000 landings – the highest ever * CRS points scores for Express Entry will likely increase * Work and study permit applications processed will increase

2. Overseas immigration selection will resume.

The last Express Entry (EE) Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) draw was on December 23, 2020. With a combination of increased immigration targets for 2022, increased Covid vaccination rates worldwide, and comprehensive travel/entry restrictions, one can safely assume that the FSW category will once again open for prospective EE applicants. The same will also apply for spousal applicants and all other forms of permanent resident applications.

3. Processing will pick up the pace.

On December 14, 2021, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, announced an allocation of additional resources to speed up processing of immigration applications, specifically: “$85,000,000 to reduce backlogs in Canada’s immigration system, speed up the process of citizenship, reunite families and welcome people who can address Canada’s labour shortages.” IRCC and the Government of Canada in general, are acutely aware of their backlogs of immigrant applicants both permanent and temporary. Some figures put the number of pending applications as high as 1.8 million. It will take considerable resources to both resume regular processing standards while simultaneously catch up on the backlog of pending applications.

4. New streams will be introduced or current streams improved.

As a corollory to the prediction above, IRCC will of necessity be introducing new streams of immigration and/or improving current streams. There have already been hints that this is in the works. With spousal sponsorship applications languishing for years and spouses being separated for extensive and unacceptable periods of time, IRCC is finally talking about granting Temporary Resident Visas (TRVs) so that spouses can be re-united in Canada while their applications are pending overseas. Last year also saw the introduction of the TR to PR category of immigration which created a special application process with reduced qualification requirements for 90,000 applicants in 3 distinct categories – 40,000 international students, 30,000 essential workers in industry and 20,000 health care workers. The former Minister of IRCC, Marco Mendicino, stated publicly that he would consider a repeat of the program depending upon success. So far, our new Minister for IRCC, Sean Fraser, has been silent on this issue. But there is no question that IRCC has demonstrated their innovative capabilities in the face of COVID to meet their immigration targets and keep Canada’s economy on track. A repeat of this program or introduction of other innovative programs is likely.

5. The NOC will become obsolete.

For three decades the National Occupation Classification (NOC) system has governed how workers and immigrants are selected in Canada. First introduced in 1991, the NOC guide had its 30-year update last year with the latest 2021 version. Interestingly, this new 2021 version is not likely to be utilized as it is anticipated that the new TEER (Training, Education, Experience and Responsibilities) system will be introduced later in the year. The TEER criteria will move away from the skill levels of the NOC to reflect actual occupational requirements of an occupation. Some of the occupational categories under the NOC will likely be merged, transferred, re-titled or rendered obsolete. There is a fair bit of regulatory housekeeping for IRCC and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) in order to implement this new system. We will learn more in the months ahead.

6. Computerized processing will be accelerated.

IRCC turned to online digital applications years ago starting with off-campus work permit applications in 2008. Express Entry has been operating on the basis of algorithms to assess applicants’ eligibility since its inception on January 1, 2015 and the provincial and territorial PNP programs soon followed suit. On-line portals have been created for more and more streams of processing and this will continue. Increased electronic programming will take place – the most recent example of which is the Inland spousal category that now has the option of being an electronic application rather than a paper application. In addition to applications being submitted digitally, in the face of COVID, landings were performed digitally. Take things one step even further and not only are applications being made electronically but Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used for decision making. In the face of COVID with a reduced workforce, a backlog of applications and the highest targeted level of immigration intake in Canada’s history you can rest assured that more and more of immigration processing will be performed electronically.

How can you be ready for these changes?

There is nothing like being prepared. Virtually all aspects of Canada’s economic immigration program require a language test (IELTS, CELPIP or TEF), an educational credential evaluation (ECA) and a reference letter (s) for past employment. Make sure that you have these and that they remain valid and that they will do so for 6+ months. (This also applies to maintaining a valid passport!) When the TR to PR category was introduced last April 2021, it specified that only those applicants with valid language tests and ECA’s would be able to submit an application. Overnight the educational evaluation and language testing centres were inundated and many prospective applicants simply were unable to obtain the necessary results to be able to submit an application by the May 6 application date. In the case of international students, the threshold of 40,000 applicants was filled within 28 hours. If you are not prepared, you can miss the boat! So be sure to regularly update all of your credentials. Better to spend a bit more money being tested more frequently than to miss out on the opportunity to be eligible for a new category of either temporary or permanent immigration to Canada.

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Sas and Ing Immigration Law Centre LLP

A partnership between Catherine Sas Law Corporation and Victor Ing Law Corporation

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About the Author