Are you looking to re-settle in Canada – here is what’s in store for the year ahead
Posted on - Jan 21, 2020

By Catherine Sas Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

The start of a new year is always a good time to ponder what lies in store in the coming months. In immigration terms, there can be no better indicator than to look at a new Minister of Immigration’s engagement letter from his boss. In assigning the role of Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to MP Marco Mendicino, Prime Minister Trudeau set out his expectations and gave some strong clues of what Canadians and prospective immigrants can anticipate in the coming year.

Increased emphasis on promoting Immigration to Rural Areas

In the new Minister’s marching orders, the Prime Minister directed that a new Municipal Nominee Program is to be introduced to allow local communities, chambers of commerce and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants. Also, the Atlantic Immigration pilot program (AIPP) is to be made permanent. Taking these two directives in conjunction with the recently introduced Rural and Northern Immigration pilot program, you can see a distinct trend towards promoting and emphasizing immigration away from major urban centres. Furthermore, many of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) are also taking initiative to promote rural immigration both in their skilled worker and business programs with a view to spurring economic growth throughout their province or territory.

Continued streamlining of application processes and processing times

Expect a continued emphasis and focus on online application processing. The Minister’s new mandate directs that he:

Work on reducing application processing times, improving the department’s service delivery and client services to make them timelier and less complicated, and enhancing system efficiency, including in the asylum stream.

With the goal of achieving speedier processing times, you can anticipate that other immigration streams such as family class applications will go online soon.

Express Entry and PNP scoring thresholds will continue to increase

Canada’s Express Entry program has been in operation now for five full years and by all accounts is a success. As of January 2020, there are over 141,000 candidates registered in the Express Entry pool and of that total over 20,000 had a Comprehensive Ranking Score of 451 or higher. The most recent Invitations to Apply (ITA) for January 8, 2020 and January 22, 2020 were for registrants with CRS scores of 473 and 471, respectively. For the past three months ITA scores have ranged between 469 and 475. With such a high volume of highly skilled applicants registered in the Express Entry pool you can anticipate that the CRS scores needed to garner an ITA will continue to move upward. Also, as the Express Entry scoring for an ITA moves upward, more aspiring immigrants are turning to the PNP programs and, not surprisingly, these qualifying criteria are also becoming more competitive.

International students will need to re-evaluate their immigration strategies to obtain permanent residence.

Once upon a time a student was pretty much guaranteed permanent residence upon completion of their studies in Canada and then gaining a year or more of Canadian work experience. Those days have been over ever since the introduction of Express Entry back in January of 2015. Given that Express Entry and PNP thresholds continue to increase, it is becoming more difficult for younger international students to qualify for permanent residence. While language proficiency in English or French remains the most significantly weighted factor, in order to qualify for permanent residence under Express Entry, it is the combination of foreign and Canadian education together with foreign and Canadian work experience that really catapults an applicant’s CRS score. Prospective international students should consider obtaining both education and work experience in their home countries prior to coming to Canada to study, or be prepared to return home and gain further work experience after studying and working in Canada in order to garner a higher CRS score to qualify for permanent residence under Express Entry.

Parents and Grandparents Program will Change Significantly

Since re-opening the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) in January of 2014, this application stream has been a perpetual holiday nightmare fraught with a lack of information, poor or inaccurate instructions, and ongoing system delivery glitches. At the initial re-opening of the PGP stream, application instructions were not provided until 9:30 am PST on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 with a scheduled start date of Thursday, January 2, 2014. The first few years of the program had immigration professionals glued to their desks over the holiday season to ensure that their clients’ applications were delivered as quickly as possible to meet the intake cutoff levels. Then the Department switched to a lottery system for a couple of years where applicants wouldn’t know whether they would even be able to apply to sponsor their family members. In response to extreme criticism about the lottery system, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) returned to a first come-first served model but they changed the program slightly with applicants being asked to file an online “Interest to Sponsor”. The program was also expanded increasing the number of applicants in the PGP from 10,000 to 20,000. In consistent “leave it to the last minute” fashion, IRCC posted a tweet on December 31, 2018 that the program would be opening later in the month. On the opening of the program in January 2019, IRCC received 20,000 applications within 6 minutes and closed the program for the rest of the year. Given the ongoing challenges plaguing the PGP, the re-opening for 2020 has been postponed until later in the spring. You can be sure that there will be significant changes to this program to overcome the shortcomings of the past several years.

There promises to be lots in store for ongoing changes to Canada’s immigration program in the months ahead.


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 8 consecutive years.


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

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