April 2008

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Migration | April 2008

 


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Amendments to Modernize Canada's Immigration System

Questions about the amendments

On March 14, 2008, the Government of Canada introduced legislative amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to modernize the immigration system, to ensure that families are reunited faster and skilled workers arrive sooner.

One of the challenges facing our immigration system is the large number of people waiting in the queue. This is especially a problem in the skilled worker category which makes up most of the backlog.

Under the proposed measures, Citizenship and Immigration Canada would have greater flexibility in processing new applications, especially from skilled workers.

The legislation is intended to provide greater flexibility in addressing a range of labour market needs. It will not apply to refugees and does not affect our objectives related to family reunification.

Ultimately, this will result in reduced wait times and improved service. It will also help manage the growth of the backlog of applications.  

Once passed, the new measures will apply to applications received on or after February 27, 2008.

Those who applied prior to February 27, 2008, will not be subject to the new measures and will be dealt with fairly under the existing rules.

Questions about the amendments to the immigration system

Q1. What is the backlog? Why is it a problem?

A backlog is created when the number of applications received is greater than the number we can process or admit every year. As of December 2007, there were over 900,000 people waiting for a decision on their application.

Applicants in the federal skilled worker category (over 600,000) make up the bulk of the backlog.

This leads to long wait times that prevent the system from responding quickly to the changing needs of our economy.

It is not fair for prospective immigrants to wait for years before being considered, and it is not desirable to wait that long for the immigrants the country needs.

Skilled workers are currently waiting up to six years to come to Canada, compared to 6 to 12 months in Australia and New Zealand, two of our key competitors for global talent.

Q2. How did the backlog happen?

There are several factors.

First, the current legislation requires CIC to process every single application, regardless of how many apply or how many can be welcomed.

Second, just before the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) was implemented in 2002, there was a flood of applications from people who wanted to get their applications in before the new rules took effect.

In the skilled worker category, the backlog in 2000 was 374,000, growing to 524,000 by the end of 2004, and over 600,000 by the end of 2007.

Q3. What are the proposed legislative changes?

The new rules would allow us to focus on getting the people we need.

Anyone will still be able to apply, but CIC would no longer be required to process all new applications. The new provisions would allow the Department to select among the new applications and choose those that best meet Canada’s labour market needs. Under the current system, which is much less flexible, CIC processes applications from skilled workers in the order in which they are received.

The Department will use this flexibility in an open and transparent manner. It will be based on instructions from the Minister, which will be published in the Canada Gazette and reported in the Department’s annual report to Parliament.

The Department will maintain its commitment to the broad objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act—supporting Canada’s economy and competitiveness, family reunification and protecting those in need. The legislative amendments are intended to respond to Canada’s labour market needs. It will not apply to refugees and is not intended to affect our objectives related to family reunification.

Q4. Is this fair? Doesn't this give the Minister too much discretion?

The Department will use this flexibility in a fair, open and transparent manner. It will be based on instructions provided by the Minister, which will be published in the Canada Gazette and reported in the Department’s annual report to Parliament. The instructions must be consistent with the overall objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which are to support Canada’s economy and competitiveness, reunite families and provide protection to those who need it.

The annual report will also continue to set our immigration plan for the following year, and the number of economic, refugee and family class immigrants we expect to welcome. The amendments will not affect that.

Q5. Isn't this closing the door to immigration?

Not at all. Canada remains open to immigration, and anyone can apply to immigrate. We have received additional money for processing so that we can meet the growing demand for temporary foreign workers while ensuring that we meet our targets for permanent residents.

There are flexibilities that allow Canada to be more selective – to take certain candidates quickly, hold some applications, and return others. That shouldn’t deter good candidates from applying. In fact, the current system deters many well-qualified skilled workers from applying because they have to wait so long. The end result of the changes will be reduced wait times and improved service.

Immigration is important in meeting Canada’s labour market needs. In 2007, Canada accepted a record number of permanent and temporary residents.

Q6. Does this mean I can no longer apply?

No, Canada remains open to immigration, and anyone can apply to immigrate. The proposed legislative amendments give the department the flexibility to be more selective – to take certain candidates quickly, hold some applications, and return others. That shouldn’t deter good candidates from applying, unlike the current system which deters many well-qualified skilled workers from applying because they have to wait so long.

Q7. What happens to someone who has already applied to immigrate to Canada? How will the new amendments affect them?

Those who applied before February 27, 2008, will not be subject to the new proposed provisions in the legislation. These provisions, once passed, will apply to applications received on or after February 27, 2008.

Q8. What happens if people who have already applied want to withdraw their application? Can they get their money back?

As is currently the case, these people can contact their local visa office and withdraw their application, and their fee will be returned.

Q9. What happens to someone who is planning to apply soon? What rules will apply to them? When will they know what they are?

Once passed, the amendments would allow the Minister to give instructions on the processing of new applications received on or after February 27, 2008, at CIC offices around the world.

Q10. What impact will the amendments have on refugees?

None. Our immigration plan will continue to place a high priority on humanitarian objectives, and balance those objectives against our labour market needs. Our annual levels plan will continue to establish clear targets for how many immigrants we intend to accept in each class. The amendments will not affect that.

Q11. What about parents and grandparents and those who have applied for humanitarian and compassionate consideration? There are long wait times for them as well. Will you use the amendments to limit the number of new applications you process in this category?

The amendments are not intended to affect our objectives related to family reunification. Our focus is on skilled workers, where wait times are long and growing, and where we can use the flexibilities the amendments provide to select the skilled workers that we most need in our labour market.

The amendments would also not affect those people in Canada seeking humanitarian and compassionate consideration.

Q12. In addition to the legislative amendments, what other measures are being considered to make the immigration system more efficient?

The 2008 budget provided resources for efficiency improvements to better manage the backlog.  Budget resources will be used for this purpose

Q13. You received additional money for processing. How many more people will you process? Will this allow you to increase admissions to address the backlog?

In the past couple of years, Canada accepted a record number of permanent residents, temporary workers and foreign students.

New resources will allow us to better respond to the increasing demands placed on the immigration system, both in the temporary and permanent applicant categories.

Like most countries, Canada limits the number of immigrants it accepts every year. We must carefully balance the number of immigrants we welcome against the opportunities and supports available to help them successfully integrate and settle into Canadian communities and the work force.

Q14. Why are processing times so long?

Canada remains a destination of choice. Unlike most immigrant-receiving countries, Canada does not put restrictions on the number of people who can apply, so each year far more people apply than can be processed and admitted.

Processing all these applications, including conducting proper medical and security checks, does take time.

Temporary visa applications—work permit, study permit and temporary resident visa applications—are processed upon receipt. Processing times may vary depending on medical, criminal and other screening requirements.

Priority is given to certain immigrant classes, and this can mean longer processing times for other categories. For example, our aim is to give priority to processing applications from sponsored spouses and dependent children. Eighty percent of these cases are finalized within eight months. Immigrants selected under the Canada-Quebec Accord or provincial nominee agreements are given priority processing over other economic immigrants, such as federal skilled workers.

In addition, our international commitments require that applications from people in need of protection be processed quickly.

Q15. How fast will the changes you've made allow you to reduce the backlog?

The backlog accumulated over many years and it won't be solved overnight. The amendments and resources in the budget give us the tools to start addressing the backlog.

However, the bill must pass and both financial and human resources must be put in place before work can begin.

Q16. What are skilled workers and why do we need them?

Skilled workers are selected for their ability to contribute to our economy and establish themselves successfully in Canada. They are the most skilled and highly educated immigrants that Canada accepts.

Research shows that the demand for highly qualified workers in Canada is growing.

Within the next decade, immigration is projected to account for all net labour force growth in Canada. Two-thirds of the available jobs will require post-secondary education. Jobs that require a university-level education are the fastest growing types of jobs.

Skilled workers do well in Canada. With their generic skill set, they are better able to weather downturns in the economy. They are also more successful in the labour market than other immigrants, catching up to their Canadian counterparts more quickly and earning the highest average incomes.

Q17. The Minister has to give instructions on how new applications will be processed. How will these be made public?

Instructions, when issued, will be published in the Canada Gazette. As well, CIC will report on these instructions in its annual report tabled in Parliament by November 1 of every year. Instructions will also be posted on the CIC website.

Q18. I have read in media reports that the Minister would have the power to deny admission to someone who had been approved by an officer. Is this true?

No. The bill would give the Minister the authority to issue instructions to officers on the categories and numbers of applications to process but not to reject an application that had been processed and accepted.

The instructions, provided by the Minister, will be open and transparent. They will be published in the Canada Gazette and reported in the Department’s annual report to Parliament. The instructions must be consistent with the overall objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which are to support Canada’s economy and competitiveness, reunite families and provide protection to those who need it.

[Source: Canada Immigration and Citizenship]

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