When the Canadian government will unveil its Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024 in February, it will deliver a substantial update. The statement will include Canada's immigration objectives for this year and the following two years, as well as the number of new immigrants the country hopes to welcome through its different economic, family, and humanitarian programs.
It will be the first such declaration since Canada surprised the world by announcing in October 2020 that it would attempt to accept over 400,000 new immigrants each year in the future, or around 40,000 higher than its primary objectives.
Under Canada's principal immigration statute, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), the federal government is required to make this notification by November 1st of each year while Parliament is in session. If Parliament is not in session, the notification must be made within 30 sitting days of the next session.
The announcement is typically made by November 1st of each year, however, it did not occur in 2021 since the Canadian government dissolved Parliament owing to the September election. On November 22nd, a new session of Parliament convened in the aftermath of the election.
Parliament met for 20 days before adjourning for the holidays. It will reconvene on January 31st, therefore immigration minister Sean Fraser must disclose the new levels plan by Friday, February 11th, at the latest. Historically, the Canadian government had made the statement by the deadline and has seldom made it before unless the deadline came on a weekend. If this holds true this year, the announcement will most likely take place in the second half of the week of February 7th.
It is also worth noting that the Canadian government will almost certainly introduce a second levels plan this year by November 1st. The regularly scheduled announcement, the Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025, will take place as planned unless the Canadian government decides to conduct an election for the second year in a row, which is highly improbable.
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) expect to welcome 411,000 new permanent residents to Canada this year, according to the current Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023. In addition, IRCC met its objective of landing 401,000 immigrants in 2021, the most significant number in Canadian history. Last year, in the midst of a tough pandemic environment, IRCC set the goal of converting temporary residents presently residing in Canada to permanent residency.
The current plan is for 241,500 economic class immigrants to enter Canada this year through Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program, and Quebec's schemes. This accounts for 59% of Canada's total immigration objective.
Through the Spouses, Partners, and Children Program and the Parents and Grandparents Program, IRCC hopes to welcome 103,500 family class immigrants. This represents 26% of the IRCC's immigration objective.
The remaining 66,000 newcomers, or 15% of the total, will be accepted to Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
These proportions have been stable since the mid-1990s when the Canadian government opted to prioritise economic class immigrants to assist them to ease the economic and budgetary issues posed by Canada's ageing population and low birth rate. This year's plans are expected to follow these proportions closely.
However, the overall number of immigrants that Canada decides to target in the coming years may alter. On the one hand, the Canadian government may be content with its already lofty goals and elect to stick with them. On the other hand, this would suggest that annual admissions will gradually increase, given that the baseline is over 400,000 immigrants. Until 2016, the baseline was around 250,000 immigrants each year. Another factor to consider is that the Canadian government may prefer to avoid significant hikes to concentrate on reducing its backlogs, which now stand at 1.8 million permanent and temporary residence applications.
On the other hand, Fraser has expressed flexibility to raise the objectives even higher based on stakeholder feedback. For example, the minister stated that he would talk to community organizations and employers to determine if they want to accept more immigrants.
One may argue that Canada's immigration ambitions are already lofty and that the government should stop any further increases for a variety of reasons. For example, backlogs must be reduced, towns across the country face housing affordability challenges, and historically, admitting immigrants during economic downturns has harmed newcomers' labour force results.
On the other hand, proponents of greater levels may claim that Canada requires higher levels to sustain its post-pandemic economic and budgetary recovery and that more immigrants are required to ease labour shortages. Higher objectives can also be justified on the basis that they will assist IRCC to clear its backlogs faster. Furthermore, greater objectives may be required to complete the government's resettling 40,000 Afghan refugees. What is clear is that we will not be guessing for long, as the February 11th deadline is rapidly approaching.
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