Updated: Jan 06, 2020
As the new year begins, Canadian immigration experts are looking ahead to see what new developments are in store for immigration to Canada. Both existing Liberal immigration policy and new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino's December mandate letter identify some key points that are discussed below.
In line with existing Liberal immigration proposals, Mendicino has promised steady but relatively small increases in the number of permanent residents added yearly, with an increase of around 10,000 new residents each year. According to this plan, Canada should accept around 341,000 new permanent residents in 2020, with the total going up to approximately 350,000 in 2021 and 360,000 in 2022. As previously, more than half of these new residents will come from the economic class, with the majority of these being offered residency through one of the government's Express Entry programs.
One important trend of recent decades has been the changing balance in immigration roles between Ottawa and the provinces. Before 1998, the federal government chose nearly 90% of economic class permanent residents, with Quebec responsible for the remaining selections. Today, by contrast, the figure is around 50%. This trend shows no signs of stopping; the government clearly believes that an increased role for provincial authorities allows for more adaptable immigration strategies that serve the economic needs of particular regions within Canada.
The most important role for the provinces in immigration will remain the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). The government plans to admit 67,800 new permanent residents under the PNP in 2020, an 11% increase on the previous year. In 2021, the number will rise further to 71,300.
However, provincial nomination isn't the only regionalization strategy within Canada's overall immigration policy. One major policy proposal Mendicino is resolved to implement is the introduction of a new Municipal Nominee Program. This will allow local governments to nominate candidates for permanent residence in a similar manner to provinces. Similar pilots already exist within some provinces, but a larger federal program will make this practice even more widespread. Municipal nomination is intended to deal with the challenges caused by concentration of new permanent residents. In most provinces, new economic-class permanent residents tend to concentrate in the largest cities. This is good news for these cities' economies, but provincial governments are interested in fostering economic development in other areas as well.
A similar program aimed at increasing population and developing the economy in specific regions is the Atlantic Immigration Pilot. Established in 2017, this program has so far brought 4,000 new migrants to the four Atlantic provinces. It will likely become a permanent program in 2020, with an expanded number of available spaces. Similarly, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot will likely be the basis for an expanded focus on encouraging immigrants to settle in less densely populated regions, although exactly what form that program will take remains to be seen.
Although the outlines of the government's immigration policies are clear, there are some areas where things are less certain. For instance, the Liberal government has pledged to eliminate the increased citizenship fees which discourage permanent residents, especially those with families, for applying for citizenship. However, exactly when and how this change will occur remains to be seen, especially since implementing the policy is likely to require opposition votes. Uncertainty over changes to citizenship fees may lead to fluctuations in the number of new citizens as potential applicants wait and see how the situation develops before committing to citizenship.
Similarly, one of Mendicino's major international tasks is to revisit the question of Canada's Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. Signed in 2002, the agreement has been a point of contention in recent years; the government is interested in closing a loophole that allows asylum seekers to enter the United States and then continue to Canada as long as they don't enter via one of the crossings covered in the agreement. However, securing American cooperation for these changes could be a challenge, and it would be surprising if the two countries made headway on the agreement before the US elections in November.
Finally, it wouldn't be wise to assume that Mendicino's mandate letter outlines every aspect of immigration policy to come. It's possible to extrapolate a good deal of upcoming policy developments from existing trends, but it's also important to remember that the last immigration mandate didn't contain every policy that would eventually be implemented.
Overall, though, the main picture appears clear: a continuing pursuit of existing policy objectives, both by gradually increasing permanent residency and by expanding still further the provincial and local role in economic immigration.