Getting Canada’s Edge Back: Canada Facing Increasing Competition For Attracting Immigrants

Canada has long had a reputation as a nation that is enticing to foreign nationals and is a sought-after immigration destination, as a result of the strong economy, robust social programs, and universal health care.

A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) identified Canada as holding the 5th place among developed nations for permanent resident inflows during 2012.  Holding the 5th spot in the OECD’s rankings amid the growing number of immigrants being accepted by other developed countries indicates that Canada has more competition than ever in attracting immigrants.

The OECD data, based on migration numbers from 2012, notes that Canada accepted 257,900 new permanent residents in 2012, placing the country behind the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Spain in terms of permanent resident inflows.  The 2012 numbers for permanent residents accepted to Canada constitute a 4% increase from the year before, but that increase was not enough to propel Canada above the 5th spot.

The fact that the number of permanent residents being accepted to Canada is growing while Canada’s ranking is at a standstill is representative of the fact that Canada now has more competition than ever for attracting immigrants.  For example, Spain, still emerging from a financial crisis, manages to attract more immigrants than Canada.  Even more notably, Germany has significantly stepped up their attempts to attract immigrants with new policies, catapulting Germany from the 8th spot in 2009 to the 2nd spot in 2012.  If Canada still wishes to compete as a desirable destination for immigrants, perhaps new policies are necessary to prevent the country from falling in the rankings in future years.

With Canadian immigration in the news more than ever, there is reason to believe that the press coverage in Canada could lead to changes in the number of immigrants interested in coming to Canada.  How will the recent changes to Canada’s immigration programs affect the perception of Canada as a nation welcoming to and desired by prospective immigrants?

Immigration in Canada has received a lot of negative press in recent months, portraying Canada’s immigration programs and credentials in a negative light.  The criticisms of Canadian immigration could lead prospective immigrants to rethink their selection of Canada as a future home in favour of the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, or any other country rounding out the OECD’s top ten positions.  The increased difficulty of the Canadian citizenship test and the declining numbers of long time permanent residents passing the test is one such reason why immigrants may consider other countries over Canada.  Similarly, concern about changing regulations that threaten refugees or the  new law that will make it easier to strip Canadian citizenship from individuals with dual citizenship could lead to foreign nationals rethinking their choice to come to Canada.  Allegations about the flaws in Canada’s immigration system or immigration scandals like the controversy surrounding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program create perceived uncertainty for foreign nations interested in coming to Canada, and could make Canada on the whole less desirable.  If Canadian immigration continues to receive negative press, there is a possibility that Canada’s immigration numbers could drop and Canada could fall below that 5th rank of OECD countries.

Despite the negative developments in Canadian immigration recently, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has also made recent changes that make immigration and permanent residency more accessible, would should entice foreign nationals to consider Canada for future immigration.  For example, the Canadian government recently increased the caps on a number of immigration programs, creating new opportunities for foreign nationals to immigrate to Canada and gain permanent residency.  Similarly, the government also increased the number of occupations eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker program, making immigration more accessible for individuals in a number of different occupations.  The recent announcement of the introduction of a new immigrant investor pilot program in the coming months is also a testament to the positive developments in Canadian immigration that should make Canada a more sought-after destination for permanent residency.

The growing competition among OECD countries to attract immigrants should pressure Canada to continue the positive immigration policy developments in order to ensure that Canada remains a top destination for immigration.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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