As summer 2012 begins to wind down, stakeholders in the Canadian immigration community can take a moment to reflect on the vast array of changes implemented and proposed this past year.
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney has often used the words ‘faster’ ‘flexible’ and ‘responsive’ to describe the immigration system the Conservative government intends to build. Within the past year many reforms have in fact been made in an attempt to deliver such a system.
Legislative Changes to the Canadian Immigration System:
- Proposing and passing the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act; thereby reforming the process of applying for asylum, introducing the collection of biometric data from visa applicants and cracking down on human trafficking
- The passing of Economic Action Plan 2012; improving the economic streams and addressing the application backlog of the Federal Skilled Worker Program
- Introducing the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act; closing loopholes in the judicial system which allowed convicted foreign criminals to delay deportation and remain in Canada
Regulatory Changes Reaffirming Canada’s Commitment to Family Reunification:
- Introducing the widely successful Parent and Grandparent Super Visa; with 3,700 successful applications within the program’s first six months, this visa is valid for 10 years and allows visits of up to 2 years
- Reducing the backlog of parents and grandparent sponsorship applications
Regulatory Changes Addressing Fraud and Abuse of the Canadian Immigration System:
- Cracking down on marriage fraud by placing a five year moratorium on sponsored spouses sponsoring a new spouse and proposing the implementation of a two-year conditional permanent residency period for certain sponsored spouses
- Increasing attention devoted to catching fraudulent Canadian immigration representatives
- Collaborating with the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP on cases of suspected of fraud or false representation in an attempt to combat residence fraud in citizenship and permanent residence programs
- Creating a new tip line through the Citizenship and Immigration Canada Call Centre where suspected citizenship fraud cases can be reported
- Altering provisions in the Interim Federal Health Program which would entice foreign nationals from entering Canada under the auspices of asylum-seeking when other existing Canadian immigration programs are more applicable
- Ending the issuance of visas and work permits for foreign nationals seeking entry to Canada to work in strip clubs, massage parlours and escort agencies, in an attempt to protect the vulnerable.
Regulatory Changes Addressing Economic and Labour concerns:
- Offering specific reforms to the Federal Skilled Worker Program’s selection criteria so as to better identify applicants with the highest potential of integrating into Canadian society and labour market
- Reducing the Federal Skilled Worker application backlog by placing a moratorium on application collection and controversially returning unprocessed applications made prior to February 27, 2008
- Proposing the introduction of a new Federal Skilled Trades Program and changes to the Canadian Experience Class
- Decreasing processing times for open work permits for qualifying applicants in order to facilitate the Live-in Caregiver Program
- Improved the geographic distribution of newcomers across Canada by increasing the number of nominees through the Provincial Nomination Programs
- Increased the minimum language requirements for immigrants under the Provincial Nominee Program in an effort to improve social, economic and cultural integration
- Via the Educational Credential Assessment Initiative, proposed the introduction of a mandatory requirement that would have applicants of the Federal Skilled Worker Program have their education abroad assessed by designated organizations to determine what level of education they’ve attained based on Canadian standards
- Extended a pilot project to assist employers in Alberta seeking highly skilled foreign workers to fill the regional and acute labour shortage
- Implemented a new immigration stream to encourage PhD students to study and subsequently live in Canada
- Significantly increased funds devoted to investment in settlement services
- Created a new website promoting changes in the assessment and recognition of international qualifications
Regulatory Developments Vis-à-Vis Refugee Programs
- Increasing settlement targets by 20% to preserve Canada’s tradition of offering a safe haven to the world’s persecuted populations
- Increasing the Refugee Assistance Program
- Establishing a Refugee Appeal Division at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
While many changes were seen in the past year, Minister Kenney has reiterated that there is still much work to do. In upcoming months it can be expected to see the Federal Skilled Worker program accepting new applications (based on reformed criteria), the execution of many of the above-mentioned proposals, and a variety of other reforms aiming to make the faster, more flexible and responsive immigration system the Conservative government desires.
Stay up to date on all current and future Canadian immigration changes by regularly consulting with the FWCanada news page and following FWCanada on Twitter @FWCANADA .