The Conservative government has brought about many changes to immigration policy since it came to power in 2006. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come on record that the government has been “systematically re-orienting immigration over the last several years to make it more focused on economic needs and focused on more long-term labor market needs”.
The year 2015 is expected to witness some major changes in immigration – be it the launch of new schemes or a change in immigrant profile based on developments overseas. Presented below are the top five immigration trends that Canada can expect to see in 2015:
1. The Express Entry program for skilled workers
Launched on January 1, the new Express Entry program provides permanent residency to highly skilled immigrants who are matched to the country’s skills shortages and qualify to meet the job requirements posted by various Canadian employers.
Chris Alexander, Canada’s Immigration Minister, has said that the Express Entry program was a top priority program for him this year.
All provinces except Quebec will be a part of the Express Entry program, where the government will match employers with most suitable high-skilled immigrants. Every two to three weeks, a draw will be held where the government will invite the highest-ranking candidates to apply for permanent residency. The application does not require any level of minimum points for qualification, however a permanent full-time job offer from a Canadian employer will significantly increase a candidate’s ranking.
Employers however will continue to have to prove that they have considered Canadians first before using the Express Entry system to hire foreigners.
Critics of the Express Entry system are concerned about the effectiveness of “job-matching” to be undertaken by the government and are also wary of how transparent and accountable the system will function.
2. Foreign caregiver program
The foreign caregiver program has undergone several major revisions imposed by the government. According to the new rules, it is now optional for the caregivers to live with their employers. The government has also put a cap on the number of people who will be given caregiver work visas in two new categories.
The changes have mostly been welcomed by the concerned communities, however groups representing Filipino caregivers have expressed disappointment over the new rule wherein caregivers are not given permanent residency when they arrive and have to rather wait for two years in order to qualify for permanent residency.
Currently, there are 60,000 pending applications under the caregiver program. The government aims to clear about 47,500 applications from the current backlog by end of 2015.
3. Changes in the Citizenship Act
Starting this year, the government has increased the application fee for Canadian citizenship to $530 per adult applicant. The increased fee is estimated to generate an additional revenue of $60 million for the government in 2015.
In addition to the fee hike, the government has also promised to significantly improve the processing time for citizenship applications.
Several changes were made to the Citizenship Act in 2014, some of which came under fire from the Canadian Bar Association. The year 2015 is likely to see some of these controversial changes to the Act come into effect.
A controversial provision allows the government to revoke citizenship of dual citizens or permanent residents in case they have been found to have taken up arms with groups engaged in armed conflict against Canada or if they are convicted of terrorism, treason, or spying offences. Around 93 “high risk” individuals are already being monitored, according to Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Finally, the government now also holds the right to deny Canadian citizenship to anyone who has pending domestic or foreign criminal charges filed against them.
4. Refugee immigration from Syria
The current crisis in Syria has led to a large number of refugees seeking asylum all around the world. Canada officially committed to take in 1,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014 but the government has been criticized by immigration groups for failing to keep that promise.
However the Canadian Immigration Ministry refuted this accusation, with Kevin Ménard, spokesman for the immigration minister Chris Alexander, stating, “We have approved more than 1,200 refugees under the 1,300 commitment, and 1,063 are already here in Canada. The rest will travel in the coming weeks. We continue to work expeditiously to fulfil this commitment and will have more to say about this in the coming weeks.”
The United Nations has urged Canada to take in an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next two years. The plea follows United Nations’ global call to help with the resettlement of about 100,000 Syrian refugees who are fleeing from the escalating violence in their country.
5. Health care for refugees
Following a court order that called the federal changes to refugee healthcare funding “unconstitutional”, the Canadian government has restored health-care coverage to refugees, temporarily. The Federal Court had said that the funding cuts in the program were “cruel and unusual”.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander reacted to the court order, saying, “We are doing this because the court has ordered us to do it. We respect that decision, while not agreeing with it.” According to Alexander, the cost of restoring the health-care coverage for refugees will cost the government $4 million, whereas it will benefit fewer than 1,000 refugees.
However the government has been taken to court by three groups – the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, and Justice for Children and Youth – who are accusing it of failing to comply with the court order. The motion will be heard by the Federal Court on January 27.