The Liberal Government recently introduced new immigration programs and initiatives in support of their stated mandate of promoting multilateralism. The Government has also highlighted the need to bolster security efforts within Canada and has introduced a new security requirement for certain foreign nationals travelling to Canada by air. Canadian employers should be aware of the following developments: 

More Permanent Residents, But Economic Class Numbers Decrease

Earlier this month, the Hon. John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, announced a plan to welcome between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016 with an overall target of 300,000. The 2016 plan represents a 7.4 percent increase from 2015 planned admissions.

The target of 300,000 permanent resident admissions in 2016 was also reiterated by the Government in their first budget, released earlier this week (Budget 2016).

By way of background, permanent residents are persons who have not become Canadian citizens but are authorized to live and work in Canada indefinitely, provided that they meet the residency requirements and do not lose their status for reasons of serious criminality or other offences.

The planned increase in 2016 is not, however, uniform across all classes of permanent residents. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act defines three basic classes of permanent residents—economic, family, and protected persons. The Economic Class includes the Federal Skilled Worker Class, the Quebec Skilled Worker Class, the Provincial Nominee Class, the Canadian Experience Class, the Live-in Caregiver Class, the Business Immigration Classes (Investor, Entrepreneur and Self-Employed Persons), and immediate family members.

The target plan for the Economic Class in 2016 was reduced to 160,600 new permanent residents from 181,300 in 2015.

We would encourage employers and foreign workers to revisit any existing long-term relocation strategies in light of this development. For example, Express Entry applicants may need to consider pursuing an enhanced Provincial Nomination to secure an invitation to apply for permanent residence under the Express Entry system. Similarly, employers wishing to keep a foreign worker in Canada on a permanent basis may need to determine whether a Labour Market Impact Assessment is necessary, particularly in the case of employees with a low Express Entry score.

New Work Permit-Only Stream for Francophone Hires

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently announced that it will soon be easier for employers to hire francophones from abroad through a new initiative called Mobilité Francophone.

The Mobilité Francophone initiative begins on June 1, 2016.

Work permits are required, but employers will not need to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) when they hire francophones from abroad in managerial, professional and technical/skilled trades occupations to work in francophone minority communities outside of Quebec.

A LMIA is a verification process whereby Employment and Social Development Canada assesses an offer of employment to ensure that hiring a foreign worker will not have a negative impact on the Canadian labour market.

Mobilité Francophone is a new stream within the International Mobility Program (IMP). The IMP was created for hiring foreign workers who are viewed as bringing broad economic and cultural benefits to Canada. Intra-company transferees and professionals covered under free trade agreements typically fall under the IMP. 

The underlying goals of Mobilité Francophone were enunciated by the Hon. John McCallum in the IRCC's recent press release: “We want francophone minority communities in Canada to continue to be vibrant and growing. That’s why we’re going to encourage skilled francophone workers to come to Canada and settle in communities outside of Quebec, and we’re going to encourage them to apply for permanent residence if they would like to stay.”

IRCC stated that it aims to have francophone newcomers make up at least 4 percent of all economic immigrants settling outside of Quebec by 2018, with an overall target for francophone immigration outside Quebec of 4.4 percent by 2023.

Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

The eTA is a new entry requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada by air. United States citizens will not need an eTA.

IRCC had initially set a deadline of March 15, 2016 for the eTA to become a mandatory requirement but subsequently announced that there will be a grace period until the fall of 2016.

The purpose of the eTA is to permit pre-screening in advance of the traveller's arrival to ensure he or she is admissible to Canada.

Foreign nationals who require an eTA will need to apply online in advance and provide the following information: passport details; personal details; occupation and previous travel; responses to background questions (to assess for health, criminality and immigration-related concerns); contact information. Once approved, the eTA will be electronically linked to the traveller’s passport and will be valid for a period of five years or until the passport expiry date, whichever occurs sooner.

A traveller requiring an eTa will not be permitted to board their flight to Canada unless they have an approved eTA.

Shorter Processing Times for Family Sponsorships

The Government announced in Budget 2016 that wait times will be significantly shortened for family sponsorships. Budget 2016 proposes CAD25 million to support faster and more predictable application processing times for family sponsorships. The new funding is meant to target current application backlogs in Canada and abroad and to reduce processing time on sponsorship decisions.