Canada’s Immigration New Year: What's In Store for 2015

This article appeared in the January 20, 2015 issue of the Asian Pacific Post.

2015 promises to be a banner year for Canada’s immigration program with dramatic changes in virtually every aspect of program delivery: selection of skilled immigrants, processing of inland spousal applicants, and new criteria for both business immigration and citizenship applicants. Here are the highlights of the many changes in Canada’s immigration program in store for the year ahead:

Inland Spousal Work Permits

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander delivered his Christmas present to Inland spousal applicants by providing a new speedy program for issuing work permits to spouses inside of Canada waiting to have their cases considered. This was a multi-faceted gift in that it offers the speedy issuance of work permits to spousal applicants IN ADVANCE OF ANY DETERMINATION of the merits of their application. Given the exceedingly lengthy processing times that have built up for the consideration of these applications, many spouses were waiting over two years without being able to work while their applications for permanent residence were being processed. Now in-status applicants who submit their applications can work within a matter of months until a formal determination is made on their case. Speedier Processing for Caregiver Applicants Canada’s "Live-in Caregiver program" morphed into the "Caregiver program" eliminating the need for caregivers to reside with their employers and promising speedier processing times for permanent resident application processing for those who have completed their Caregiver work period.  Minister Alexander also introduced two separate caregiving streams: the Caring for Children pathway and the Caring for People with High Medical Needs pathway and slightly increased the annual applications to be processed each year to 2500 in each of these new categories.  Best of all the annual target of caregiver applications processed will increase from 17,500 permanent resident admissions in 2014 to 30,000 admissions in 2015!  CIC hopes to eliminate the backlog of caregiver permanent resident applications within the next year and has set a future target of six month processing times in the near future.

* See article: Introducing Canada’s New and Improved Caregiver Program  - December 2, 2014

Changes to Citizenship Requirements

Numerous governments over the past twenty years have introduced legislation to define the concept of residency in the citizenship application process which always managed to die on the parliamentary table.  On June 19, 2014 royal assent was finally given to the "Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act" which brought in many changes to Canada’s citizenship laws.  For the first time residency is now defined as physical presence and the necessary time period in Canada has increased.  To be eligible for citizenship a person must be physically present in Canada for four full years (1460 days) within a six year period (2190 days).  You must also be in Canada for a minimum of 183 days in each of those years such that you are now a Canadian resident for tax purposes.  Knowledge and language requirements have been strengthened.  All applicants 14 - 64 years of age will need to pass a knowledge test and provide proof of language ability in one of our official languages - English or French - in accordance with defined language criteria.

There are several other changes brought in by this legislation including restoring citizenship to lost Canadians, denying citizenship to persons with foreign criminal convictions, increasing the penalties for committing fraud in the citizenship process and promising speedier processing times for citizenship applicants.  While this legislation was introduced last year, it will not come into force until sometime in 2015, likely in the spring or summer.

* See article: Canada’s New Citizenship Rules - July 22, 2014

A New Investor Immigration Pilot Program

Throughout 2014 the Immigration Minister had been dropping hints that plans to re-open the Investor immigration program were in the works.  Canada’s business immigration programs had been under attack for some time with the Entrepreneur category suspended on July 1, 2011 and the Investor program suspended as of July 1, 2012.  However, many business applications remained in process and those applicants continued to believe that they would become permanent residents of Canada some day.  For many, those hopes were dashed.  On February 11, 2014 the Government of Canada decided to formally terminate both the Entrepreneur and Investor categories.  Approximately 20,000 - 25,000 Investor files in process were cancelled as of February 28, 2014 if they had not yet reached the initial stage of selection.  For those Investors who didn’t manage to finalize their permanent residence applications by June 20, 2014, their applications were formally terminated.  2014 was a tough year to be an Investor applicant to Canada! 

So it was welcome news that on December 16, 2014, CIC announced the unveiling of the new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital pilot program.  Prospective Investor applicants will be required to make an investment of $2 million for a period of 15 years and will need to demonstrate a net worth of $10 million as well as satisfy certain eligibility criteria related to language, education and previous business experience.  This new program will begin accepting applications later this month and will provide a pathway to permanent residency for approximately 50 immigrant investors and their families.

* See article: Investor Immigration Program to be Back in Business -  December 16, 2014

Express Entry

Canada’s immigration selection system has been forever changed as of January 1, 2015 with the introduction of the Express Entry program!  It is the most significant transformation of Canada’s immigration program in over a century. Overnight our economic immigration program went from being an applicant driven responsive model to a government driven selective model. 

CIC has now been empowered to only select those applicants that they determine possess the skills and experience that they are seeking.  Interested applicants will provide preliminary information to the government regarding their education, skills, work experience and language proficiency as well as other biographical data.  The information that applicants provide will be assessed on a "human capital grid" and based upon their score they will be invited to submit an electronic application for permanent residence.  Only the best applicants or those whose qualifications match with a specific employer’s requirements will be invited to submit an application for permanent residence.  Without an Invitation To Apply (ITA) prospective immigrants to Canada are shut out of the process! 

Express Entry will be a mandatory first step in the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Federal Skilled Trades program (FSTP), and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).  In addition, provinces and territories will be able to use Express Entry to identify additional provincial nominees to an overall and by-jurisdiction limit.  Canada’s Job Bank will provide a matching component between prospective applicants and registered employers.  This computer program is not yet operational but is targeted to be up and running by this summer.

The significance of Express Entry is that not all eligible applicants will be invited to apply for permanent residence - only the very best applicants.  While you may meet the program criteria as a skilled worker, skilled tradesperson or CEC applicant - you are no longer in the driver’s seat with respect to your Canadian permanent resident future.  Stay tuned for further details of Canada’s new Express Entry program!