Over the past year, candidates in the Express Entry pool hoping to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for Canadian Permanent Residence would have been disappointed if they had had a CRS score of less than 439. For most of the year, IRCC only issued ITAs to those candidates with CRS scores between 440 and 450 points.
The most significant procedural change to the Express Entry system during the past year was that the deadline to submit an electronic application for Permanent Residence was changed from 90 to 60 calendar days after receiving an ITA.
As far as what to expect from Express Entry in the New Year, the 2018 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration provides some insight. For instance, IRCC announced plans for significant increases in the total number of permanent residents to be admitted to Canada over the next three years. Specifically, the 2018 target of 310,000 will increase to 330,800 in 2019, 341,000 in 2020 and 350,000 in 2020. While the number of permanent residents to be admitted are expected to rise in the future, candidates in the Express Entry pool should not necessarily anticipate that IRCC will issue ITAs for candidates with a CRS score of less than 440. Click here for a more detailed analysis of the Express Entry numbers.
For most foreign nationals applying to enter Canada, providing their fingerprints and a photograph will be necessary when applying for a Canadian Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), Work Permit, Study Permit, Permanent Residence, or Temporary Resident Permit (TRP).
This new requirement was implemented on July 31, 2018 for foreign nationals from Europe, Africa and the Middle East, while the requirement was subsequently phased in for all foreign nationals from Asia, Asia Pacific, and the Americas just a few days ago on December 31, 2018.
Biometrics will remain valid for ten years and will cost $85 CAD per person to apply. Some foreign nationals may provide their biometrics at specified Canadian port of entries, a list of which can be found here, but many foreign nationals will need to provide biometrics at an overseas Visa Application Centre (VAC). As of December 31, 2018, there are over 152 VACs in 102 countries around the world where you can give your biometrics. IRCC also confirmed here that new VACs will open to accommodate increased demand.
For a more detailed analysis of the biometrics requirements, and to find out if the biometrics requirements apply to you, please contact us or visit our website here.
While not yet in force, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed on November 30, 2018, and will eventually replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Putting aside the politics and the tumultuous 15 month negotiation of the USMCA, practically speaking, temporary foreign workers with NAFTA Work Permits and business visitors who enter under NAFTA can continue to do so under the new agreement. Chapter 16 of the NAFTA provides four categories of business persons: business visitors; professionals, intra-company transferees; and traders and investors. While the USMCA maintained the status quo and did not make any significant changes to the Chapter 16 provisions drafted over 24 years ago, there is some criticism that the new agreement should have been modernized to more accurately reflect the current market and stimulate positive economic growth.
Another free trade agreement worthy of note is the Comprehensive and Progress Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). With an effective date of December 30, 2018, the CPTPP contains provisions for the temporary entry and stay of citizens from CPTPP countries who are coming to Canada for business purposes, the most significant being new Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exempt work permit possibilities for Australians and Mexicans.
A More Inclusive Approach to Medical Inadmissibility
When making an application to IRCC to enter or remain in Canada as a temporary resident (i.e. worker, visitor, or student) or permanent resident, IRCC routinely requests foreign nationals to undergo a comprehensive medical examination. This requirement can be country specific or application specific. In the case of an application for permanent residence in Canada, a medical examination is mandatory for all applicants.
In this process, if it is discovered that the primary applicant, or an accompanying dependent family member such as a spouse or child, has a medical condition that may cause an excessive demand on Canada’s health or social services, the applicant can be refused.
The average Canadian per capita cost threshold was previously $6,655 CAD per year. If the health or social services that the medical condition may reasonably require exceeds that cost threshold, the condition would be considered to cause excessive demand, resulting in a finding of inadmissibility to Canada.
After the IRCC announcement on June 1, 2018, however, the cost threshold has more than tripled from $6,655 CAD per year to $19,812 CAD per year. As a result, applicants with medical conditions are much less likely to cause excessive demand. An inadmissibility finding may only be made if the services that a health condition may reasonably be expected to exceed the new, much higher, cost threshold, making many previously medically inadmissible candidates now admissible to Canada.
A more detailed analysis of the new medical inadmissibility changes can be found here. Do not hesitate to contact Green and Spiegel for a consultation if you have any questions or concerns about medical inadmissibility issues.
The Impaired Driving Act and the Cannabis Act
Bill C-46, known as the Impaired Driving Act, came into force on December 18, 2018. This new legislation brings several major changes to the Criminal Code and other Acts, with one of the most significant being impaired driving penalties. For non-citizens of Canada physically present in Canada, an impaired driving conviction could lead to removal or refused admission, while foreign nationals overseas convicted of impaired driving will need to demonstrate they have been rehabilitated before entering Canada.
The robust drug-impaired driving regime in place under Bill C-46 functions alongside Bill C-45, known as the Cannabis Act, which creates a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada. Although marijuana has been legalized across the country since October 17, 2018, Canadians and foreign nationals alike should note that our southern neighbour takes a different approach. Be sure to read this in depth article about US entry.
Looking Forward: Program to Sponsor Parents and Grandparents Still on Hold
In August of this past year, IRCC announced that 20,000 applications for the sponsorship of parents and grandparents would be accepted in 2019, up from 17,000 applications accepted in 2017. This increase is consistent with IRCC’s broader objective to continue to increase family reunification numbers in upcoming years.
Unlike 2018, however, IRCC will not randomly select sponsors. Instead, the program will run on a first come, first served, basis. This process will continue until IRCC reaches the 2019 cap of 20,000 complete applications.
Despite eager anticipation from Canadian citizens and permanent residents for the 2019 program, IRCC has not yet released any additional details about the program since August of 2018. As of now, IRCC has only disclosed that, at the end of January 2019, the Interest to Sponsor form will be available online, so eligible potential sponsors can let IRCC know they wish to sponsor their parents and grandparents to come to Canada. The key eligibility requirement for a sponsor is demonstrating that certain minimum income requirements are satisfied.