ARCHIVED – Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, 2012 – Section 1: Making Immigration Work for Canada

Immigration has and continues to play a key role in Canadian history. In 2012, Canada celebrated its 145th year as a nation and since Confederation, our country has seen many transformations. People have come to Canada from all over the world with their skills and entrepreneurial talents, to seek new opportunities, to reunite with family members, or to seek security and stability.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) is the legal federal framework for immigration and refugee protection in Canada and it sets out multiple economic, social and humanitarian objectives for Canada’s immigration program. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) must balance the role that immigration can play to support Canada’s economy with the reunification of families and the fulfillment of our humanitarian responsibilities. It must also protect the health, safety and security of Canadians while facilitating the flow of people to our country.

This section of the Annual Report looks back on CIC’s progress in 2011 in modernizing Canada’s immigration system, presents the latest transformative initiatives of 2012 that are shaping a fast and flexible system, and looks to the way forward in 2013.

2011 Achievements

In 2011, CIC continued to modernize the way it does business by moving toward more efficient and effective processing, stronger program integrity and improved client service.

Improvements to the way CIC does business

Increased centralization of processing applications in Canada, instead of overseas, allows CIC to be more efficient, save money and create jobs in Canada. Centralization is effective for applications that are more straightforward and low risk. In 2011, CIC increased the network of third-party visa application centres overseas that will support improved service to those wishing to visit or move to Canada. For example, client service agents can provide administrative support to applicants, such as explaining in local languages how to fill out forms and ensure that applications are complete. There are now 60 visa application centres in 41 countries around the world.

CIC remains committed to improving client service through the implementation of 17 service standards on many of its key business lines. In 2011–2012, CIC met nine of these standards, and the Department is working continuously to implement measures to improve performance against these commitments over the medium term. Electronic systems are also being modernized to make better use of technology and administrative processes, such as on-line and electronic applications and payment. These changes improve and further streamline service for applicants.

Improvements for travellers across the Canada–United States border

To support economic growth, the Government of Canada is striving to make movement easier across our border neighbouring the United States for travellers with low security risk. The February 2011 announcement of the Perimeter Security and Economic Competiveness Action Plan outlines initiatives to better facilitate cross-border business, including consulting with stakeholders to get feedback on the action plan commitments as well as to invite new ideas for improving cross-border business.

Improvements to support Canada’s economic growth and reduce backlogs

To further support economic growth and expedite processing, two sets of Ministerial Instructions were developed and implemented over 2011. Ministerial Instructions (section 87.3 of IRPA) are special instructions issued by the Minister to better manage the processing of applications to meet immigration goals. This includes setting caps on the intake of new applications and, for the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program, prioritizing the FSW applications of those applicants who have experience in specific in-demand occupations.

In support of the 2008 Action Plan for Faster Immigration, CIC continued to take action to reduce the backlog of applications, reduce wait times and increase labour market responsiveness in the FSW Program. The third set of Ministerial Instructions (MI-3) was launched July 1, 2011, to further limit the intake of new FSW applications with an overall cap of 10,000, with individual caps of 500 for each of the 29 priority in-demand occupations. New FSW applicants who have a job offer in Canada are not subject to the overall or occupations cap. MI-3 also introduced an annual cap of 700 for new applications made under the federal immigrant investor stream, and included a temporary moratorium on entrepreneur applications while that program undergoes design review.

To address the growing backlog and wait time in the Parents and Grandparents Program, CIC launched the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification at the end of 2011. For 2012, CIC increased the number of planned admissions for parents and grandparents to accept more of them as permanent residents to help reduce the backlog. On November 5, 2011, CIC issued the fourth set of Ministerial Instructions (MI-4), which temporarily paused the acceptance of new sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents so that CIC can work through the applications already received. CIC also consulted Canadians in May 2012 on how to redesign the program so that it will be more responsive, sustainable and viable in the long term. On December 1, 2011, CIC introduced the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa, a follow-up instruction to MI-4. This super visa is a multiple-entry temporary resident visa, with a duration of up to 10 years, that will allow eligible parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to visit and remain in Canada for up to 24 months at a time without the need to re-apply for a visa. As of the end of August 2012, 86 percent, or over 8,700 Parent and Grandparent Super Visas had been approved.

MI-4 also supported Canada’s future economic needs by making access to the FSW Program easier for international students pursuing doctoral studies in Canada and for those who have recently graduated with a Canadian PhD. This stream is capped at 1,000 applications per year.

Improvements to protect potential and new immigrants

To protect potential and new immigrants, Bill C-35, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, came into force in June 2011 to strengthen the rules governing immigration consultants, those who charge clients for immigration advice or representation. This bill makes it an offence for anyone other than an accredited immigration representative to conduct business, for a fee or other consideration, at any stage of an application or proceeding. It also increases penalties and fines for unauthorized representation and allows for more government oversight to improve the regulation of immigration consultants. As of June 30, 2011, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council was designated as the regulator of immigration consultants.

CIC continued work on facilitating permanent residence for up to 1,000 Tibetan refugees from Arunachal Pradesh, India, over a five-year period, a humanitarian effort announced in 2010 through a public policy. Special immigration measures have been developed to maximize community involvement for this group by focusing on individuals who secured support from the Tibetan community or other interested supporters in Canada. In 2011, CIC entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Project Tibet Society, a Canadian-based non-governmental organization, for the purposes of referring and identifying potential candidates to the Department, and work began to establish the procedures for implementation of these special measures.

Additional information on measures undertaken by CIC to improve immigration to better support economic growth and to protect Canadians is available in CIC’s 2011–2012 Departmental Performance Report.

2012: A Year of Transformation

The year 2012 brings with it significant transformation at CIC, with a focus on the role of immigration in supporting Canada’s economic growth. As part of CIC’s commitment to creating a fast, flexible and responsive immigration system, numerous changes have been implemented this year to align with Canada’s evolving economic conditions.

Better meeting Canada’s economic needs

Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012 prominently featured immigration as a key area of reform. The changes, and accompanying legislative amendments under Bill C-38, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, became law on June 29, 2012. These changes aim to create a fast, flexible and responsive immigration system that selects the best applicants, not the first. Specifically, the changes address the accumulated FSW backlog by terminating applications and returning fees for certain applications received before February 27, 2008; allow new Ministerial Instructions to manage and prioritize applications more effectively; enhance the ability to apply up-to-date regulations to new and existing applications; and enable the creation of targeted, short-term economic programs quickly.

These changes also complement recent reforms to economic immigration programs. For the FSW Program, proposed changes to the existing points system will reward younger immigrants with Canadian work experience and intermediate proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages. Under the proposal, future applicants to the FSW Program will need to have their foreign educational credentials assessed for Canadian equivalency before applying to immigrate to Canada. The proposed new skilled trades stream is intended to reduce the barriers to the immigration of skilled tradespersons. Work is under way to redesign the Federal Business Immigration Program to target more active investment in Canadian growth companies and more innovative entrepreneurs.

Strategic groundwork is under way to support a proposal for a new application management system based on the expression of interest model already in use in New Zealand and Australia. Options are under development, in consultation with provinces and territories, for engaging employers in the selection process of applicants under this new system.

The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program, jointly managed by CIC and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, is also undergoing changes. Bill C-38 enhanced employer compliance monitoring for the TFW Program, and the program will be the subject of a review to improve alignment with labour market demands and to ensure that businesses look to the domestic labour force before accessing the TFW Program.

CIC has also been making progress to improve foreign credential recognition, given the critical importance of validating credentials for immigrants to work in their areas of expertise. As part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012, the government intends to support further improvements to foreign credential recognition and will work with provinces and territories to identify the next set of target occupations for inclusion, beyond 2012, under the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications. This framework is a tool that describes the ideal steps and processes that federal, provincial and territorial governments aspire to develop to address the current gaps to successful immigrant labour market integration.

Improving program integrity

In the spring of 2012, CIC introduced changes to its sponsorship regulations in an ongoing effort to deter people from using a relationship of convenience to come to Canada. New regulations came into force in March barring recently sponsored spouses and partners from sponsoring a new spouse or partner for a period of five years. In April, CIC consulted the public on a proposal to introduce a two-year period of conditional permanent residence for spouses and partners in ‘new’ relationships (two years or less) with their sponsor at the time of application.

On June 30, a Notice of Intent was published requesting public comments on a proposal to introduce new requirements and conditions for foreign nationals seeking to study in Canada. The proposals are intended to ensure that foreign nationals who obtain study permits enter Canada for the primary purpose of study. CIC seeks to deter foreign nationals from applying for a study permit if their intentions are disingenuous, and prevent foreign nationals from remaining legally in Canada on a study permit should they abandon their studies. These measures are also intended to ensure foreign nationals who hold study permits are studying at educational institutions eligible to host international students.

As part of the Perimeter Security and Economic Competiveness Action Plan, CIC is moving ahead to implement the sharing of information to improve immigration and refugee determinations, better establish the identity of foreign nationals and conduct screening at the earliest opportunity.

In the fall of 2011, the Office of the Auditor General published its report on issuing visas which contained recommendations regarding admissibility, security screening, medical screening and governance. CIC and Canadian Border Services Agency are working together to implement the action plan to address areas of concern.

Upholding Canada’s humanitarian tradition

Significant reforms to the in-Canada refugee system were introduced in Bill C-31, Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, which received Royal Assent on June 28, 2012. These reforms included further reforms to the asylum system building on those previously put forward in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, as well as measures to address human smuggling, and the introduction of a mandatory requirement to provide biometric data with a temporary resident visa application. Canadians will benefit from long-needed reforms to the asylum system—reforms that will help deliver faster decisions on refugee claims and deter abuse. At the same time, CIC will now be able to offer more timely protection to those refugees who truly need it.

In 2012, CIC centralized the intake, file creation and assessment of privately sponsored refugee applications in Canada at the new Centralized Processing Office in Winnipeg. The creation of this new centralized office will help to alleviate the administrative burden and contribute significantly to helping expedite refugee processing overseas by reducing inventory backlogs and improving overall efficiency to allow Canada to provide protection in a more timely manner.

CIC is committed to building an immigration system that responds to Canada’s labour market needs while upholding its family reunification and humanitarian commitments. Looking forward, in 2013 the Department will continue to work to build a fast, flexible and responsive immigration system.

Canada’s Immigration Plan for 2013

The 2013 immigration levels plan reflects the planned number of permanent residents that will support the modernization of the immigration system, strengthen program integrity and improve client service, while setting the foundation for a fast and flexible immigration system in the coming years.

In 2013, the overall planned admission range is 240,000 to 265,000 to continue to respond to today’s labour market needs, build tomorrow’s work force, reunite families and maintain Canada’s commitment to refugee protection. The levels plan is informed by consultations with Canadians and stakeholders, on–going discussions with provinces and territories, objectives of the Action Plan for Faster Immigration and the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification, and operational capacities.

Table 1: Immigration Levels Plan 2013
Projected Admissions Low High
Federal-Selected Economic Programs, Provincial/Territorial Nominees, Family, Refugees, Humanitarian Entrants, and Permit Holders 206,500 228,300
Quebec-selected Skilled Workers 31,000 34,000
Quebec-selected Business 2,500 2,700
TOTAL 240,000 265,000

  • [1] The numbers appearing in this report may differ from those reported in earlier publications. These differences reflect adjustments to CIC’s administrative data files that normally occur over time. [return to text]

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