ARCHIVED – Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, 2013 – Section 1: Making Immigration Work for Canada

Immigration plays a key role in shaping Canada’s economy, society and history. As one of the most popular destinations for immigrants, people have come to Canada from all over the world to apply their skills and entrepreneurial talents, to seek new opportunities, to reunite with family members, or to seek security and stability.

Over the last seven years, Canada’s immigration system has seen significant transformations, and in 2012 the Government of Canada continued to pursue its vision for a faster, more responsive immigration system. Nowhere was this vision better articulated than in Budget 2012, where the government committed to building an immigration system that is “truly fast and flexible in a way that will sustain Canada’s economic growth.” Many of the achievements in 2012 and much of the work now under way at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) support the attainment of this vision and many of these initiatives are highlighted in this report.

While a modernized immigration system is a key part of Canada’s long-term prosperity, Canada’s immigration system encompasses much more. In 2012, as in past years, CIC and its partners delivered an immigration program that continued to meet the family, social, cultural and humanitarian objectives that are set out by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). Moreover, CIC, along with its partners, delivers on these objectives while also protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians.

In July 2013, the primary responsibility for the Passport Program was transferred from Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada to CIC, while passport service delivery will be provided through Service Canada. As passports constitute essential travel documents and a key symbol of Canadian citizenship, the transfer is an opportunity to strengthen the immigration continuum.

The information in this section looks back on CIC’s progress in modernizing Canada’s immigration system in 2012 and early 2013, presents the latest transformative initiatives now taking shape, and looks forward to plans for 2014.

Looking Back: Highlights of Achievements

CIC focused much of its efforts in this reporting period on working toward realizing the faster and more flexible immigration system at the heart of the Government of Canada’s vision for immigration. The Department continued to modernize the way it does business by moving toward more efficient and effective processing, stronger program integrity and improved client service.

Immigration that Supports Canada’s Economic Growth

Using immigration to support Canada’s economy is a priority for the Government of Canada. In 2012, CIC introduced or improved a number of economic immigration programs, with most of these changes implemented in 2013.

On May 4, 2013, CIC launched the modernized selection criteria (also known as the points system) for the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program. These criteria were based on thorough research, an extensive program evaluation, performance results, stakeholder and public consultations, and a study of best practices in other countries. The new points system reflects, as indicators of positive economic outcomes, the importance of age, Canadian work experience, minimum thresholds of official language skills, and foreign educational credentials that have been assessed for Canadian equivalency. The goal of the updated selection criteria is to improve economic outcomes by selecting immigrants who will be able to integrate more rapidly and successfully into Canada’s economy.

On January 2, 2013, CIC launched the new Federal Skilled Trades Program to address serious labour shortages in some regions and respond to the needs of employers in many industries across the country. The program accepts applications from skilled tradespersons that demonstrate basic language proficiency in either English or French; have a valid offer of employment in Canada or a certificate of qualification from a province or territory; and, within the last five years, have at least two years of work experience after becoming qualified to practise in their occupation.

The Canadian Experience Class is Canada’s fastest-growing immigration program and benefits the country by helping to retain skilled individuals who have already demonstrated their ability to integrate into the Canadian labour market. CIC ARCHIVED – streamlined the work experience requirements to make the program faster and more flexible for temporary foreign workers (TFW) and international student graduates with Canadian work experience to stay in Canada permanently. As of January 2, 2013, applicants require 12 months (reduced from 24 months) of full-time Canadian work experience, or the equivalent in part-time work, in high-skilled occupations and now have more time, up to 36 months, to accumulate that experience.

Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012 highlighted Canada’s commitment to supporting entrepreneurs, innovators and world-class research. On April 1, 2013, CIC launched the Start-Up Visa Program. This pilot program targets sought-after entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world, offering permanent residence and access to a wide range of business partners. Applicants for the start-up visas require a commitment from a designated Canadian angel investor group or venture capital fund to invest in their business idea before applying for permanent residence.

The Start-Up Visa Program is the first to be created under section 14.1 of IRPA, which authorizes the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to create small economic immigration programs to take advantage of economic opportunities or to test new program concepts without having to formalize them through a lengthy regulatory process. These programs, which are set out in Ministerial Instructions, are limited to a duration of five years, after which time the program must be discontinued or be made permanent through regulations.

Eliminating Backlogs and Improving Processing Times

Application backlogs in a number of programs pose significant challenges to the immigration system, and reducing and eliminating them is a priority for CIC. The FSW Program backlog, which in 2008 had peaked at more than 640,000 people, has been particularly problematic as it constituted a major roadblock to Canada’s ability to respond to rapidly changing labour market needs. The sizable proportion of CIC’s processing capacity for this program was dedicated to clearing applications that were up to eight years old, and this hampered CIC’s ability to process applications from persons whose skills are needed today. The continued presence of this backlog was unfair to applicants and delayed the transition to a fast, flexible and responsive immigration system. Since the launch in 2008 of the Action Plan for Faster Immigration, CIC has limited the intake of new applications under this program. As a result of these efforts, CIC reduced the pre-2008 backlog by more than 50 percent and the overall FSW inventory by over 25 percent. However, the size of the backlog demanded further action and CIC introduced three notable measures in 2012.

First, in February 2012, CIC and participating provinces and territories launched the FSW Backlog Reduction Pilot to respond to Canada’s labour market needs while also further drawing down the backlog. Under the terms of the pilot, FSW applicants with work experience required by provinces and territories were redirected to these provinces for possible nomination under provincial nominee programs (PNP).

A more significant measure was introduced in the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, which received Royal Assent on June 29, 2012. Under this law, CIC terminated around 98,000 FSW Program applications received before February 27, 2008, that had not received a decision before March 29, 2012. The law required that all fees paid to CIC be returned to the applicants. This substantial reduction of the FSW Program application backlog is now smoothing the transition to an increasingly fast and flexible economic immigration system.

The third measure was a temporary pause on the acceptance of new FSW applications, apart from those with valid job offers and students pursuing Canadian PhDs. Implemented July 1, 2012, this measure enabled CIC to focus its processing resources for the FSW Program on the remaining applications received since 2008. The pause remained in place until May 2013, and allowed CIC to develop and implement the program changes mentioned above and make considerable progress toward the goal of processing all FSW applications by the end of 2014. As a result of these efforts, the FSW backlog has been reduced to approximately 65,000 persons as of the end of July 2013.

To address the growing backlog and wait times in the Parents and Grandparents Program, CIC launched the ARCHIVED – Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification at the end of 2011. On November 5, 2011, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration issued Ministerial Instructions that temporarily put a pause on the acceptance of new sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents so that CIC could process the applications already received. With the inflow of new applications paused, CIC was able to accelerate backlog reduction by increasing admissions on existing applications by up to 50,000 over 2012 and 2013. Under Ministerial Instructions issued in June 2013, CIC will begin accepting new applications in 2014.

On December 1, 2011, CIC introduced the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa, as a follow-up measure to the temporary pause on new parent and grandparent applications. The super visa is a multiple-entry, temporary resident visa (TRV) that allows eligible parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to visit Canada for up to 24 months at a time over a 10-year period. As of the end of June 2013, over 20,000 super visas had been issued, representing an 85-percent approval rate since the launch of the visa.

The Department continued to reduce the backlog of in-Canada refugee claims. In late 2009, the backlog peaked at 62,000. This restricted Canada’s ability to provide timely protection to refugee claimants in genuine need of protection. It also reduced Canada’s ability to remove those not in need of protection from Canada in a timely manner. As of June 2013, the backlog of cases that were referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) prior to the coming into force of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act was reduced to 24,000.

The centralization of intake for in-Canada Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) applicants and applications for permanent residence under humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) grounds in April 2011 has greatly improved the Government of Canada’s approach to managing applications. CIC is better able to move work around its network to where capacity exists and enhance the coordination across Canada between CIC and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), allowing for more rapid identification of priority work and the processing of both PRRA and H&C applications in greater volumes.

Continued Improvements to the Way CIC Does Business

Modernizing service delivery remained a priority for CIC in 2012, and in November, the Department completed development of a global visa application centre (VAC) network to support service delivery and biometric enrolment. CIC continues to expand its VAC network. VACs accept applications for study permits, work permits, temporary resident visas and travel documents for permanent residents; however, they do not play a role in the decision-making process and are expressly forbidden to provide any visa-related advice to applicants. In 2013, CIC was able to make its services more accessible by opening VACs in areas where there had been no point of service before. This service improvement means many applicants no longer have to spend time and money travelling to a VAC that is far from home. In addition, as the requirement for biometrics becomes mandatory for certain temporary resident applicants in 2013, VACs and some visa offices around the world will offer accessible points of service for collecting the biometric data. By 2014, there will be over 130 VACs in 95 countries.

In addition, a number of electronic tools are being implemented for temporary resident visas, including e-Payment, e-Storage and e-Application. These advancements will improve client service and allow CIC to deliver programs more quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively.

CIC is continuing to maximize an increasingly integrated, modernized and centralized working environment. Updated technology, along with robust risk management and program integrity strategies, has allowed CIC to take advantage of capacity anywhere in its network. One of the outcomes has been the development of an integrated application processing model to allow offices in Canada and overseas to share work.

Prior to 2013, work-sharing arrangements were set up on an ad hoc basis to respond to particular pressure points but 2013 marked the beginning of CIC using work-sharing arrangements as a regular tool to solve workload, inventory and capacity challenges across the network. A good example of this is the work sharing of applications in the FSW categories.

In early 2013, the FSW inventory was mainly concentrated in six offices (Ottawa, London, New Delhi, Warsaw, Singapore and Ankara). These offices had more inventory than they could process in 2013, while other offices had capacity, but lacked the inventory they needed. The integrated processing model allowed missions with excess inventory to transfer parts of their caseload to missions with the capacity, target space and expertise to process it. This allowed the network to accelerate the backlog reduction plan even further.

Other measures included shifting some low-risk caseloads to in-Canada processing and further reducing older inventories within the overseas network. These have allowed CIC to build further technical efficiencies and provide faster client service while also ensuring prudent resource management.

Improvements for Travellers Crossing the Canada-U.S. Border

To support economic growth, the Government of Canada is striving to make movement across the border with the United States easier for travellers with low security risk. Under the Canada-U.S. Beyond the Border Action Plan, CIC is working with security partners to improve verification of visitor identities, pre-arrival screening of visitors to North America and the management of flows of people across the border. The action plan focuses on four key areas: addressing threats at the earliest possible opportunity; facilitating trade, economic growth and jobs; building on successful cross-border law enforcement programs; and enhancing cross-border critical and cyber infrastructure.

To improve program integrity and support commitments made as part of the action plan, Canada and the United States have committed to implement sharing of systematic biographic immigration information in 2013 and of systematic biometric immigration information in 2014. To help support this, the two nations signed a treaty in December 2012, the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada for the Sharing of Visa and Immigration Information. Information from third-country nationals who apply for a visa, work permit or study permit, or who are seeking refugee protection, will be shared consistent with Canadian law, including the Privacy Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Under the terms of the treaty, no information will be shared on Canadian or American citizens or permanent residents.

Upholding Canada’s Humanitarian Tradition

Major reforms to the in-Canada asylum system recently came into force to address several weaknesses. While recognized for its fairness, Canada’s asylum system was strained and vulnerable to abuse. People in genuine need of protection waited about 18 months for a protection decision. Conversely, the system was slow to remove people found not to be in need of protection; unfounded claimants could remain in Canada for an average of four and a half years before being removed.

The CIC reforms culminated in the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, which came into force on December 15, 2012, and amended IRPA. The CBSA, IRB, Department of Justice, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Public Safety Canada and CIC collaborated closely to implement the new system.

The new system includes numerous measures, such as:

  • the designated country of origin (DCO) provision, under which countries that generally respect human rights and do not normally produce refugees may be designatedFootnote 1 by the Minister for CIC for the purposes of expedited processing and other restrictions such as the inability to apply for a work permit for six months;
  • faster processing of all refugee claims, particularly those from DCO claimants;
  • implementation of the IRB’s Refugee Appeal Division, which offers eligibleFootnote 2 persons a primarily paper-based appeal process for rejected refugee claims; and
  • restricted access to recourses that could be used to delay removal, including:
    • a 12-month bar on accessing a PRRA following a refugee claim or previous PRRA (this bar is three years for DCO claimants);Footnote 3
    • a 12-month bar on H&C consideration following a refugee claim; and
    • no H&C consideration for those with a pending refugee claim.

The new legislation also addresses human smuggling through new measures, such as discouraging asylum seekers from resorting to human smuggling operations by enabling the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to designate the arrival of a group of individuals as an “irregular arrival,” with affected participants (16 years of age and older) detained for up to one year, and restricted from applying for permanent residence for five years (up to a maximum of six years).

Under the new system, the number of refugee claims has decreased significantly, particularly with respect to claimants from DCO countries. In the first six months, intake from DCO nationals decreased by 87 percent and intake from non-DCO nationals decreased by 50 percent when compared with the average intake during this same period over the last three years. Under the new system, the expedited processing and resulting decrease in intake has resulted in savings to both federal and provincial governments of approximately $180 million within its first six months.

An enhanced and ongoing capacity to monitor the effectiveness of these new policies has been established to ensure that timely protection is provided to those in need while mitigating abuse of Canada’s asylum system.

What has not changed in the new system is that every eligible refugee claimant continues to have a fair hearing before the IRB, regardless of what country they come from or how they arrive.

New Measures to Protect the Safety of Canadians

The ARCHIVED – Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, Bill C-43, received Royal Assent on June 19, 2013. Bill C-43 strengthens the integrity of Canada’s immigration system by amending IRPA to:

  • make it easier for the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from Canada;
  • make it harder for those who may pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place; and
  • remove unnecessary barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.

Some legislative amendments are already in force but other amendments require supportive regulatory changes. Key provisions now in force include further limiting access to the Immigration Appeal Division for serious criminals, and limiting access to H&C considerations for those inadmissible on the grounds of security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality. Provisions that will come into force at a later date after supportive regulatory amendments include: giving the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the authority, in exceptional cases, to deny temporary resident status to foreign nationals whose entry into Canada would raise public policy concerns; increasing the consequences for misrepresentation regarding inadmissibility to enter Canada from two to five years and barring application for permanent residence during this period; and easing temporary entry for individuals with an inadmissible family member except where the family member is inadmissible for security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality.

2013: A Year of Transition

Building on earlier accomplishments, CIC is continuing in 2013 to focus on improving the role of immigration in supporting Canada’s economic growth. CIC continues to develop programs and initiatives that will allow immigrants to thrive in Canada and play an important role in the growth of the Canadian economy.

Among the measures announced in Budget 2012 was a commitment to develop a system that features a pool of skilled workers who are ready to begin employment in Canada. An Expression of Interest application management system will create this pool of employment-ready skilled workers to support Canada’s labour market needs. This system will allow for more active recruitment of skilled immigrants and just-in-time processing. This major project, which has operational, policy, program and legislative elements, will make Canada’s immigration system more responsive to labour market demand and is similar to successful systems that are already in place in Australia and New Zealand.

To ensure the economic benefits of immigration are distributed across Canada’s regions, CIC has been working with provincial and territorial partners on the design of this system. In addition, CIC is holding extensive consultations with employers and employers’ associations to ensure that the system responds to employer needs. The Expression of Interest system is expected to be launched in January 2015.

The TFW Program, jointly managed by CIC and Employment and Social Development Canada (formerly Human Resources and Skills Development Canada), is undergoing a number of changes. By enacting the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act in 2012 and the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1, the Government of Canada enhanced its authority to verify employer compliance monitoring with the conditions imposed under the TFW Program and its authority to suspend and revoke work permits and labour market opinions (LMOs) if the program is being misused.

The Government of Canada announced additional changes in April 2013, including:

  • requiring employers to pay TFWs at the prevailing wage by removing the existing wage flexibility;
  • temporarily suspending the accelerated LMO process until additional safeguards can be implemented;
  • increasing the government’s authority to suspend and revoke work permits and LMOs if the program is being misused;
  • adding questions to employer LMO applications to ensure that the TFW Program is not used to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs;
  • ensuring employers who rely on TFWs have a firm plan in place to transition to a Canadian work force over time through the LMO process;
  • introducing fees for employers for the processing of LMOs and increasing the fees for work permits so that taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the costs; and
  • identifying English and French as the only languages that can be used as a job requirement.

The TFW Program continues to be reviewed to improve alignment with labour market demands and to introduce additional measures to ensure that businesses look to the domestic labour force before accessing the TFW Program. The government is seeking input from Canadians on further changes to ensure that the program is working in the best interests of Canadian workers and businesses.

Ensuring that foreign credentials are quickly and fairly assessed helps highly skilled newcomers find work related to their training, and in turn, allows them to contribute quickly to the Canadian economy. Implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications for the second set of target regulated occupations (i.e., dentists, engineering technicians, licensed practical nurses, medical radiation technologists, physicians and teachers) was completed in 2012. CIC is committed to further improving foreign credential recognition and has been working with provinces and territories to identify the next set of target occupations for inclusion under the framework.

The Parent and Grandparents Program (PGP) also underwent a review in 2012. The Department explored ways to redesign the program to avoid future backlogs, while remaining sensitive to fiscal constraints, bearing in mind Canada’s generous public health-care system and other social benefits. In spring 2012, CIC conducted national public consultations on the redesign of the PGP. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration hosted roundtables with stakeholders, and public online consultations were launched to gather feedback on how CIC can achieve these goals. The online consultations ran until May 25, 2012, and received 6,444 responses, the highest number of responses ever received by CIC through an online consultation.

In May 2013, CIC published ARCHIVED – proposed changes to the sponsorship regulations for parents and grandparents to ensure that sponsored family members are well supported by their sponsors throughout their time in Canada. The regulations are expected to be finalized and come into force in 2014.

Canada’s Immigration Plan for 2014

Table 1 presents the 2014 immigration levels plan, which outlines the anticipated number of permanent residents that will be admitted to Canada throughout the year. In 2014, the overall planned admission range is 240,000 to 265,000. The distribution among immigration programs is designed to 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 to be realized with the introduction of the Expression of Interest application management system in 2015. The levels plan is informed by consultations with Canadians and stakeholders, ongoing discussions with provinces and territories, earlier performance results, objectives of the Action Plan for Faster Immigration and the ARCHIVED – Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification, and operational capacities.

Table 1: Immigration Levels Plan 2014
Projected Admissions Low High

Federal-selected Economic Programs, Provincial/Territorial Nominees, Family, Refugees, Humanitarian Entrants and Permit Holders

209,000

232,500

Quebec-selected Skilled WorkersFootnote A

26,000

27,000

Quebec-selected BusinessFootnote A

5,000

5,500

TOTAL

240,000

265,000

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