ARCHIVED – Backgrounder — 2013 Immigration Levels Planning: Public and Stakeholder Consultations
The purpose of this consultation is to seek your feedback on immigration to Canada and the setting of immigration levels. We are asking for your input on the right level of immigration to Canada per year – how many? – and the right distribution between the three main immigrant classes to Canada, economic, family, and refugee/humanitarian classes – what should be the mix? Should immigration levels be increased, decreased or maintained? If we increase the numbers in one of the three main immigration classes but not increase the overall number of immigrants per year, where should we take less? What role can immigration play to support Canada’s economy? What follows in this document serves to give you a sense of some of the challenges and realities Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) faces when considering these questions.
When we talk about immigration, we are referring to permanent residents, i.e. individuals who have made the decision to move permanently to Canada to work and live. People from around the world also come to Canada on a temporary basis to study and work, but setting immigration levels focuses on permanent immigration.
Since 2006, the Government of Canada has welcomed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history. On average, around 250,000 immigrants per year have come to Canada.
Establishing the Annual Immigration Levels Plan
The 2002 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) is the guiding legislative framework for Canada’s immigration system. It outlines the government’s major objectives for immigration, such as:
- to support the development of a strong and prosperous Canadian economy, in which the benefits of immigration are shared across all regions in Canada;
- to see that families are reunited; and
- to fulfill Canada’s international legal obligations with respect to refugees and affirm Canada’s commitment to international efforts to provide assistance to those in need of resettlement;
- while also protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians.
Every year, as required by law, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism tables the Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration on or before November 1. The Report includes a “Levels Plan” for how many people will be admitted to Canada as permanent residents the following year. The Levels Plan is an important strategic tool because it sets out the distribution of admissions “spaces” across three main categories (economic, family and refugee/humanitarian). See Annex A for the 2012 Levels Plan.
In developing the Levels Plan, CIC balances the IRPA immigration objectives with several other factors, including:
- Government of Canada priorities and commitments;
- Input from provinces and territories, as immigration is a shared responsibility under the Constitution;
- Input from stakeholders, including settlement service groups, unions, Aboriginal groups, non-governmental organizations, and sector councils/industry;
- Current and future economic conditions, as well as labour market needs; and
- The capacity of the economy and of communities to welcome newcomers.
Government of Canada priorities and commitments
Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012 is focused on jobs, economic growth and prosperity. The Prime Minister has also made it clear that economic immigration is a key priority for the Government of Canada.
CIC has introduced changes to economic immigration programs to set the groundwork for a fast and flexible immigration system. Since 2008, Ministerial Instructions, which are special instructions issued by the Minister to better manage the processing of applications, have been applied to several economic programs as well as the family category. Most recently, legislative changes passed under Bill C-38, Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, will significantly address the accumulated Federal Skilled Worker backlog by terminating applications and returning fees paid to CIC for certain applications received before February 27, 2008. The Act also allows new Ministerial Instructions to manage and prioritize applications more effectively; enhances the ability to prioritize and apply up-to-date regulations to new and existing applications; and enables the ability to create targeted economic programs quickly.
Progress has been made in other areas as well, to modernize CIC’s existing processes and programs. At the end of 2011, CIC launched the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification to address the backlog of Parent and Grandparent sponsorship applications. The Action Plan included an increase in admissions for parents and grandparents to 25,000 in 2012; a temporary pause on the intake of new sponsorship applications; and introduced the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa, which allow parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to visit Canada for extended stays. In 2012, CIC has taken action to reform the in-Canada refugee system as contained in Bill C-31, Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, which will help deliver faster decisions on refugee claims.
Engaging with provincial and territorial governments and stakeholders
CIC engages with Canadians to help inform program and policy decisions. CIC also engages with provincial and territorial governments as immigration is a shared responsibility under the Constitution. On levels planning, CIC works with provinces and territories to ensure that immigration programs meet the needs of Canada and support specific regional needs, such as labour market needs. Recent work includes developing a longer-term approach to levels planning and making sure that federal and provincial/territorial immigration programs complement each other.
Current and future economic conditions in Canada
The current Canadian economic landscape is one of mixed outcomes across the country: strong economic growth in certain regions, persistent unemployment in others; a relatively strong fiscal and monetary base, compared to other countries, but there is the risk of international crises undermining growth in Canada. Economic forecasts of future economic performance and labour needs are also varied across the country. In light of this uncertainty, Canada’s immigration system must be flexible enough to both help meet today’s skill shortages in a timely manner while also ensuring that it anticipates tomorrow’s labour market needs, by attracting the appropriate skills and talents for the changing economy.
Capacity of the economy and welcoming newcomers
Many in the business sector and provinces and territories are calling for higher immigration levels to meet existing and anticipated job shortages. At the same time, the analysis of data for immigrants who are already here suggests that they are experiencing higher unemployment rates and lower earnings relative to Canadian-born individuals. CIC needs to consider the capacity of the economy and of communities to welcome newcomers: whether in the short and long term; whether the number of immigrants increases, decreases or remains the same; and whether the mix of the immigration categories changes or remains comparable to previous years.
As identified at the beginning of this document, the purpose of this consultation is to seek your views on immigration to Canada, specifically on immigration levels and their distribution across categories. The consultation will explore a number of issues related to three main questions:
- What is the appropriate level of immigration for Canada? Should the number of immigrants admitted per year change?
- What is the appropriate distribution – or mix – between the number of economic immigrants, family class immigrants, and refugees/persons admitted under the humanitarian class?
- Economic immigration is recognized as a key immigration objective for Canada’s long-term economic growth. What role can immigration play to support Canada’s economy?
Much of the success of Canada’s immigration programs depends on who is selected (the mix), how many come (the level of immigration), and where they go (communities that are able to welcome them with job opportunities, schools and housing).
1. What is the appropriate level of immigration for Canada?
In the last five years, Canada has admitted around 250,000 new permanent residents on average each year. This is roughly 0.8% of Canada’s population. See Annex B for the breakdown of admissions of permanent residents from recent years, and Annex C for the proportion of annual immigration to Canada’s population.
Some observers suggest that increasing overall immigration levels would bring in more skills and talent to support and grow Canada’s economy. Higher levels could also support family reunification and uphold Canada’s humanitarian tradition by resettling refugees and people in need of protection. Others suggest that levels should decrease due to uncertainty in today’s economy and labour market, that we have limited capacity to integrate more immigrants, or that public services are stretched with the increase in population. The timeframe also matters. Today’s considerations must be balanced alongside the future context – Canada in ten years and beyond. The outcome of immigrants is another consideration.
Other factors also include the financial capacity of CIC and its security partners (the RCMP, CBSA and CSIS) to process and deliver the programs, and the level of settlement funding available to support immigrants. There is also pressure from the volumes of applications received across immigration categories to bring in more people.
These issues point to difficult questions regarding levels planning. Should the levels plan primarily reflect the number of people who want to immigrate to Canada, where more people are admitted simply because there are more applications? Or should the levels plan reflect the objectives of immigration for Canada and strategic priorities?
2. What is the appropriate mix between economic, family, and refugee/humanitarian classes?
Closely linked with the question of the appropriate level of immigration is the question of the appropriate mix, or distribution, of immigrants across the three main categories of immigration programs – economic, family reunification, and refugee/humanitarian – which broadly reflect IRPA’s objectives.
In 2012, the Levels Plan provided a mix of around 62% economic, 26% family, and 13% refugee and humanitarian class. It is worth noting that the economic category includes the principal applicants (the individual on the application whose skills and qualifications will be assessed) and their spouse/partner and dependants. Principal applicants make up around 40% of the economic category, while spouses/partners and dependents account for around 60%. However, many of these spouses/partners and dependants – as well as immigrants in the family and refugee/humanitarian classes – also join the labour market.
See Annex D for the breakdown and description of the current immigration programs.
The appropriate mix will depend on a careful balance of competing pressures – of commitments to family reunification, refugee resettlement, and selecting immigrants to support economic growth. The mix must be considered with levels, because there are different settlement needs among the three main categories of immigrants, and the places that welcome them should have the job opportunities, the infrastructure and appropriate community supports in place. How should the social and economic objectives of immigration be balanced?
3. What role can immigration play to support Canada’s economy?
Strengthening immigration’s role in support of Canada’s economy is a priority for the Government of Canada. Over the next decade and beyond, the overall labour force participation rate in Canada is forecast to decline, as retirements are expected to accelerate with the ageing population. At the same time, due to low natural fertility, there would be more upcoming job vacancies than sufficient numbers of Canadian-born new workers (e.g. school leavers) entering the labour force.
Also, the workforce of the future across Canada and in specific industries is expected to require high skills, such as managerial/supervisory positions and jobs requiring post-secondary education such as university/college education or apprenticeship training. However, there will continue to be labour needs at lower skill levels, including low skill work (jobs requiring secondary school education and/or job-specific training) and unskilled work (on-the-job training).
Under Canada’s immigration programs, individuals come to Canada to fill job vacancies and to contribute their skills. It complements other ways to increase the labour force participation rate among the Canadian-born, such as through post-secondary training and education, encouraging traditionally under-represented groups to enter the labour force (e.g. youth, people with disabilities, visible minorities, Aboriginal individuals), and inter-provincial labour mobility.
The economic focus of immigration is an opportunity to explore how best to position current economic programs to support Canada’s economic growth. Research suggests that immigrants who are well placed to support Canada’s economy – and be economically successful themselves – are those with job offers in hand before arriving in Canada. Such candidates also have key attributes such as strong language skills, recognized foreign credentials, Canadian work experience, and who arrived in Canada at a younger age.
Economic Action Plan 2012 committed to strengthening the assessment of foreign credentials, in order to facilitate the integration of skilled workers arriving in Canada. It will reform the Federal Skilled Worker program by eliminating a large backlog of applications received before 2008 and updating the selection system to reflect the importance of age, Canadian work experience and proficiency in Canada’s official languages. A new federal skilled trades program will be created, and the Canadian Experience Class will be modified to enable more temporary foreign workers and international students with skilled work experience and/or education in Canada to apply for permanent residence. It will also strengthen the Provincial Nominee Program by focusing on economic immigration streams in order to respond quickly to regional labour market demand. It also provides flexibility to quickly create new time-limited classes within the economic category to help attract the best from the world to Canada. The business immigration program will be improved by targeting more active investment in Canadian companies geared towards growth, and more innovative entrepreneurs.
CIC is also working towards creating a pool of “employment ready” prospective immigrants as announced in the Economic Action Plan 2012, to make Canada’s immigration system nimbler, more flexible and more responsive to modern labour market realities. This would allow Canada to select the best and most in-demand applicants, rather than the first individuals to submit their applications. CIC will be exploring approaches to developing this pool with employers and provinces and territories.
These issues point to key questions regarding economic immigration. What role can immigration play to support Canada’s economy? How can we balance existing economic and labour needs with future needs, as well as between different regions and industries in Canada? How should employers and provinces and territories be engaged to facilitate economic immigration?
This document has introduced some of the key considerations and challenges related to setting immigration levels and mix. As the Levels Plan is the key strategic tool for balancing these challenges for immigration, your views are sought on how CIC should set immigration levels and mix.
Annex A: 2012 Immigration Levels Plan (from the 2011 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration)
|Federal Selected Economic Programs, Provincial/Territorial Nominees, Family, Refugees and Others||206,500||228,300|
|Quebec Selected Skilled Worker||31,000||34,000|
Annex B: Permanent Residents Admissions to Canada, between 2001 to 2010
|Spouses and partners||39,403||34,197||39,680||44,227||45,458||45,305||44,912||44,209||43,901||40,764|
|Sons and daughters||3,932||3,645||3,618||3,037||3,232||3,191||3,338||3,254||3,025||2,955|
|Parents and grandparents||21,341||22,245||19,385||12,733||12,475||20,005||15,813||16,600||17,178||15,324|
|Skilled workers - p.a.*||58,910||52,974||45,377||47,894||52,269||44,161||41,251||43,361||40,733||48,821|
|Skilled workers - s.d.**||78,321||69,756||59,847||65,557||77,969||61,782||56,601||60,373||55,220||70,536|
|Canadian experience class - p.a.*||1,775||2,532|
|Canadian experience class - s.d.**||770||1,385|
|Entrepreneurs - p.a.*||1,608||1,176||781||668||750||820||580||446||370||291|
|Entrepreneurs - s.d.**||4,479||3,302||2,197||1,799||2,098||2,273||1,577||1,255||945||796|
|Self-employed - p.a.*||705||636||446||366||302||320||204||164||181||174|
|Self-employed - s.d.**||1,451||1,271||981||824||714||632||375||341||358||326|
|Investors - p.a.*||1,768||1,234||972||1,671||2,591||2,201||2,025||2,832||2,872||3,223|
|Investors - s.d.**||4,574||3,402||2,723||4,428||7,020||5,830||5,420||7,370||7,434||8,492|
|Provincial/territorial nominees - p.a.*||410||680||1,417||2,086||2,643||4,672||6,329||8,343||11,801||13,856|
|Provincial/territorial nominees - s.d.**||864||1,447||3,001||4,162||5,404||8,664||10,765||14,075||18,578||22,572|
|Live-in caregivers - p.a.*||1,874||1,521||2,230||2,496||3,063||3,547||3,433||6,157||6,273||7,664|
|Live-in caregivers - s.d.**||753||464||1,075||1,796||1,489||3,348||2,685||4,354||6,181||6,245|
|Privately sponsored refugees||3,576||3,041||3,252||3,116||2,976||3,338||3,588||3,512||5,036||4,833|
|Refugees landed in Canada||11,897||10,546||11,264||15,901||19,935||15,884||11,696||6,994||7,206||9,041|
|Retirees, DROC and PDRCC***||206||--||79||53||20||23||15||2||4||0|
|Temporary resident permit holders||0||--||97||148||123||136||107||113||106||109|
|H and C**** cases||0||618||2,376||2,984||3,110||4,312||4,346||3,452||3,142||2,900|
|Other H and C cases outside the family class / Public Policy||0||3,027||6,645||3,930||3,524||5,902||6,844||7,168||7,374||5,836|
|Category not stated||1||0||1||0||2||2||1||2||1||7|
**spouses and dependants
*** Deferred removal orders class and post-determination refugee claimants in Canada
****Humanitarian and Compassionate
Annex C: Permanent residents as a percentage of Canada’s population
|% of Population||0.2||0.4||0.6||0.6||0.7||0.6||0.3||0.3||0.4||0.5|
|% of Population||0.7||0.8||1.0||1.3||1.0||0.7||0.6||0.7||0.7||1.0|
|% of Population||0.9||1.1||2.6||3.0||2.3||1.7||1.5||1.8||1.9||1.9|
|% of Population||1.6||1.7||0.6||0.6||0.4||0.4||0.3||0.4||0.6||0.9|
|% of Population||0.8||1.0||1.6||2.5||2.3||2.4||3.5||4.2||2.2||2.6|
|% of Population||4.1||4.6||5.1||5.3||1.9||0.4||0.7||0.9||0.5||1.3|
|% of Population||1.6||1.0||0.7||1.5||1.4||0.9||1.4||1.6||1.7||1.6|
|% of Population||1.0||0.3||0.2||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.2||0.2|
|% of Population||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.2||0.6||0.5||1.0||0.7|
|% of Population||0.5||1.4||1.1||1.1||1.0||0.7||1.0||1.7||0.7||0.6|
|% of Population||0.6||0.4||0.4||0.5||0.6||0.7||1.0||1.1||0.9||0.8|
|% of Population||0.7||0.6||0.6||0.8||1.0||0.8||0.6||0.5||0.4||0.5|
|% of Population||0.6||0.5||0.5||0.4||0.3||0.3||0.4||0.6||0.6||0.7|
|% of Population||0.8||0.8||0.9||0.9||0.8||0.7||0.8||0.7||0.6||0.6|
|% of Population||0.7||0.8||0.7||0.7||0.7||0.8||0.8||0.7||0.7||0.7|
|% of Population||0.8|
Annex D: Break down and description of current immigration programs
The immigration programs mix breakdown in the 2012 Levels Plan is the following:
- About 62% of the immigrants who come to Canada are in the economic class.
- About 26% come in the family class.
- The remaining approximately 13% are primarily refugees but includes others admitted for humanitarian and compassionate reasons.
It is worth noting that the economic category includes the principal applicants (the individual on the application whose skills and qualifications will be assessed) and their spouse/partner and dependants. Principal applicants make up around 40% of the economic category, while spouses/partners and dependants are around 60%.
Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program
The Federal Skilled Worker Program is designed to supply skilled individuals to Canada’s labour market over the medium to long term, as well as those with job offers to begin work once they arrive in Canada. Selection is based on a points system, where education, age, experience, job offer in Canada, and adaptability are assessed. These traits help ensure that newcomers under this program have high level skills (e.g. managerial skills and/or university or college education), flexibility and adaptability to find success in Canada’s labour market.
The FSW Program is undergoing many changes. A new eligibility stream was launched in November 2011 to attract and retain those who are pursuing their doctoral degree in Canada or have recently graduated from a Canadian doctoral program. A new federal skilled trades program is expected to be introduced through legislative changes in early 2013.
Since November 2008, CIC has worked to better align the processing of FSW applications with Canada’s labour market needs and to address the backlog of applications in the program. The intake of new FSW applications have been managed by Ministerial Instructions since 2008, and at the end of June 2012, a pause on new intake was announced to allow CIC to continue to make important changes to the program before accepting more applications. Significant action on the FSW backlog was announced in Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012, where most applications in the FSW backlog received before February 27, 2008 will be terminated and fees returned. This will significantly support a faster and more flexible program in the coming years.
Quebec Skilled Workers and Business Immigrants selected by Quebec
Under the authority of the Canada-Quebec Accord, Quebec sets its own levels and selects its own skilled workers and business immigrants. Selection criteria for the former generally align with the attributes assessed under the Federal Skilled Worker Program; criteria for the latter, particularly investors, are harmonized with the federal program. The Government of Canada retains authority for overall levels-setting as well as for admissibility to Canada.
Provincial and Territorial Nominee Program (PNP)
The Provincial Nominee Program was created to respond to regional/provincial requirements for workers. It is designed to be responsive to the immediate and specific needs of the provinces and territories, reflecting the diverse industrial structure across jurisdictions. Currently, there are PN agreements in place for all jurisdictions (except Nunavut, and Quebec, which manages its own immigration as per the Canada-Quebec Accord), offering more than 50 separate streams for admission. There are various PN streams, including streams that require job offers from Canadian employers, facilitate permanent residency by temporary foreign workers at all skill levels or international students, and to attract investors.
Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
The Canadian Experience Class was created in 2008 to allow those with Canadian experience to transition to permanent resident status. Research has demonstrated that those with Canadian education and/or work experience have far better outcomes in the labour market. The CEC is open to certain skilled temporary foreign workers and international foreign students who have Canadian work experience and who meet a minimum language requirement. The Economic Action Plan 2012 commits to improving this program with further incentives to retain those with Canadian work or education experience.
The business program – for investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals – is intended to contribute to innovation, bring investment to Canada, and bring individuals with a proven track record in business that will take risks and create new businesses. The intake of new applications by this program has been managed by Ministerial Instructions since 2008, including the pause announced at the end of June 2012 on any new intake for the Immigrant Investor Program. The business program is being redesigned to target more active investment and more innovative entrepreneurs.
The Live-In Caregiver Program is open to temporary residents, who first come to Canada to contribute their skills and experience in caregiving. Those who meet certain work criteria as a live-in caregiver within four years of arriving in Canada may apply for permanent residence, for themselves, their spouse/partner and eligible dependants. The permanent program was created in 1993 and application volumes are linked with the number of live-in caregivers who come initially as temporary workers. As volumes in the temporary stream continue to rise, there will be increasing volumes of applications for permanent residency. At the end of 2011, CIC issued open work permits to those who have applied for permanent residency but are waiting for processing.
Spouses, Partners and Children
Canadian citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18 may sponsor their immediate family members to be permanent residents in Canada, subject to sponsorship agreements of three (for spouses/partners and dependent children) to ten years (for parents and grandparents).
Parents and Grandparents
Canada is one of a few countries that have a family reunification program for parents and grandparents. In November 2011, CIC launched the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification to address the growing backlog of application in the Parents and Grandparents Program. The Action Plan includes increasing the levels of annual admissions for this program to help draw down the backlog; launching the Super Visa to facilitate extended visits by non-Canadian parents and grandparents to Canada; consulting Canadians on how to redesign the stream; and a temporary pause on the acceptance of new applications while CIC processes sponsorship applications already in the backlog.
Refugee and Humanitarian Class (refugees, asylum claimants, and those admitted on humanitarian and compassionate grounds)
The remaining approximately 13% of immigrants to Canada arrive under the refugee and humanitarian class.
Canada has two major refugee categories: resettled refugees, (including those sponsored from abroad by the Government as recommended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and those sponsored by private organizations); and those who make a refugee claim from within Canada. There are also categories to address exceptional humanitarian situations.
Canada has a long-standing humanitarian tradition of resettling refugees in Canada for whom no other durable or lasting solution is available (i.e., they can’t return home and they can’t stay where they are). In addition, Canada is legally obligated to consider refugee claims made from within Canada.
The Government is making changes to both major refugee categories. First, the Government is increasing the number of refugees resettled each year. By 2013, Canada will resettle up to 14,500 refugees annually.
Secondly, changes to the in-Canada refugee system are coming since both the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act received Royal Assent. Once these changes come into effect, refugee claims made in Canada will be decided more quickly which means that those who are truly in need will get our protection faster. Likewise, those who do not need our protection will be removed from Canada faster.
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