Canada sets record-breaking new immigration targets with international graduates a priority
- Canada has set record-breaking new targets for immigration, aiming to welcome more than 450,000 permanent residents in 2024 alone
- From now through 2024, more than a million people from all over the world will become Canadians
- International students are a top priority in the new targets, and the immigration streams that accommodate their applications will contribute more than half of new permanent residents
- Canada is seeing a surge of international student applications for higher education after a period of enrolment declines in the pandemic
Canada is expanding its immigration programme to accept larger numbers of new permanent residents, and this means more opportunities for international students in the country to remain after graduating from Canadian higher education institutions.
Overall, the Canadian government’s targets – as detailed in the 2022‒2024 Immigration Levels Plan – are to welcome 431,645 permanent residents in 2022, 447,055 in 2023, and 451,000 in 2024. These are the highest targets ever set for Canadian immigration. In 2021, more than 405,000 people from all over the world became new permanent residents, the highest number ever welcomed in a single year in Canadian history.
Categories for international students will lead the expansion
The planned increase will largely be driven by increased caps in the “Federal High Skilled” category, which accommodates the applications of international graduates of Canadian institutions. In that category, the number of spaces will increase from 55,900 this year to 111,500 in 2024. The immigration streams that will contribute to the expansion are already in use for international graduates: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class.
The new immigration targets are designed with two main priorities in mind: (1) to attract the most talented students and workers to join the Canadian labour market and (2) to help refugees (particularly from Afghanistan) to make a new, safer home in Canada. In a statement to CIC News, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser explained:
“This levels plan is a balance of needs for our country and our international obligations. It focuses on attracting skilled workers who will contribute to Canada’s economy and tackle the labour shortage, while recognising the importance of family reunification, and helping the world’s most vulnerable populations through refugee resettlement. Our focus remains on supporting our economic resurgence through increased retention of newcomers in regions with real economic, labour and demographic challenges. I’m proud of what Canada has achieved thus far, and I want wait to see how newcomers will continue to make Canada a top destination of choice.”
Immigration plan designed to help fill skills gaps
Immigration is fundamental to Canada’s economic growth. The Government of Canada notes,
“Immigration already accounts for almost 100% of labour force growth, and with 5 million Canadians set to retire by the end of this decade, the worker to retiree ratio will drop down to only 3:1. This is a clear sign that we have a strong economic need for increased immigration.”
The government announced a new immigration stream last year specifically focused on international students and workers with expertise in sectors where there are labour market skills gaps. In announcing the new Temporary to Permanent Residence Stream (TR2PR) stream, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino said:
“The pandemic has shone a bright light on the incredible contributions of newcomers. These new policies will help those with a temporary status to plan their future in Canada, play a key role in our economic recovery and help us build back better. Our message to them is simple: your status may be temporary, but your contributions are lasting—and we want you to stay.”
The main streams used by international students to become permanent residents of Canada will contribute more than half of new permanent residents.
At this time, Canadian immigration officials have reduced some of the spaces in the Express Entry stream to free up room in the TR2PR stream – a development of note for prospective international students deciding what to study when they come to Canada, as the TR2PR stream is specifically focused on certain sectors and occupations.
The Provincial Nominee Program, through which provinces can invite international students to immigrate, will grow from 83,500 spaces in 2022 to 93,000 in 2024.
A better, more streamlined immigration system
A slow and unpredictable processing system for immigrants has been the subject of frustration among applicants for Canadian residency for some time. As an article by Canadian immigration law firm Canadim notes,
“During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship) staff were on leave. IRCC was also unable to finalise many permanent residence applications due to the travel restrictions in place. These effects of the pandemic resulted in a massive application backlog. As of October 2021, IRCC had a backlog of about 1.8 million applications.”
However, the firm also explains that,
“Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, it also paved the way for a more efficient immigration system. In the last quarter, IRCC has admitted more newcomers per month than ever seen in Canadian history.”
The Government of Canada has invested CDN$85 million to clear application backlogs and to support a range of other improvements aimed at “creating the predictable processing times that our clients expect and deserve.” Through a suite of modernisation initiatives including online application systems and advanced data analytics, the government will “further increase processing capacity and plan to make 147,000 permanent residence final decisions in the first quarter of 2022 – doubling what was done in the same period last year.”
Canadian colleges to play a key role
Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) says that colleges are ideally poised to help international students to become important contributors to Canada’s economy:
“They serve as a one-stop shop for skilled newcomers looking to quickly integrate into the labour market and provide critical support, including language training, employment services, and connections to community employers. They also offer specialised academic upgrading programs to international and newcomer students, and a variety of reskilling and upskilling options tailored to their local employment market.”
CICan proposes two excellent ideas to further the likelihood that international students can quickly adjust to life in Canada and enter the labour market:
“First, we must develop a national employment pipeline for skilled newcomers with an emphasis on a national workplace-focused language training programme. This needs to include work-integrated learning opportunities and wraparound support services that prepare new arrivals for life in Canada and facilitate rapid and meaningful labour market integration, while accounting for their wellbeing and mental health.
We should also encourage the development of employer-recognised national microcredentials that focus on in-demand skills. With microcredentials gaining momentum at colleges and institutes across Canada, we have an opportunity to develop flexible programmes adapted to the needs of newcomers.”
Surge of new international students
In late-2021, IRCC reported more than 730,000 new student permit applications through August 2021, roughly a 27% increase over the same period in 2019. The growth in 2021 application volumes reflects broader enrolment trends in recent years. Roughly 22% of all applications year-to-date 2021 were from Indian students, with other major pre-pandemic growth markets – including Bangladesh, Colombia, Iran, Nigeria, Philippines, and Vietnam – showing renewed strength as well.
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