Canada to offer more immigration pathways to temporary residents. What should companies do?

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One thing that a lot of Canadians may not know is that Canada’s federal government is actually quite worried as to how COVID-19 has not only derailed its current economy, but also one of the pillars of its longer-term economic plan:  immigration.

Both permanent and temporary residents are important aspects of the government’s economic growth plan and both have dropped significantly this year. After a net increase of more than 190,000 temporary residents in 2019, the first half of 2020 has seen that number decrease to 18,221 (just ask relocation companies if they have felt this.). Permanent resident numbers are down 60 per cent year-over-year according to government data.

Recently, All Points posted an announcement  from the Canadian government that they would welcome over 400,000 immigrants per year over the next three years.

Well since that time, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino told Bloomberg that the federal government will make an announcement soon on how they will make it easier for the more than 1 million temporary students, workers and asylum seekers now living in the country to become permanent residents, giving them a path to citizenship.

In short, Canada is actively looking at offering more permanent residence pathways to foreign nationals who are already in the country.

This change is important

The immigration minister said it is important for Canada to identify how it can accelerate pathways to permanent residence for international students, temporary foreign workers, and asylum seekers already in the country. This is necessary to alleviate Canada’s current economic challenges.

The decline in Canada’s immigration levels has slowed population, labour force, and economic growth. Slower immigration has also shown up in the condominium market in Toronto – a solid immigration plan and execution affects so many aspects of our economy.

Canada set to fall short of 2020 immigration target

Based on current trajectory, Canada is set to confirm only 200,000 permanent residents this year, which is much less than the 341,000 target. To give you an idea as to how important immigration is to Canada, our population growth slid to 0.1 percent in the second quarter of 2020, where our annual growth is usually 1 percent – immigration matters, and making it easier to obtain permanent residency is one strategy to ensure continued economic growth.

Will this affect future pathways to permanent residency?

So, the strategy discussed above is dedicated to those who are already temporary residents (amongst whom are those temporary workers that relocation companies help everyday). What about future temporary residents? It is a distinct possibility that future immigration strategies will not only include easier pathways into the country, but once in the country, easier pathways to permanent residency. We should watch this closely.

What tactics could the Federal Government use?

There are a variety of ways the federal government can help greater permanent residency numbers:

  • modifying Express Entry’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) to provide more points for Canadian experience
  • modifying eligibility criteria for federal programs (e.g., reducing the work experience requirement for the Canadian Experience Class)

For future growth, and to both a) fill the hole created by the pandemic; b) to meet the goal of 400,000 newcomers in the next 3 years, All Points would also like to see an extension of the length of temporary work permit durations. This would give expatriates greater ability to gain the Canadian work experience to apply for the Canadian Experience Class program.

The change more than a few years ago now, from the LMO to the LMIA has made life very hard for many companies to hire the people they need and that the Canadian economy needs. The GTS was a welcome salve for this, but only applies to so many types of skills. Either a modest expansion of the GTS to other challenging-to-find skill sets, or finding a better balance between the old LMO process and the new LMIA process would also be welcome.

What should companies do?

In the past, it has been hotly debated by a number of companies as to whether they should support permanent residency costs on behalf of a temporary foreign worker.  Why would you not support this cost? Well, because once they become permanent residents, those once loyal expatriates can work for anyone in the marketplace. A lot of companies are reticent to encourage this.  However, the alternative is work permit extensions (this only goes so far), let them return to their origin country, or they pursue their PR on their own, without help from the company.

Supporting a temporary foreign worker financially in pursuit of his/her permanent residency could be looked at in a different way: it could increase loyalty.  One possible choice for employers is to partially cover the financial costs of permanent resident applications.  This puts responsibility onto the shoulders of the expatriate, but also shows them that the company is invested in them for the long haul.

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