Canada Immigration News throughout 2017

Canada Immigration News throughout 2017

Canada Immigration News throughout 2017

Canada Immigration News throughout 2017

Throughout 2017, Canada has cemented its position of one of the most welcoming nations in the world for newcomers.

Indeed, as other nations, including the US, the UK, and Australia quickly move towards more isolationists, protectionist policies, Canada is now arguably the most welcoming destination of all. Canada is going out into the world to find workers, students, immigrants, and families who can make a positive contribution to the Canadian economy and society. The government’s new multi-year immigration plan shows that Canada has every intention of continuing this positive immigration policy over the coming years.

If you are looking to move to Canada, or are already here and want to settle permanently, this Canada immigration news review of 2017 will also set the scene for what promises to be a bright future for aspiring immigrants and new arrivals.

If you are not inclined to read it in full, you can simply skip to the relevant sections of our Canada immigration news review of 2017 which are of particular interest to you.

Express Entry

Canada Immigration News throughout 2017

Canada Immigration News throughout 2017

Canada’s main economic immigration system, Express Entry, went from strength to strength in 2017. Not only were more candidates invited to apply for permanent residence than ever before, but tweaks made to the system in late 2016 and June of this year have allowed a more diverse range of candidates to realize their dreams through Express Entry.

Canada immigration news review of 2017In total, 86,023 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) have been issued in 2017, dwarfing the figures for 2016 (33,782) and 2015 (31,063). This increase in ITAs was a major contributing factor in the decrease in the number of Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points required by candidates to receive an ITA.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the government department that oversees Express Entry, has invited certain Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC) candidates with CRS scores as low as 199 in program-specific draws. Provincial nominees have also benefited from program-specific draws.

For Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates, the record low CRS threshold was 413, in a draw that took place in May. Before 2017, the record low CRS threshold was 450.

Another contributing factor that has allowed more people to succeed has been the series of improvements made to Express Entry by IRCC. Just over a year ago, changes made to Express Entry by IRCC were designed to invite more candidates based on factors such as their education level, experience, and skills, with less emphasis on whether they had a job offer in Canada. At the same time, IRCC made it easier for foreign workers in Canada to obtain CRS points for a job offer even if they did not have a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Candidates who graduated in Canada also benefited from additional points following those changes.

IRCC made further changes to Express Entry in June, with the introduction of additional points for candidates with a sibling in Canada. Moreover, candidates with French ability are now also able to claim extra points as Canada looks to increase the number of French speakers moving to locations across the country.

Over the coming years, Express Entry will continue to be the main driver of economic immigration to Canada. Speaking at the launch of the government’s immigration plan in November, Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen stated that “the number of skilled immigrants we select through the federal Express Entry System will grow over the next three years, which will mean that more highly skilled talent will be able to arrive in our country faster for our labour markets.”

Provincial Nominee Programs

The Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are another area of growth in Canada’s economic immigration system. A target to settle around 55,000 new permanent residents has been set for 2018, slightly higher than the 2017 target. By 2020, the target will be 67,800 for the year.

Through the PNPs, Canadian provinces can identify and nominate people who demonstrate the ability to settle into the local labour market. Throughout 2017, provinces from coast to coast expanded and diversified their immigration programs.

An important component of the PNPs is how provinces can align a portion of their programs with Express Entry, thus allowing candidates to improve their ranking and expedite their immigration to Canada.

Perhaps the most active province over the course of the year has been Ontario. There are now three Express Entry-aligned streams within the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP), with the Human Capital Priorities stream proving particularly popular. Other streams for candidates with French ability and candidates with trades experience in Ontario are also available.

Under a strategy rolled out in June, the OINP’s removed one of the requirements for Human Capital Priorities stream, namely the requirement for candidates to have at least 400 CRS points. This exception was only for candidates with experience in one of 15 specific IT occupations. Later in the year it was revealed that IT workers made up the majority of OINP nominees this year.

British Columbia (BC) has also been looking for international talent to enter its IT/tech sector. BC launched a tech pilot program in August. Through this pilot, workers in any of 32 listed eligible occupations may be eligible to immigrate under the BC Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP). Apart from focusing on the tech sector, the BC PNP has also continued to invite a broad range of workers, graduates, and entrepreneurs to make BC their permanent home.

Saskatchewan has also been welcoming applications under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP). The popular SINP International Skilled Worker: Express Entry category has opened for new applications on five occasions in 2017, and the Occupations In-Demand category (not aligned with Express Entry) has opened three times. An expanded eligible occupations list was unveiled during the summer, allowing more people the opportunity to immigrate under the SINP. The new list includes occupations in business, sciences, agriculture, engineering, trades, IT, and healthcare.

Staying out west, Alberta recently announced that following a successful year during which all 5,500 nominations were issued, it would soon be launching two new streams, namely the Opportunity stream and an Express Entry stream, to replace most of the existing options under the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP).

Other provinces, including the Atlantic provinces, have also been active throughout the year, bringing in newcomers through a wide variety of PNP streams.

Family Sponsorship

Canada family sponsorship

Canada family sponsorship

Canada’s generous family sponsorship programs allow Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor eligible foreign relatives. The sponsored person may be a spouse, common-law partner, parent, grandparent, or dependent child.

Over the course of 2017, the government has made great progress in coming good on its promise to reduce processing times for spouses and common-law partners seeking permanent residence from within Canada. To much media fanfare, former Minister of Immigration John McCallum announced last December that processing times would be brought to under 12 months.

Another positive development for these applicants came more recently when in December the government renewed a work permit pilot program that allows sponsored applicants to work while awaiting news on their application.

The government has also worked on reducing the backlog of applications under the Parent and Grandparent Program, while also welcoming new applications for the program through a new lottery system introduced last winter.

International Experience Canada (IEC)

The 2017 IEC season closed in late September. Citizens of Australia once again benefitted from the country’s unlimited quota of work permits, with almost 16,000 invitations being sent across its three pools.

In the UK, demand once again exceeded supply. The effects were cushioned by a 40% increase in the quota during 2017, from 5,000 to 7,000. Some 5,569 eligible UK candidates were still awaiting an invitation by the close of the season, however.

In Ireland, there were still 1,900 working holiday spots available by the close of the IEC season. Uptake of the Young Professionals and International Co-Op permits remains low, with Irish citizens availing of only 50 spots from these two pools combined.

The first rounds of invitations for the 2018 season were sent on November 20. Citizens of Poland and Spain won’t have to wait too much longer for their pools to open, as IRCC has confirmed the first round of invitations will be sent on the week beginning January 8, 2018. For a full breakdown of the latest figures, see our Working Holiday Canada News Hub.


Arguably the biggest single development over the course of 2017 was the passage into law of Bill C-6, amending Canada’s Citizenship Act. This legislation was finally passed in June, though many of its key components only came into effect in October.

Canadian citizenship is now easier and quicker to obtain than previously. Permanent residents now need three years of residency in order to become eligible, down from four, and they can include up to one year of temporary residence in Canada (such as on a work permit or as a student) towards this requirement. These important changes reduce the waiting time for many residents of Canada to become eligible for citizenship, in many cases from four years down to two years.

Other changes mean that applicants no longer have to be physically present in Canada for 183 days in four out of the six years preceding their application, as was the case previously.

In late December, the government of Canada revealed that the number of citizenship applications submitted immediately after these changes came into effect in October increased dramatically. Whereas there was an average of just over 3,500 applications submitted per week over the sixth months prior to the changes, there were 17,500 applications in the first week following the changes, with a further 12,530 the subsequent week. Data for the final two months of the year is not available, but it is likely that the rate of applications has remained buoyant as more people look to transition to citizenship under the quicker, simpler process now being used.

The future

As Brexit looms and US President Trump’s immigration rhetoric finds legislative support, Canada is moving in the opposite direction.

Foreign workers, students, and new permanent residents are turning to Canada as a place to grow their careers and raise their families, and it’s easy to see why. Canada’s cities and communities are, by and large, safe places with economic opportunities available to those willing to work hard. The government of Canada plans on bringing in around one million new immigrants over the next three years, with many more to arrive on work permits and study permits.

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EB-5 Investment Visa

EB-5 Investment Visa

EB-5 Investment Visa

EB-5 Investment Visa

EB-5 visa applicants are typically required to make either a $500,000 or $1 million capital investment amount into a U.S. commercial enterprise. Investment can take the form of cash in the EB-5 visa, inventory, equipment, secured indebtedness, tangible property, or based on U.S. dollar fair-market value cash will be evaluated.

EB-5 Job Creation Requirements

The USCIS requires that EB-5 investments result in the creation of 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. After the investor has received their conditional permanent residency the jobs must be created within the two year period. In some cases, the investor must be able to prove that their investment led to the creation of direct jobs for employees who work directly within the commercial entity that received the investment. However, the EB-5 investor may only have to show that 10 full-time indirect or induced jobs were created if the investment was made in a regional center. Indirect jobs are those created in businesses that supply goods or services to the EB-5 project. Induced jobs are jobs created within the greater community as a result of income being spent by EB-5 project employees.

EB-5 Business Entities

There are numerous types of business entities in which an EB-5 visa applicant can invest. In broad, you can invest directly in a new commercial enterprise or in a regional center. New commercial enterprises are lawful for-profit entities that can take one of many different business structures. Such business structures include corporations, general partnerships or limited, sole proprietorships, business trusts, or other privately or publicly owned business structures. After November 29, 1990 all new commercial enterprises must have been established.

However, older commercial enterprises may qualify if the investment leads to a 40-percent increase in the number of employees or net worth, or if an older business is restructured to such a degree that a new commercial enterprise results. In addition to individual business enterprises, EB-5 visa applicants can also invest in EB-5 Regional Centers. Regional centers administer EB-5 projects. It may be more advantageous for an investor to invest in a regional center-run project because the investor will not have to independently set up the EB-5 projects.

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Express Entry starts to shine, Provincial Nominee Programs innovate

Express Entry starts to shine, Provincial Nominee Programs innovate and Canada prioritizes family reunification

Express Entry starts to shine, Provincial Nominee Programs innovate and Canada prioritizes family reunification

Express Entry starts to shine, Provincial Nominee Programs innovate and Canada prioritizes family reunification

A pivotal year in Canadian immigration

To say 2017 was a busy year for Canadian immigration would be a bit like saying Mozart was pretty good at piano.

From the thousands of asylum seekers from Haiti and other countries fleeing uncertainty in the United States to the record numbers posted by Canada’s Express Entry selection system, 2017 saw Canada’s immigration system running at full throttle all year long.

In many ways, Canada had a much different year than its continental neighbor, the United States, where President Donald Trump spoke of immigration as a threat to both national security and jobs for American citizens.

From Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on down, Canada promoted a message of inclusivity and opportunity that played out throughout the year at both the federal and provincial levels.

Express Entry

Of all the big immigration stories in 2017, Canada’s Express Entry system led the way.

The year started to see the true potential of the federal government’s two-year-old economic immigration system, which issued 86,023 Invitations to Apply (ITA) to candidates in its three categories — more than twice the 33,782 ITAs issued in 2016.

ITAs are issued in accordance with Express Entry’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), which provides a score to eligible candidates based on criteria ranging from education and proficiency in English to their skilled work experience.

The sharp rise in ITAs issued in 2017 corresponded with significant drops in the cut-off CRS scores over the previous year, whose lowest score was 453. While cut-off scores in the 430s and 440s were most common in 2017, unprecedented lows of 415 and even 413 were seen at various points. Class-specific draws for candidates in the Federal Skilled Trades Class in May and November pushed CRS scores to 199 and 241 respectively.

Contributing to the drop in the CRS cut-off scores in 2017 was a change introduced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in November 2016 that reduced the number of points awarded for a job offer to between 50 and 200, down from 600. The impact of this change was evident in the cut-off scores for draws in the first half of 2017, which dropped steadily from 468 on January 4 down to 415 in April and finally 413 in May.

IRCC explained that the reduction in points for a job offer was meant to lend more weight to so-called human capital factors like education, language and skilled work experience. This emphasis was enhanced with the introduction of additional CRS points for studies in Canada, a sibling living in Canada, and French language proficiency.

Provincial Nominee Programs

The second big story of 2017 was the growing importance of Canada’s Provincial Nominee Programs or PNPs. These increasingly popular fast-track programs allow participating provinces and territories to nominate a set number of immigrants each year. In 2017, the federal government had a target of 51,000 nominations under Canada’s various PNPs.

Provincial and territorial governments have been using these programs more effectively and efficiently in recent years to welcome newcomers to their region. Each PNP is tailored to the province or territory’s specific needs and allows it to select nominees who can fill labour shortages and settle quickly.

Many PNPs contain at least one immigration stream aligned with the federal Express Entry system,  and they were especially active in 2017.

The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program’s Human Capital Priorities stream was a case in point. This innovative stream enables Ontario to search the Express Entry pool and select skilled workers with at least 400 CRS points and the required education, work experience, language ability, and other characteristics to successfully establish themselves in the province.

This stream issued Notifications of Interest (NOIs) on a number of occasions in 2017, including a special opening in July that waived the requirement to have at least 400 CRS points for Express Entry candidates with work experience in a number of Information and Communications Technology-related occupations.

Ontario also introduced the new Express Entry Skilled Trades Stream in May to target skilled trades workers who meet labour market needs in the province’s construction and agricultural sectors.

Express Entry-aligned programs in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia were also quite active in 2017. The Express Entry component of Saskatchewan’s International Skilled Worker category opened on five occasions in 2017 to a total of 3,200 applicants wishing to obtain a provincial nomination. On Canada’s East Coast, the Nova Scotia Demand: Express Entry Stream opened on three occasions in 2017. In each of those instances, the intake limit for this first-come, first-served stream was reached quickly and the intake closed later the same day.

With the benefits of Express Entry-aligned PNP streams becoming clearer each year, it comes as no surprise that two of the few provinces without one, Alberta and Manitoba, announced in 2017 that they would be introducing an Express Entry-aligned option in the new year.

Manitoba announced the creation of its Express Entry Pathway as part of a general overhaul of the province’s immigrant nomination program that was unveiled on November 15. A month earlier, Alberta laid out its plans for an Express Entry option alongside a more general streamlining of its PNP that’s due to take effect in 2018.

Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program

The Atlantic provinces of Canada also came together with the federal government to launch a new regionally focused immigration program called the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP).

Whereas PNPs address the labour needs of a single province or territory, the AIPP is an innovative, region-based first that involves the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

All four provinces face labour and population retention challenges, which the AIPP’s three programs aim to address. Introduced in March 2017, the AIPP was expected to facilitate the entry of a maximum 2,000 principal immigrants into Atlantic Canada by the end of the year.

Family Reunification

Helping families to reunite in Canada is a stated priority for the current federal government and the past year saw a number of important changes that favour this end.

In August, IRCC said it was on track to welcome 84,000 new permanent residents selected on the basis of their family relationship to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. IRCC said this represents more than 25 percent of planned immigration to Canada for 2017 and an increase of five percent over 2016 Family Class immigration levels.

Of that 84,000 new permanent residents, 64,000 were spouses, common-law partners and children and 20,000 were parents and grandparents.

IRCC’s promise to halve processing times for inland sponsorships for spouses and common-law partners from more than 24 to 12 months helped to facilitate the application process. Sponsored spouses and common-law partners also benefited from IRCC’s decision to extend its Open Work Permit Pilot that lets them work in Canada while waiting for their applications to be processed. In April, the federal government also abolished conditional permanent residence status for sponsored spouses and common-law partners.

IRCC also reopened its Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) in 2017 to accept 10,000 new applications. The government also implemented a new online Interest to Sponsor form to streamline the process along with a random selection process to make it more transparent and fair.

One last but no less significant change to the rules governing family sponsorships was IRCC’s move in October to increase the age of dependents from 19 to under 22.

Citizenship made easier

In October, new rules took effect to help expedite the process of transitioning from Canadian permanent resident status to Canadian citizenship. Among the changes is the new stipulation that permanent residents need to accumulate three years of residency out of five, instead of four years out of six. Also, permanent residents who spent time in Canada as a foreign worker, international student, or protected person before transitioning to permanent residence can now count a portion of this time towards the residency days requirement, where each day spent in Canada on temporary status counts as half a day, up to a maximum of 365 days.

Multi-Year Levels Plan

IRCC capped off 2017 with the Nov. 1 unveiling of its Multi-Year Immigration Plan for the years 2018 through 2020. Heralded by Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen as “the most ambitious immigration levels in recent Canadian history,” the plan would see up to a million new immigrants settle in Canada over its three-year span.

Under the plan, a target of 310,000 new permanent residents will settle in Canada in 2018 across all immigration categories. This target will be increased to 330,000 newcomers in 2019, with a further 340,000 to settle in 2020.

Targets under the new plan would see the number of economic immigrants granted permanent residence through the three Express Entry categories increase by nearly 20 percent over 2017, from 71,000 to 85,800 in 2020. Provincial Nomination Program allotment targets would also rise by 32 percent and targets for Family Class immigrants would increase by a little over eight percent over those of this past year.

Given these numbers, the first six months of 2018 are bound to be big ones for Canadian immigration, and Express Entry in particular. Looking back at 2017, this period saw a big run in ITAs from the Express Entry pool and a sharp drop in CRS scores. With higher targets set for 2018, that could mean more draws and even lower cut-off scores.

If that’s the case, 2018 could be the year many Express Entry candidates have been waiting for.

“The past year was a momentous one for Canadian immigration,” said Attorney David Cohen, senior partner at the immigration law firm Campbell, Cohen. “The many changes we saw in Canadian immigration policy this year reflect a welcome understanding that immigration is not just an opportunity for individual immigrants and their families, but for Canadian society as a whole.”

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