Canadian Immigration Law: 2017 Year in Review

Year in review

As an immigration law firm assisting those seeking to visit or immigrate to Canada and the United States, we have been well-placed to observe the significant changes in each country which have occurred over the past year.

Policy and rhetoric in the United States have been marked by increased hostility to immigration, in particular towards humanitarian and family reunification programs. President Donald Trump’s immigration policies have sparked controversy and fear, but US immigration policy is fluid and profoundly uncertain due to multiple court challenges and ongoing Congressional debate.

2017 has seen Canadian immigration policy accelerate its divergence from that of its southern neighbour. Canada has made several changes over the past year to actively solicit immigrants from across the globe, and the Government of Canada’s public statements have sought to accentuate Canada’s diversity and continued openness to immigrants and refugees.

Some of the most significant changes to Canada’s immigration policies and programs in the past year have included:

  1. Changes to Canadian Citizenship Rules
  2. Change in Age of Dependent Child from 18 to 21 years of age
  3. Changes to Express Entry
  4. The Global Skills Strategy program
  5. Atlantic Immigration Pilot
  6. New Work Permit Options for Canadian and EU Citizens
  7. Visa Requirements for Mexico, Bulgaria and Romania lifted


Changes to Canadian Citizenship Rules

On October 11, 2017, new rules took effect to expedite the process of transitioning from Canadian permanent resident status to Canadian citizenship. These include:

  • The amount of time applicants must be physically present in Canada has decreased. Previously permanent residents had to accumulate four years of residency out of six, but now it is three years out of five
  • The requirement that applicants be physically present in Canada for 183 days in four out of the six years preceding their application is repealed. Applicants will no longer have to meet this requirement and can now travel for things such as work or education
  • A portion of time spent in Canada before becoming a permanent resident will count toward residency requirements
  • Applicants may now count each day they were physically present in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum credit of 365 days
  • The age range for language and knowledge requirements is being reduced. Only permanent residents between 18 and 54 years will have to meet the language and knowledge requirements


Change in Age of Dependent Child from 18 to 21 years of age

On October 24, 2017, IRCC increased the maximum age of a dependent child who may be included on an application to immigrate to Canada from under 19 years of age, to under 22 years of age.

Principal applicants can now include dependent children 21 years old and younger, who are not married or in common-law relationships, in their applications for Canadian permanent residence. Previously, the maximum age of a dependent child was 18.

Changes to Express Entry

The Express Entry program had a very successful year in 2017. There were 86,043 Invitations to Apply (ITS) issued, compared to 33,782 in 2016 and 31,018 in 2015. The early part of the year saw Invitation to Apply (ITA) numbers regularly exceeding 3,000, with the minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score falling to a record low 413 in the draw on May 31, 2017.

On June 6, 2017, Express Entry introduced additional points for candidates with siblings in Canada, as well as French-speaking candidates which allowed a more diverse range of candidates to be able to apply. In addition, registration in the Canada Job Bank became a voluntary requirement as of June.

The Global Skills Strategy program

On June 12, 2017, the Government of Canada launched the much-anticipated Global Skills Strategy, a new stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program which aims to help innovative companies acquire highly skilled talent more quickly.

Highlight’s of the Global Skills Strategy include the following:

  1. Two-week processing standard for work permits under the Global Skills Strategy if the Canadian employer is:
    1. Referred to the Global Talent Stream by a designated partner, or
    2. Hiring a worker in a position on the Global Talent occupations list
  2. New work permit exemption for certain high-skilled occupations for short stays of 15 days every six months or 30 days every 12 months
  3. New work permit exemption for researchers working on research projects at publicly-funded institutions for stays of 120 days every 12 months

Atlantic Immigration Pilot

In March 2017, IRCC began accepting applications for permanent resident as part of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program. The three-year pilot program aims to attract and retain skilled immigrants in the Atlantic region of Canada: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

There are three categories within the pilot program:

  1. The Atlantic High-Skilled Program (AHSP), targeting candidates with a qualifying job offer for a one-year contract for full-time employment in a position at level 0, A, or B of the National Occupational Classification (NOC);
  2. The Atlantic Intermediate-Skilled Program (AISP), targeting candidates with a qualifying job offer of indeterminate duration for full-time employment in a position at level 0, A, B, or C of the NOC; and
  3. The Atlantic International Graduate Program (AIGP), targeting international graduates of post-secondary study programs of at least two years’ duration, undertaken at a publicly-funded institution in the Atlantic region. Such graduates are also required to have a qualifying job offer.

New Work Permit Options for Canadian and EU Citizens

The Canada-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) — a free trade agreement between Canada, the EU and its member states —came into effect on September 21, 2017.

New Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exemption codes have been created to better facilitate the mobility of labour between Canada and the European Union. CETA includes provisions for the following categories:

  • short-term business visitors (work permit exempt)
  • business visitors for investment purposes (work permit exempt)
  • Investors (work permit required/LMIA exempt)
  • Independent professional and contractual service suppliers (work permit required/LMIA exempt)
  • Intra-corporate (company) transferees (work permit required/LMIA exempt) and spouses (open work permit/LMIA exempt)

Visa Requirements for Brazil, Bulgaria and Romania lifted

On May 1, 2017, citizens of Brazil, Bulgaria and Romania who have held a Canadian visa in the last 10 years or who currently held a valid United States (U.S.) nonimmigrant visa became eligible to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), instead of a visitor visa, to travel to Canada by air. As of December 1, 2017, the Government of Canada extended this to all citizens from Romania and Bulgaria.

The End of Conditional Permanent Residence

In 2012, the government introduced conditional permanent residence requirements for Canadians sponsoring their spouses or partners.

This condition had required couples had to reside together for at least two years for the sponsored partner to retain their status. The rules applied to couples who were not in a relationship for at least two years and who had no children together.

On April 28, 2017, this requirement was lifted, and sponsored spouses and partners will have full permanent resident status upon landing.

Looking Ahead

On November 1, 2017, Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced the Government’s three-year immigration levels plan.

By 2020, Canada will see an increase of 13 per cent in overall immigration numbers, with the vast majority coming under economic programs designed to address skills shortages and gaps in the labour market.The number of economic migrants, family reunification and refugees will climb to 310,000 in 2018, up from 300,000 this year. That number will rise to 330,000 in 2019, then 340,000 in 2020.

Canada’s gradual increase in immigration will assist in alleviating the economic challenges posed by Canada’s aging population and low birth rate.