The next three months for immigration

The period between now and the Christmas holidays is typically a busy time for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, with an overhaul of the immigration system and policies. In particular, 2023 was a year of change, with the arrival of a new immigration minister and the introduction of a new immigration system, so there are a few key things to keep an eye on as we approach the end of the year. These include potential changes to Canada's immigration policy priorities and permanent residency levels, as well as updates to parent and grandparent sponsorship, international student, and work permit programs.

First, it's worth noting the new ministerial mandate letter. Prime Minister Trudeau may issue letters of mandate to new ministers in the coming months. Of course, this is not mandatory, so we can't be sure, but the last immigration minister's immigration policy had the same letter of mandate as his or her appointment letter, so this could be pretty significant in terms of judging immigration policy. Mandate letters serve as the prime minister's instructions to his or her ministers on the government's goals for the term, and they will shape the country's immigration policy and provide direction on how the ministry will make policy decisions going forward. In fact, the last mandate letter sent to former Immigration Minister Sean Fraser indicated that the minister wanted to see an aggressive influx of newcomers, with an immigration level plan focused on helping families reunite and Canada's economic growth and post-pandemic recovery.

There will also be an announcement of the Immigration Level Plan 2024-2026. In non-election years, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is legally required to publish an immigration level plan by November 1. The immigration level plan outlines targets for the number of permanent resident admissions and then breaks them down by program: economic, family-based, refugee, and humanitarian. The Immigration Level Plan is one of the most important processes for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, as it is based on the Immigration Level Plan that the organization renews or changes its immigration policies. In fact, the 2023-2025 plan states that by the end of 2025, Canada will accept 500,000 new permanent residents per year, 301,250 of which will be through economic immigration and 114,000 through Express Entry. A new plan for the 2024-2026 level, released in November of this year, will give us a better idea of what the changes will be compared to the last baseline. According to Immigration Minister Mark Miller, the immigration level plan will not decrease, so I would expect it to be similar or slightly higher.

Breaking down the immigration programs by category can help you understand the year-end roundup. Express Entry has undergone some big changes this year: in May, it introduced six new categories for category-based lotteries, where a candidate's skills or occupation are the primary consideration instead of their Composite Ranking System score (CRS) - a significant departure from the traditional immigration system. According to recent reports, there will be a greater emphasis on applicants with STEM work experience in the future, with 28-31% of Express Entry category-based selection invitations this year expected to go to people in STEM occupations such as software developers and data scientists. Of course, we're also running the traditional Express Entry all-program lottery in parallel, and there's no indication that we'll be reducing that significantly.

The Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) is one of the main topics that comes up every time there is a change in immigration ministers. In 2022, sponsors were only eligible to apply if they were selected through a lottery. In order to clear the massive backlog during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was only open to those who applied between October 13, 2020 and November 3, 2020. This resulted in 23,100 people receiving invitations in 2022. Under current immigration level projections, the program is expected to accept 28,500 new permanent residents in 2023 under the program, with plans to increase that number to 36,000 by the end of 2025, but based on the September 8 announcement, it will hold a random selection on October 10 for those who applied in 2020, the same as the last selection, sending invitations to a total of 24,000 people, about 4,000 fewer than the targeted number.

Beyond that, the rest of the year is likely to see the Department of Immigration busy reviewing and refining the policies it has introduced or is implementing, and it will be interesting to see what the new immigration minister's appointment letter will contain, as it could all depend on the direction it reveals. From everything we've heard so far, it doesn't look like there will be a reduction in immigration numbers, and we can expect to see more stability in category-based selection, more family migration, and more ways to attract more international students. Immigration is likely to be very busy in the run up to Christmas.