As U.S. immigration programs become more restrictive, Canada is poised to welcome an unprecedented number of newcomers in the wake of COVID-19.
There is no denying that the coronavirus has changed the world of immigration. As the pandemic continues to change the way we think about immigration, many are wondering what the future of immigration will look like.
The number of immigrants coming to Canada has been on the rise over the past few years. From 2015 to 2019, Canada’s immigration numbers rose by 26%. Meanwhile, in the United States, immigration numbers fell by 7% between 2016 and 2018. This trend is expected to continue as Trump’s immigration policies grow increasingly hostile.
Earlier this year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released their departmental plan for 2020-2021. The plan confirmed the department’s commitment to its 2019-2021 multi-year levels plan which aims to increase the number of permanent residents admitted to Canada. In 2020, the IRCC plans to admit 341,000 new permanent residents, and another 350,000 in 2021.
The goal of the departmental plan is to attract top talent to fill Canada’s labour shortages, promote innovation, and stimulate the Canadian economy.
With an aging population and significant labour shortages, Canada’s immigration needs have only become more pressing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although processing times may be slower, the IRCC has confirmed that it plans to continue to admit as many foreign nationals as possible.
One of the ways that Canada attracts and retains global talent is through the Global Talent Stream (GTS). The pilot program was launched in 2017 with the goal of helping Canadian employers recruit the workforce they need to support their business. The program allows select skilled workers to have their applications fast-tracked, with some obtaining a Canadian work permit in as little as two weeks.
Canada is also one of the top destinations for international students, partially due to the availability of the Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) which allows graduates the chance to stay in Canada and work after finishing their studies. The PGWP offers international students a pathway to Canadian permanent residence, making Canada an increasingly attractive option for foreign nationals who are looking to build a new life in North America.
The U.S. has a similar program for graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The Optional Practical Training program (OPT) allows graduates to remain in the U.S. and work for up to 24 months following the completion of their studies. The Trump administration is considering imposing restrictions on this program in order to reduce competition for American graduates.
The OPT is a driving force for international student enrollment in the U.S. In the last year, Trump has also imposed further restrictions on the popular H-1B visa, effectively limiting pathways for both international students and skilled workers to obtain permanent residence in the U.S.
While the U.S. considers further restrictions for international students, the Canadian government is taking steps to make it easier to submit applications for study permits and PGWPs, given current limitations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the Trump administration implements protectionist measures, the Canadian government recognizes the crucial role that immigration plays in Canada’s economy. The federal government continues to implement policies that acknowledge the country’s reliance on foreign labour, especially as the population continues to age.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has stated that immigration will play a key role in Canada’s economic recovery post-COVID.
“I have faith that Canadians believe in immigration. That’s because they relate to it. It’s part of who we are. At its core, immigration is about people coming together to build a stronger country, which is what we’ve seen throughout our history, throughout this pandemic and, I’m confident, what we will see in the future.” – Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino
The Canadian government is continuing to monitor the situation and coming up with ways to simplify the application process. They are urging foreign nationals to continue preparing their applications. Foreign nationals who are interested in building a life in Canada should not be deterred by the limitations of the pandemic, but should see it as an opportunity, and the beginning of their Canadian immigration journey.
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