A new type of immigrant is quickly taking advantage of the Canadian immigration system, and Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney wants to make it even easier for them to settle permanently in Canada.
The Canadian Experience Class program is granting fast track access to immigrants who have already spent time in Canada, are familiar with the culture and social expectations, and are fluent in English or French. Announced in 2008, the CEC program was the first new class of immigrant to be announced in Canada in decades.
The numbers also show that support for the program is increasing, although not at the levels the Conservatives had initially hoped for: from just over 2,500 immigrants in 2009, by 2012 Kenney expects that upwards of 7,000 new immigrants each year will be coming from the CEC program. It was anticipated that roughly 8,000 immigrants would enter via the CEC program in 2009, but the program drew only a quarter of projection.
This is the class of immigrants that Mr. Kenney has said previously are “most likely to succeed,” and so removing barriers to their success is a top ministry priority.
“We should pick the best and brightest and seek to attract them in what is increasingly a global marketplace for human capital,” Kenney argues in the Globe and Mail.
Canada has continued to permit an average of 254,000 immigrants each year, which is a large number for a country as demographically small as Canada. “We’re maintaining the highest per capita levels of total immigration in the developed world,” Kenney told the House of Commons, “with, I think, the sole exception of New Zealand.”
Ottawa also has plans of creating a new “MI4 phD” class of immigrants, a category which will allocate as many as 1,000 permanent resident positions for international PhD students through the federal skilled worker program.
The Toronto Star writes that “to be eligible, the students must have completed at least two years of study toward the attainment of the doctoral degree and remain in good academic standing at a recognized university in Canada.”
But with every intention of keeping the immigrant rate steady between 240,000 and 265,000 annually, increases in one area will inevitably lead to decreases in others. While the number of parents and grandparents of current immigrants is likely to rise, writes the Montreal Gazette, the number of Family Class I immigrants, the spouses and children of current immigrants, will see a decrease.
Also, because of fewer qualified candidates, according to Kenney, Canada will be accepting fewer live-in caregivers, which has many concerned about whether Canada’s aging population will have the long-term support it needs.
This comes after a rule change in April, 2011, which stipulated all live-in care-givers currently in Canada would have to leave after four years unless they had begun the process for permanent settlement.
Overall, the recent changes in Canada’s immigration selection process are relatively minor: a rejigging, as people have been calling it, rather than a shift in focus. The rejigging was done to complement the existing reality of who was applying for citizenship in the first place. The government has added to this with a renewed emphasis on eliminating barriers to the kinds of highly skilled immigrants that all countries view as the top immigration prize. The “human capital,” that Kenney referred to.
Canada is right to remove these barriers to entry. Canada has long been an immigrant nation, and those trends are not likely to fade unless we purposefully obstruct new immigrants from applying. However, without a greater effort to recognize many immigrants foreign credentials once they qualify for immigration status, the process of integrating these highly skilled future citizens into Canada is only partially complete.
Top 10 immigrant source countries in 2010 (Source: Citizenship and Immigration 2011 Report)
- United Kingdom
- South Korea