An important announcement was made today by the Honourable Sean Fraser, Canada’s Immigration Minister, which brings badly needed encouraging news for people who have been stuck in various stages of the immigration process during COVID delays. In addition to trying to shake loose the large backlog, these changes are also intended to pave a better and easier pathway for talented workers who wish to make Canada their permanent home.
Perhaps the most awaited news of all that were announced today is that Express Entry draws will soon resume and a promise to get back to pre-COVID processing times of six months. Invitations to apply for permanent residence will being in early July.
International Students on Post Graduate Work Permits, who have been waiting for the Express Entry draw while facing imminent expiry of their work permits without viable solutions in sight, are now going to be eligible to apply for an open work permit valid for up to 18 months, which will allow them to continue to live, work, and establish themselves in Canada to eventually qualify for permanent residence programs.
Those who applied for the Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence pathway last year also received news in the form of new measures, which include:
- applicants will no longer be required to remain in Canada throughout the time their application is being processed.
- applicants who apply for an open work permit while waiting for their permanent residence application to be finalized will be able to get work permits valid until the end of 2024. This will ensure that all permanent residence applications will be finalized before applicants will need to apply to extend their temporary status again.
- to support family reunification, immediate family members who are outside Canada and were included in a principal applicant’s permanent residence application will be eligible for their own open work permit.
This limited pathway was launched last year to invite candidates already working in Canada in a range of professions to apply to stay here permanently. It was closed in November 2021 to allow for the processing to continue.
Finally, the temporary public policy that allows foreign visitors to Canada to apply for an employer-specific work permit without having to leave Canada has been extended to February 28, 2023.
These measures are welcome news both for PR hopefuls who have been looking for viable ways to extend their work authorization in Canada and continue gaining valuable work experience in preparation for their Express Entry candidacy, as well as Canadian employers who are struggling to fill vacancies and address labour shortages.
While we appreciate this effort and recognize the many positive steps that are being undertaken by IRCC to close processing gaps and facilitate PR pathways for workers who are an essential cog in our economic recovery aspirations, there are unfortunate omissions that we would like the Minister to turn his mind to.
One such omission is that the eligibility to apply for an 18-month open work permit inexplicably applies only to individuals whose work permits expire on or after January 2022. This leaves a great number of people whose work permits expired in late 2021, but who are still affected by excessive processing delays, completely in the lurch. Those who are already out of status should be eligible to apply to be restored and secure the Open Work Permit for the next 18 months.
The announcement that TR to PR applicants are going to be able to travel outside of Canada while awaiting processing of their applications is greatly appreciated, but it begs the question of why individuals with implied (or maintained) status, who have to wait 4-7 months for the decision on their extension, are left out of this solution. Further, permanent residents with expired PR cards, which are currently also taking many moths to process, are similarly prohibited for leaving the country until they have a new PR card. Changes are needed to allow these individuals to travel outside of Canada while their application for extensions are being processed too.
Finally, the new measure that will allow the dependents of TR to PR candidates to apply for open work permits even if they are currently outside of Canada is welcome news, but it is a literal slap in the face to Canadian citizens and PRs whose foreign spouses are often not even allowed to come to Canada while they await the processing of their sponsorship applications, let alone join their spouses in Canada and receive an open work permit. Those who have filed inland spousal sponsorships wait for months to receive authorization to work while awaiting processing. The Minister should extend the option for an open work permit to these individuals too.
Canada’s economy relies on the healthy influx of skilled immigration. However, Canada competes for this talent with other desirable global destinations. So far, we are winning the race for top talent by offering a comprehensive pathway to permanent residence and benefits of citizenship. However, the program itself is only as good as its execution. Today’s announcement is welcome, but timid. More can and has to be done to facilitate programs for people who are stuck or overlooked by the program before they decide to take their skills and talents elsewhere. What we are suggesting as improvements to what was announced today is low hanging fruit. Let’s hope someone in IRCC finds the will to pick it up.
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