2023 Off to a Crazy Start – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

As the first month of 2023 comes to a close, we at Corporate Immigration Law Firm (CILF) are shaking our heads. Some of the recent announcements are so surprising and shocking that we are left with few answers for our clients and certainly few ideas of what will come next. On the other hand, we are cautiously optimistic that processing times for some immigration business lines are starting to show signs of improvement.

Below is a summary of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

  •  Starting January 30th, IRCC will expand eligibility for Open Work Permits to spouses and dependent children of work permit holders at all skill levels. This is mostly a good initiative, but what about the spouses and dependent children of Canadian citizens and permanent residents?  Will IRCC finally treat spouses of Canadian citizens and permanent residents the same as spouses of foreign nationals working and studying in Canada and extend this initiative to them?
  • IRCC has extended and expanded the pilot program for out-of-status construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) by doubling the number from 500 to 1000. This is a very much needed initiative but why not extend it outside of the GTA where it is equally, if not harder to recruit workers due to limited housing and more extreme weather conditions?
  • Canada and the United States have reached a deal on Nexus application backlogs this month. Nexus is a trusted traveler system. The backlog was created when Nexus offices suspended in-person interviews during the pandemic and then did not re-open due to a dispute over legal protections for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers who work in Canadian Nexus offices. The Americans wanted the same protection for these CBP officers as the protections enjoyed by Preclearance CBP officers at Canadian land crossings and airports. A workaround has been announced whereby applicants can complete the in-person interviews in two stages. The first at a Canadian enrollment centre and then at a US Preclearance office at one of eight airports.
  • Backlogs at Passport Offices have been eliminated and apparently it is business as usual after months of chaos with lineups stretching around government buildings. However, recently approved permanent residents aren’t so lucky and are facing huge delays in issuance of PR Cards, leaving them grounded and unable to travel outside of Canada for 180 days. Perhaps the passport offices should take over production and distribution of PR Cards that are an essential travel document for permanent residents.
  • Express Entry draws continue bi-weekly and the cut-off for the comprehensive ranking score to receive an invitation to apply continues to fall. Since draws resumed in the summer of 2022 the cut-off has fallen from 557 to 490. Additionally, processing times of recently filed express entry applications appears to have returned to pre-pandemic times of six or less months for most applications.
  • Applications for temporary resident visas (TRVs) are seriously backlogged and many Canadian missions abroad are reporting delays of well over six months. This is creating havoc for families desperate to reunite after pandemic travel restrictions and hardship for families wanting to attend special events and travel for humanitarian and compassionate reasons, such as funerals and end of life situations. These delays are also negatively impacting businesses that have a need for their workforce to travel to Canada for a variety of business reasons and will have a chilling impact on the Canadian tourism industry as they try to rebound after the pandemic.  This has led to desperate and unprecedented ideas being discussed behind closed doors at IRCC, including the possibility of an amnesty for large groups of pending TRV applicants and/or a policy to eliminate the criteria for a TRV, such criteria normally protect the Canadian public. An amnesty or elimination of the said criteria will almost certainly lead to increase in Canada of asylum claims, humanitarian and compassionate applications, and enforcement cases, all the while draining government resources already stretched within IRCC, the Refugee Board, the Federal Court and Canada Border Services Agency. The government needs to look at other means to use resources efficiently and other policies that might eliminate redundant applications that drain government resources. The integrity of the immigration system should not be compromised when there are other options to improve or reduce backlogs. To find out more, check out the article below published by the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA): https://cila.co/cila-statement-on-waiving-eligibility-criteria-for-temporary-resident-visas/
  • On January 1, 2023, The Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act (“the Act”) came into force, restricting foreigners from buying homes in Canada. In effect the Act prohibits executives and other foreign talent, who plan to move to Canada with their families, from buying a home until they have worked in Canada for at least three years. Given the critical skills shortages, this restriction will place Canada in an uncompetitive position compared to other countries. The Act also creates issues for companies that use relocation companies to facilitate movement of talent across international borders. Typically, relocation companies purchase and resell executives’ homes to speed up a move, but as non-Canadian, they are also banned from conducting such property transactions. The Act will likely cause more harm than benefit given that only 2.2 percent of residential property in Ontario is owned by foreign nationals. This Act is in direct contradiction with the government’s goal to admit 1.5 million new immigrants in the next three years, so it appears clearly political and definitely the ugliest of January’s immigration announcements.

If you have questions about any of these initiatives, we are happy to advise. Our Canadian immigration legal professionals can be reached by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.