A look back at Canada’s 2021 immigration system

If January 2020 was full of promise, January 2021 was anything but. 

A look back at Canada’s 2021 immigration system 

Immigration policies and targets in Canada continued to be influenced by the ongoing pandemic 

The beginning of 2020 was a promising one, Trudeau had outlined immigration as a top priority for his government, and great things were expected in the coming months. 

When the pandemic hit, immigration levels fell, dramatically. 

Over the past year, as vaccines came into play, and the country began to adjust to a ‘new normal’, we started to see a rise in immigration numbers, however, this was due almost entirely to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) making considerable adjustments to meet its targets. 

If January 2020 was full of promise, January 2021 was anything but. 

As COVID cases reached an all-time high, IRCC was given the challenging mandate of welcoming 401,000 permanent residents into the country. 

The department was facing a backlog of applications that was rising daily, borders were firmly closed, and newcomers who had received their papers were stranded around the world, unable to complete their landings. 

In order to deal with these challenges and still meet their targets, IRCC decided the best course of action would be to target temporary residents who were already living and working in Canada, and make them permanent residents. 

With this in mind, IRCC ushered in the new year by focusing their rounds of invitations on Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates, since approximately 90% of these candidates were already settled in Canada. 

On February 13, 2021, IRCC held an extremely unusual, and history making draw by issuing invitations to 27,332 Express Entry candidates in one shot!  

Several months later, IRCC announced the launch of six new temporary streams which would allow up to 90,000 candidates, who are considered essential workers and international graduates to apply for permanent residency in Canada. 

As the summer months rolled around, a significant percentage of the population had been vaccinated and COVID cases were going down. IRCC took this opportunity to ramp up its immigration efforts and throughout the summer months, Canada was completing the landings of over 35,000 permanent residents a month. 

By November 2021, Canada had broken its record for permanent resident landings in a calendar year. It was clear IRCC’s strategy had paid off, especially since policies have had to shift and change to keep up with COVID’s evolution. However, there have also been some definite downsides to only targeting candidates within Canada. 

One of the biggest negatives is that IRCC is now looking at a backlog of 1.8 million applications to process, while thousands of Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders, and other applicants under various types of visas have been waiting in limbo for months without an end in sight. 

While PNP and CEC candidates have been prioritized, candidates under the Federal Skilled Worker Program(FSWP), have been largely ignored with no draws being held for them.  

Canada’s economic growth is heavily reliant on new immigrants, without the expected influx of newcomers, the labor force is lagging and isn’t growing as quickly as it could or should. 

As a way of countering these downsides, the government is trying to establish other policies and programs which will allow more people to become eligible for permanent residence. 

Following the Canadian federal election in the fall of 2021, the Liberal Party again won a minority government, and Trudeau made it clear in his latest mandate letter to Honorable Sean Fraser, that immigration will continue to be a priority for his government. 

While the year ended with a dramatic rise of COVID cases due to the new Omicron variant, there is no doubt that IRCC will find a successful way of navigating new challenges and global uncertainties in order to meet its immigration targets. 

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