It is early January and the spread of the Omicron Variant of COVID-19 has continued. In response to rising caseloads in Canada, the Center for Disease Control in the United States has changed its travel recommendation for Canada to avoid travel. While the border is still open for travel both ways, it is important to keep an eye on the news for any developments, as changes in regulations occur more rapidly when case levels are high.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created delays in many aspects of society ever since its onset in March 2020. One of the most glaring delays so far through the pandemic has been seen in Canada’s immigration system. There have always been immigration backlogs in the Canadian immigration system. It is not a novel problem. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, there was a backlog of permanent residence applications, temporary permanent resident applications, and citizenship applications.
The COVID-19 pandemic and other events in 2021 created conditions that resulted in massive increases in the immigration backlogs in Canada. International travel restrictions resulted in an inability for new permanent residents to come to Canada, pandemic conditions reduced the processing capabilities of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and Canada undertook a large commitment to resettling refugees from Afghanistan, which strained the immigration system even further. By July 6, 2021, the backlog of permanent residence applications had risen by 70% when compared with the number recorded prior to the beginning of the pandemic in February 2020. As of December 2021, the backlog of applications has reportedly grown to 1.8 million applications across the different immigration categories.
Government officials have recognized that a backlog problem exists and will be seeking to resolve it in various ways. The first way that the government can reduce the backlog is through the Immigration Levels Plan. The Canadian Government releases an Immigration Levels Plan every year that details the number of permanent residents that the government wants to admit into Canada. The current plan calls for 411,000 permanent residents to be admitted in 2022, but it can be updated in February 2022 as another plan is supposed to be released. It is possible that the permanent resident goal will be increased in order to account for the substantial backlog.
Another way that the Canadian Government has proposed to lower the backlog is more active. Prime Minister Trudeau’s government has pledged to put $85 million toward processing permanent resident and temporary resident applications in 2022. The monetary pledge should help the Canadian immigration system modernize with more digitization that will allow more applications to be processed. Considering the Immigration Levels Plans calls for the most newcomers to be admitted to Canada in Canadian history, some updates to the immigration system are surely needed. However, given that the $85 million investment is supposed to be a one-time payment, some critics have responded and said it will not be enough, and that the backlog will take around three years to clear at this rate. Although the number of applications being processed is returning to pre-pandemic levels, other immigration services, such as permanent residence renewal are also needed, so hopefully, the funding is allocated to ensure that those who need immigration services receive them.
In order to help alleviate the backlog, Canada will need to start admitting immigrants from different immigration categories. Through Express Entry, there are a few different paths by which potential immigrants can come to Canada and become permanent residents. The issue currently with Express Entry is that the government is not admitting applicants under all of the categories, and it is not clear when admittance will resume for some of the categories.
We have already seen some immigrants receiving invitations to apply for permanent residence as early as 2022. On January 5, 2022, 392 invitations to apply for permanent residence were issued. All of these invitations were issued as part of the Provincial Nominee Program. The government has been consistently inviting applicants to apply under the Provincial Nominee Program throughout 2021, inviting new applicants approximately every two weeks and it looks like the invitations will continue into 2022.
The Canadian Experience Class is another stream under Express Entry through which potential immigrants can be admitted for permanent residence. For most of 2021, there were many invitations issued under the Canadian Experience Class, as the number of invitations issued at one time is generally larger than under the Provincial Nominee Program. However, there have been no invitations issued under the Canadian Experience Class since September 14, 2021. Though it is likely we will see invitations to apply issued under the Canadian Experience Class again soon if Canada is to meet its immigration goals for 2022.
Many immigrants used to be accepted under the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Federal Skilled Trades Program. However, there were no invitations issued for these programs in 2021 as Canada decided to focus on the Canadian Experience Class and Provincial Nominee Program instead. It is possible that invitations will restart for these programs in 2022, but pandemic policy will play a big role in determining if invitations will be issued, as many applicants for these streams come from outside of Canada, making invitations more complicated amidst the restrictions caused by COVID-19.
Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We successfully guide clients through the immigration process, with an eye toward the ever-changing regulations in light of COVID-19. We will work to find an effective solution for your individual immigration needs and ensure you are positioned for success with respect to your application.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration developments in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about if you will be able to travel during these uncertain times, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.
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