Article by Colin Singer
A Canadian, is a Canadian, is a Canadian. These are among the many words that Canada’s new Prime Minister designate Justin Trudeau echoed during his victory speech, distinguishing himself from the policies of the departing conservative government. He was of course referring to the two tiered citizenship status created by the conservatives which passed the highly controversial Bill C-24 this past summer, known as the Strengthening Canada Act. It is a near certainty that many provisions of this law, which critics assert violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, will be repealed. But with the exception of this, Syrian refugees and perhaps a few other issues, Canada’s immigration policies under the centrist liberals will unlikely take on a much different direction than previously. However it is the tone towards its immigrant communities that is sure to undergo transformation. Here are some of the changes we can expect and what the new government must prioritize.
Annual Immigration Levels
The government normally tables Canada’s projected annual immigration levels each November. The levels for 2015 range between 260,000-285,000, the highest in 5 years. Expect 2016 levels to be marginally higher to accommodate the increased numbers under family class and refugees from Syria which the Liberals promised during the election campaign.
Recent changes to the Citizenship Act make it much harder for permanent residents to obtain Canadian citizenship. Now, fewer will succeed in becoming citizens. Applicants will continue to wait 4 years to qualify for citizenship but older applicants will likely face a tempering of the difficult knowledge based language tests to qualify. Expect the repeal of certain provisions affecting dual citizens, including those born in Canada who under the new rules can have their Canadian citizenship rescinded.
The Liberal Party will make family reunification marginally easier for new immigrants. Expect a doubling of the number of parents and grandparents admitted under the Canadian parents and grandparents program (PGP) that are granted permanent residency each year to 10,000. Current quotas are 5,000 per year. However judging from previous submission periods, the expanded program will quickly open and close in less than a week.
The Liberals also promised to double the budget for processing applications under the (PGP) program, which should significantly reduce the multi-year wait times that most immigration applicants are currently incurring. Additionally, there are expectations that spouses of immigrants will be granted permanent resident status as soon as they arrive in Canada. Under existing rules, spouses receive conditional visas and must wait two years before transitioning to Canadian permanent residence. The new government also pledged to raise the maximum age for dependents of immigrants from 19 to 22, reverting back to the previous criteria and making it easier for the older children of immigrants, many who are already working in Canada to join their parents in Canada as accompanying dependents.
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The content of this article reflects the personal insight of Attorney Colin Singer and needs no disclaimer.