Transforming the Immigration System: Then and Now

May 25, 2012 — The Government of Canada’s goal is to build a fast and flexible immigration system whose primary focus is on meeting Canada’s economic and labour market needs. Since 2006, the Government has pursued much-needed reforms to focus Canada’s immigration system on fuelling economic prosperity for Canada.

This chart provides further detail on action taken to date and our plans for the future.

CIC Program/Issue Previous System Action We’ve Taken Where We’re Going
Federal Skilled Workers
  • Backlog of 640,000 applications in the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) category alone and growing by tens of thousands every year.
  • Processing times of up to 7 or 8 years.
  • Applicants processed in order of receipt without regard to current labour market needs
  • Only 3% of successful FSW newcomers are skilled tradespersons, despite a projected shortage of workers in these fields.
  • Processing of applications submitted since February 2008 limited to  in-demand occupations and applicants with a qualifying job offer
  • This has helped reduce the pre-2008 FSW backlog by more than 50 per cent and the overall FSW inventory by 26 percent.
  • Budget 2012 announced CIC’s intention to refund fees and return stale applications from nearly all those applicants who applied under the dated criteria in existence before February 27, 2008.
  • The elimination of this old backlog, covering roughly 280,000 FSW applicants, will allow us to focus completely on applications more in tune with today’s economic needs.
  • Processing times for FSW applications submitted since June 2010 down to 6-12 months.
  • Cross-country consultations on FSW program modernization launched in spring 2011.
  • A just-in-time system that recruits people with the right skills to meet Canada’s labour market needs, fast tracks their immigration, and gets them working in a period of months, not years.  
  • FSW points system will be reformed to reflect the importance of younger immigrants with Canadian work experience and better language skills as well as assessments of educational qualifications.
  • New Skilled Trades program will target workers in occupations in high demand.
Provincial Nominees
  • Provincial nominee admissions a small slice of the pie, with only about 8,000 in 2005.
  • No minimum language standards established for provincial nominees.
  • Admissions have grown from approximately 8,000 in 2005 to anticipated admissions of 42,000 this year.
  • This has resulted in a much better geographic distribution of immigrants, tripling immigration to the Prairie Provinces and doubling immigration to Atlantic Canada.
  • Centralized processing implemented and quality assurance framework introduced.
  • Minimum language standards for low- and medium-skilled nominees take effect July 1.
  • Will work with provinces to focus PNP on direct economic and regional labour market needs, eliminating family streams and ensuring improved program integrity.
  • Efforts to rationalize economic programs and eliminate overlap and duplication between federal and provincial programs
Federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP)
  • IIP not designed to generate  growth in the Canadian private sector through active investments.
  • About 60,000 people in the inventory for processing.
  • Provinces and territories (PTs) invest the money as they see fit, based on local needs, with varying levels of growth and return. No risk to investor, who has $400,000 loan returned after five years.
  • New eligibility criteria launched in Dec 2010: Necessary net worth doubled to $1.6M and minimum investment doubled to $800,000.
  • CIC implemented an annual cap of 700 new IIP applications on July 1, 2011 to begin drawing down the backlog.
  • Economic Action Plan 2012: Canada’s Business Immigration Programs will target more active investment in Canadian growth companies and maximize the potential for innovation and productivity through pilot programs complementing the existing IIP.
  • CIC will consult with the private sector and provinces, especially Quebec, to improve existing program design andoutcomes.
Federal Entrepreneur Program
  • Large backlog with processing times of 5 to 6 years.
  • Criteria tended to favour small, safe business ventures rather than innovation.
  • CIC implemented a temporary moratorium on the Federal Entrepreneur Program as of July 1, 2011. This is intended to stop the growth of the backlog while the program is being reviewed to ensure that Canada is better able to attract and retain innovative entrepreneurs. 
  • Budget 2012 provides authorities to pilot new approaches. CIC is consulting with the private sector to design a new pilot program for dynamic start-up entrepreneurs in partnerships with angel investors.
Family Class – Parents and Grandparents
  • A backlog of 165,000 applicants in the Parent and Grandparent family class category, with processing times of seven years, and growing.
  • Wait times and backlogs will only increase unless the PGP program is redesigned.
  • Phase I of the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification was announced in November 2011. It includes:
    1. an increase the number of sponsored parents and grandparents Canada will admit from nearly 15,500 in 2010 to 25,000 in 2012;
    2. a parent and grandparent multiple-entry Super Visa valid for up to 10 years;
    3. public and stakeholder consultations on how to redesign the PGP program; and
    4. a temporary pause of up to 24 months on the acceptance of new sponsorship applications for PGPs.
  • Consultations are ongoing on the redesign of the PGP program to  create  a sustainable PGP program as of Fall 2013.
Foreign Credential Recognition
  • There was no formal foreign credential recognition function at CIC prior to the establishment of the Foreign Credentials Referral Office (FCRO).
  • Established the Foreign Credentials Referral Office (FCRO) in 2007 to provide information, path-finding and referral services on foreign credential recognition to help internationally trained workers succeed and put their skills to work in Canada more quickly.
  • Established the Pan‐Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications, whereby foreign trained professionals in priority occupations will have their qualifications assessed within one year, anywhere in the country.
  • Expanded the Canadian Immigration Integration Program (CIIP), designed and managed by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges to offer pre-arrival orientation sessions in up to 25 countries.
  • Pre-arrival education credential assessments by third parties, which would let applicants know how their education credentials compare to Canadian credentials and would give immigrants a sense of how Canadian employers are likely to value their education.
  • Additional occupations will be identified for inclusion under the Pan-Canadian Framework beyond 2012.
Marriages of Convenience
  • Marriages of Convenience threaten the integrity of Canada’s immigration system. They are being used by some as a quick and easy route to Canada – when these individuals never intended to stay with their spouse or partner.
  • While some spouses are duped into marriage fraud, others are complicit.
  • A sponsorship bar on sponsored spouses/partners came into effect March 2, 2012. Now, sponsored spouses/ partners will have to wait five years from the day they are granted permanent residence status in Canada to sponsor a new spouse or partner.
  • At certain missions abroad where marriage fraud seems prevalent, visa officers have increased interview rates and found this to be an effective anti-fraud tool.
  • CIC ran an anti-fraud advertising campaign in 2011 and 2012 that includes a short video warning people not to be duped into committing marriage fraud.
  • Regulations have been proposed for a two-year conditional permanent residence for spouses/ partners in newer relationships. The sponsored spouse/partner would have to live together with their sponsor in a legitimate relationship for two years following receipt of their permanent resident status in Canada or their status could be revoked. CIC anticipates bringing this measure into force sometime later this year.
Refugees
  • Claimants from all countries treated the same.
  • Processing time for average refugee claim is 1038 days.
  • No refugee appeal division (RAD).
  • Removals for failed claimants take, on average, 4.5 years from the date of claim and in some cases, 10 years.
  • Balanced Refugee Reform Act allows for Designation of Countries of Origin (DCO) – generally those that do not normally produce refugees, that respect human rights and offer state protection. DCO claimants would have expedited reviews and fewer avenues of appeal and no access to work permits while their claim is being heard. 
  • Processing time 171 days for refugee claimants from a designated country of origin, 291 days for non-DCO refugee claimants.
  • Introduction of a refugee appeal division for all claimants.
  • Removal of failed claimants within 12 months.
  • Legislation before Parliament further expedites process for claimants from DCOs.
  • Under proposed new system processing time of 45 days for refugee claimants from DCOs and 216 days for non-DCO claimants.
  • Under proposed new system, claimants from DCOs and manifestly unfounded claims would not have access to RAD. Most other claimants would have a decision from the RAD within 90 days.
  • Removal of failed claimants as soon as possible with elimination of further recourses within 1 year of the last negative decision; removals of DCOs become non-suspensive.
Immigration consultants
  • Before 2003 – immigration consultants were unregulated and there were widespread complaints that advisors were duping clients and taking their money. Victims often found out too late they had been deceived.
  • “Ghost” consultants were a big problem.
  • In 2003, Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) was formed to regulate immigration consultants.
  • Ensuing lack of public confidence in CSIC was of concern to the Government of Canada.
     
    In 2008, the Standing Committee on Citizenship & Immigration undertook a review of the regulator of immigration consultants and issued a report.
  • Minister met with international counterparts to encourage them to crack down locally on unscrupulous consultants.
  • June 8, 2010 – Bill C-35 introduced. Goal is to ensure that anyone providing advice for a fee at any stage of an immigration application or proceeding is a member in good standing of a provincial or territorial law society, the Chambre des notaires du Québec or the body governing immigration consultants. Search for regulator of immigration consultants launched.
  • June 30, 2011 – Bill-C-35 came into force and a new regulator for immigration consultants – the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) – was designated.
  • Multilingual domestic advertising campaign warning people not to be taken in by crooked immigration consultants launched in 2011. It ran again this spring. Overseas advertising campaign, with support of the Five Country Conference (FCC) members (Australia, New Zealand, UK and US) also launched in 2011.
  • April 25, 2012 - Information-sharing provision and Ministerial oversight mechanism in Bill C-35 came into force.
  • Information sharing provisions allow CIC, CBSA and the IRB to disclose information on a consultant’s professional or ethical conduct to those governing or investigating that conduct.
  • An oversight mechanism requires that the ICCRC provide information to the government to ensure it is governing its members in the public interest.
  • Minister continues to reinforce with international counterparts importance of working together to take action against crooked consultants.
  • CBSA and the RCMP continue to investigate complaints regarding ghost consultants.
  • CIC continues to explore opportunities to work with the FCC network.
Strengthening the value of citizenship
  • Thousands of ‘Lost Canadians’ unfairly did not have access to Canadian citizenship. 
  • Citizenship could be passed on to endless generations born outside Canada, who had no real attachment to the country.
  • The citizenship study guide had not been substantially changed since it was created in 1995.  It was lacking information on Canadian history and values.
  • With absence of a uniform and formalized language assessment method, risk that adult citizenship applicants were being granted citizenship without adequate knowledge of English or French.
  • Few resources were dedicated to investigations of citizenship fraud and the citizenship fraud tip line did not exist.
  • Restored or granted citizenship to most ‘Lost Canadians’ who either lost it or never had it due to outdated provisions in previous legislation.
  • Introduced a first generation limitation to ensure that citizenship can only be passed on to one generation born outside of Canada.
  • In 2009, introduced Discover Canada, a new citizenship study guide, emphasizing Canadian history, symbols, values and institutions.  A new citizenship test was developed based on the guide and the pass mark was raised from 60% to 75%.  Citizenship candidates now have a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship, Canadian symbols, values and institutions.
  • Implemented a more uniform and formalized method for citizenship officers and judges to assess whether applicants meet the language requirement.  This ensures that adult applicants are only granted citizenship if they demonstrate adequate knowledge of English or French (equivalent to Canadian Language Benchmark/Niveau de compétence linguistique canadien 4).
  • The Government of Canada is now investigating nearly 7,300 people for fraudulently attempting to gain citizenship or maintain permanent resident status.
  • More than 70 tips to the citizenship fraud tip line have warranted further investigation.
  • Making regulatory changes to require citizenship applicants to provide objective evidence of their language ability with their citizenship applications, which would encourage applicants to ensure that they can speak English or French when they apply.  Evidence would include results of approved third party tests; completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French; achieving Canadian Language Benchmark/Niveau de compétence linguistique canadien 4 in certain government funded language programs.
  • Exploring changes to further strengthen the value of citizenship and deter citizens of convenience, while combating citizenship fraud and making the program more efficient.
  • CIC will be revoking citizenship on a scale that has never been done before. 
  • Issuing a Notice of Intent to Revoke Citizenship is the first step in proceeding with a citizenship revocation. More than 400 notices of intent to revoke citizenship have already been issued. 

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