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Weekly Immigration News Review & IRCC Updates February 5 – 11 2024

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A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern and a skilled litigator, Lev focuses exclusively on immigration and refugee law. His immigration practice is focused on complex corporate and personal immigration and refugee law matters.

Abramovich & Tchern Immigration Lawyers present a weekly news review, offering insightful analysis of the latest developments in Canadian immigration law and policy. Follow us for a deep dive into the most recent changes, their potential impact, and what they could mean for future applicants and current immigrants.

IRCC Provided More Details On The International Student Program 

On February 5, 2024, the Canadian Government provided more details about its new limit on international study permit applications, an effort to manage the fast-paced expansion of the International Student Program. Starting January 22, 2024, most new college or undergraduate international students must include a provincial attestation letter (PAL) in their application, confirming that they are part of the national limit. All provinces and territories should be ready to issue PALs by March 31, 2024. Students who submitted applications or received approval before this date and those already in Canada are not subject to this limit. The cap mainly applies to post-secondary and non-degree granting graduate programs. Primary, secondary, master’s, and doctoral students are not required to have a PAL.

From February 15, 2024, all those completing a Master’s degree will be eligible for a 3-year post-graduation work permit (PGWP), regardless of the program’s length. This is due to the program’s potential to lead to permanent residence. The duration of PGWPs for other degrees will match the length of the study program, up to a maximum of 3 years. However, public-private partnership college programs will no longer be eligible for PGWPs due to concerns over quality. Current students will still qualify for a PGWP, but those enrolling in the future won’t. The open work permit eligibility for spouses of international students will also be updated, limiting it to those of students in graduate and professional degree programs. Spouses of undergraduate and college students will no longer qualify unless they already possess a permit.

Canada’s Fertility Rate Has Reached An Unprecedented Low 

In 2022, Canada experienced a significant demographic shift, marked by its lowest total fertility rate of 1.33 children per woman. This downward trend began subtly in 2009, slowly but steadily eroding the national fertility rate. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 accelerated this trend at an unprecedented rate. Despite a fleeting glimmer of hope with a slight increase in fertility rate in 2021, 2022 brought about a drastic reduction in fertility rates. The decline of 7.4% was the most significant drop witnessed since the baby bust era of 1971-1972.

The decline in fertility, affecting 11 out of 13 provinces, signifies a nationwide demographic shift. The most significant drop was among women aged 20 to 39, the biggest since 1978-1979. Interestingly, this phenomenon was not unique to Canada. Similar patterns have been observed in other countries during the pandemic, suggesting that the health crisis may have caused a temporary disruption in fertility behaviours worldwide. In a comparative analysis of ten high-income countries, Canada’s 2022 total fertility rate ranks in the mid-range. However, the 7.4% decline in Canada’s fertility rate was the third largest after the Netherlands and Germany, indicating a significant impact of the pandemic on fertility rates in these nations.

Canadian Schools Urge The Government To Delay International Student Caps 

Canadian colleges and universities urge Immigration Minister Marc Miller to reconsider his study permit cap plan, causing a drop in international student applications. The plan requires international students to obtain attestation letters from their chosen province, confirming they fall under the new cap. However, Universities Canada and Colleges and Institutes Canada argue that provinces need a process for issuing such letters. They fear this will halt new international student applications, impacting enrolments and Canada’s global education reputation. Provinces have pledged to improve oversight of international student treatment, but there is concern the proposed cap could force some institutions to close.

Caps on study permits will reduce international student arrivals by a third, equating to approximately 364,000 approvals and a 35% decrease from 2023. Some provincial politicians, including British Columbia’s minister of post-secondary education, Selina Robinson, and Ontario’s advanced education minister, Jill Dunlop, have expressed concerns about quality controls and misleading recruitment practices among post-secondary institutions. With international students paying higher tuition fees, colleges and universities anticipate an economic impact from the decrease in international students. Colleges and Institutes Canada expressed concerns about potential layoffs, closures, and increased tuition fees due to the study permit caps.

Businesses Protest Ottawa’s Decision To Decrease Dependency On Cheap Foreign Labour In Canada 

The Immigration Minister of Canada, Marc Miller, has recently taken action to implement a significant reduction in the issuance of visas to international students. As part of a broader review of the immigration system, the Minister is considering implementing further changes. These potential changes include restrictions on the number of hours international students can work off-campus. The Minister acknowledges temporary workers’ critical economic contributions to the Canadian economy. However, there are growing concerns about the impact of this influx of temporary workers on the housing market. Rising housing costs have become a significant issue, leading to growing public discontent.

As such, the immigration minister finds himself in a challenging position, attempting to balance the country’s economic needs with maintaining a structured and fair immigration system. He acknowledges a pressing need for a broader discussion on labour cost management. The tightening of rules around student visas and the potential changes to off-campus work hours are part of the government’s effort to address the challenges presented by the surge in temporary newcomers. While these individuals are filling gaps in the labour force, they are also impacting housing affordability. Working alongside the Employment Minister, Marc Miller is also reviewing the temporary foreign worker program to address concerns about potential abuses in lower-wage sectors.

Canada Prolongs Housing Ownership Ban For Foreign Nationals 

On February 4, 2024, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced an extended two-year ban on foreign ownership of Canadian housing to address affordability concerns and prevent Canadians from being priced out of the market. Initially set to expire on January 1, 2025, the ban will now last until January 1, 2027, prohibiting foreign enterprises and non-residents from buying residential property in Canada. Additional efforts include tax exemptions on new rental housing, low-cost financing for new rental homes, funds for affordable housing construction and repair, incentives for zoning changes, repurposing federal lands for housing, increased financing for rental apartments, mortgage relief, a Tax-Free First Home Savings Account, and significant investment in homelessness strategy.

This extension means that foreign commercial entities and individuals who are neither citizens nor permanent residents of Canada are still barred from purchasing residential properties within the nation’s borders. This measure forms a crucial part of the federal government’s comprehensive economic strategy, specifically aimed at enhancing the affordability of housing for Canadians. Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, in her announcement, strongly emphasized the government’s unwavering commitment to leverage every tool at its disposal to ensure that homes in Canada serve as residences for Canadian families rather than merely speculative financial assets.

Canada Welcomed A Record 471,550 Permanent Residents In 2023 

In 2023, Canada made history by welcoming 471,550 new permanent residents, comfortably exceeding the target of 465,000. The Immigration Levels Plan for 2023-2025 is set to accept 485,000 new residents in 2024 and an impressive 500,000 in 2025 and 2026. This ambitious plan aims to stimulate economic growth, reunify families, and address humanitarian crises. The plan is prepared to welcome approximately 1.485 million immigrants over three years. In December 2023 alone, immigration saw a sharp increase of 26.8%, with 37,125 newcomers.

Ontario was the most popular destination, accepting 43.8% of all immigrants. In 2023, Ontario welcomed 102,445 new permanent residents, making up nearly half (49.6%) of its total immigration. The majority came through various economic programs like OINP, AFIP, CEC, etc. Family sponsorships and refugee programs also played a significant role, bringing in 56,065 and 39,205 newcomers. Other provinces and territories saw a surge in new residents, too, with Newfoundland and Labrador (56.9%), Prince Edward Island (35.4%), and Yukon (95.6%) showing notable growth. On the flip side, Nova Scotia and Quebec saw a decrease in immigration by 6.7% and 23.2%, respectively.

Demand For AI-Skilled Professionals Increases In Canada 

The demand for workers with proficiency in Artificial Intelligence is on the rise in Canada, with a growing number of employers actively seeking individuals who possess the skills to develop and effectively employ AI products. In response to this burgeoning demand, companies across various sectors are making a concerted effort to hire data scientists – professionals capable of building, refining, and maintaining AI products. A glance at the job search platform Indeed reveals a staggering 945 job postings directly related to Artificial Intelligence.

A survey by KPMG highlights the rising significance of AI in Canada, with 61% of users regularly using generative AI, which automates creative tasks, for work. Generative AI systems are also evolving rapidly, transitioning from large language models to more sophisticated multi-modal systems. As Artificial Intelligence becomes more prevalent in workplaces nationwide, recruiters and hiring managers increasingly prioritize candidates with these in-demand skills. This trend underscores the growing importance of AI proficiency in the current job market and its potential to shape the future of work in Canada.

Abramovich & Tchern Immigration Lawyers are dedicated to helping individuals and families make the life-changing move to Canada. We guide clients through every step of the immigration process. Make your Canadian dream a reality – contact Abramovich & Tchern Immigration Lawyers today.

Lev Abramovich

A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern and a skilled litigator, Lev focuses exclusively on immigration and refugee law. His immigration practice is focused on complex corporate and personal immigration and refugee law matters.