IRCC Has Announced a Plan to Make a Plan

by Ronalee Carey Law

September 2022

On May 11, 2022, the Canadian parliament approved a Private Member’s Bill, M-44, brought by Randeep Sarai, a politician from British Columbia. The motion required the Immigration department to develop a plan to expand the economic immigration streams available to individuals with Canadian work experience. The motion required the government to develop the plan within 120 days.

As soon as the Bill was passed, I started getting emails from clients holding post-graduate work permits. Some have already set up an Express Entry profile, and others are waiting to obtain a full year of work experience to be able to do so. They wanted to know what documents they should have prepared so they could apply for the new program when it was announced.

This past week, the Strategy to Expand Transitions to Permanent Residency was released. In a ‘five pillar’ approach, the government sets out how it plans to support Canada’s economic development by helping key workers to transition to permanent residence. It’s a plan to make a plan. It’s not a program through which individuals can apply for permanent residence.

There are some gems in the plan. For example, currently, IRCC does not recognize the Canadian work experience of physicians who bill provincial health insurance plans directly in ‘fee for service’ arrangements, as they are considered self-employed. The plan promises that the government will address this barrier.

However, much of the plan reads more like a history of immigration policy in Canada. For example, section 3.3, Economic Permanent Resident Programs and their Role in Transitions set out all of the existing programs, the number of individuals accepted through these programs, and the proportion of these programs comprised of international students. It was nice to learn that 64% of admissions in the economic category were from post-graduate work permit holders. But how does that help my current clients whose Express Entry scores aren’t high enough to be invited for permanent residence?

Skipping to the conclusion portion of the 39-page report, the government’s plan is summarized as follows:

  • introduction of category-based selection in the Express Entry system (allowing draws based on occupation or other criteria)
  • implementation of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2021 in November 2022 (which will have the impact of denying access to the Express Entry system for a few occupations while opening it up to a few others)
  • development of streamlined work and permanent residence pathways for international student graduates in highly skilled, in-demand sectors (a plan to make a plan…)
  • the extension of existing pilot programs, including the Agri-Food Pilot (which is of limited utility to post-secondary graduates, but other pilots, such as the upcoming Municipal Nominee Program, may help some)

Unsurprisingly, the government has come under fire for failing to announce an actual program to help individuals apply for permanent residence.

The reality has been and will continue to be that many international students will not transition to permanent residence, despite having graduated from a Canadian school and perhaps even having a permanent employment position. Future immigration programs will favour those who have studied at schools ‘outside major urban areas’, are willing to work in less populated areas of the country, who have job offers supported by a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment or a provincial or municipal nomination program, or who have work experience in occupations being targeted by the government, such as hospitality, healthcare, and IT services.