Canada to stabilise permanent residency levels and adapt graduate work permits
The Canadian government plans to stabilise new permanent residency levels in 2026 after years of immigration growth, while promising to update the post-graduation work permit program to align with labour force needs.
Canada has welcomed record levels of permanent residents in recent years, peaking at 437,000 in 2022, but this has placed pressure on housing and infrastructure.
The federal government has now set out an updated plan to limit future growth in an attempt to balance labour force needs with the capacity of provinces.
It has committed to working across government departments and in collaboration with regional authorities to “develop a more integrated plan to coordinate housing, health care and infrastructure”.
Permanent migration increases have coincided with a surge in the number of international students choosing to study in Canada. Studies have found that most international students who go to Canada plan to become permanent residents, but many are left disappointed.
Immigration minister Marc Miller set out the government’s new targets on November 1, announcing that Canada will maintain its planned targets in 2024 and 2025, which will see the number of new permanent residents increase to 485,000 and 500,000 respectively. In 2026, the government will stabilise permanent resident levels at 500,000.
In the first three quarters of 2023, approximately 20,500 former study permit holders were granted residency status in Canada, compared to 19,735 in the whole of 2022, according to IRCC data.
Shamira Madhany, managing director for World Education Services Canada, said the new immigration targets “appear to take a balanced approach in today’s context” and still give international students the opportunity to seek permanent residency.
“At the same time, other actions can and should be taken to increase Canada’s desirability as a destination,” Madhany said.
“These include streamlining the pathways to permanent residency for international students, ensuring that stakeholders are working collaboratively to provide wrap-around support for them, and providing access to clear and accurate information before arrival.”
The government has also promised to update the post-graduation work permit program to support critical sectors, although little detail has been shared about what this could entail.
A new strategy released by IRCC, which also encompasses previous policy announcements, highlights plans to focus on international students with “high-demand skills, including exploring new measures to better transition international students to the labour force”.
Working with Global Affairs Canada, the government will also focus on marketing high-demand skills and sectors to prospective international students.
Announcing the changes, Miller emphasised the importance of immigrants to Canada’s economy in the face of the country’s ageing population.
“We are striking the appropriate balance to grow Canada’s economy”
“By stabilising the number of newcomers, we recognise that housing, infrastructure planning, and sustainable population growth need to be properly taken into account,” Miller said in a statement.
“Through this plan, we are striking the appropriate balance to grow Canada’s economy, while maintaining our humanitarian tradition, supporting Francophone immigration, and developing a more collaborative approach to levels planning with our partners.”
In line with its francophone immigration strategy, the government has also committed to tackle barriers faced by students from sub-Saharan African looking to study in Canada following concerns about the high visa refusal rate for students from these regions.
According to IRCC, a pilot program will be developed with select post-secondary institutions to address barriers faced by African students in meeting the financial requirements for study permits and to facilitate applications to institutions in francophone minority communities.
IRCC also reiterated planned changes to the international student program, such as the previously-announced recognised institution framework.
Madhany said the framework was “a step in the right direction” but added that “more is needed” to support international students. WES’s recommendations include more cross-sectoral collaboration, greater regulation of education agents and the expansion of eligibility for services to international students provided by the settlement sector.
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