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Citizenship and immigration changes on the horizon

Citizenship and immigration changes on the horizon

Canada is a country of immigrants and the inflow of migrants has always been a strong driving force behind the Canadian economy. Historically, the Liberal governments have always taken an aggressive role in welcoming record numbers of new immigrants and have introduced creative criteria and selection techniques including, for instance, the introduction of the assessment point system.

In the October federal election, the Liberal Party of Canada toppled the Conservatives under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, the elder son of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Prior to him, Liberal Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier had also welcomed the largest number of new immigrants in the history of this country. And now, Justin Trudeau won on a promise of change – much of which will encompass citizenship and immigration matters.

The proposals in the Liberal platform include increasing the inflow of new immigrants to Canada. It would be hard to predict with any degree of precision what citizenship and immigration policy changes are coming, but based on the promises made on the campaign trail, it is clear that some of the policy changes would focus on family unification, economic immigration and refugee settlement. More accurate descriptions of the policy changes will undoubtedly emerge in the days ahead but major changes would likely be in the following specific areas:

Family Reunification

In their campaign platform, the Liberals pledged a multi-directional approach to reunite families establishing the following priorities:

  • Double the number of application caps for parents and grandparents from the existing 5,000 to 10,000.
  • Restore the maximum age for dependents from 18 to age 22.
  • Do away with the two-year conditional immigration status for spouses, common-law or conjugal partners.
  • Increase the budget for family class immigration in order to reduce processing times.

Economic Immigration

The new Express Entry program introduced by the previous government at the start of 2015 had done away with the “first-come first-served” economic immigration model to a demand-driven system where government and employers could draw applicants from the Express Entry pool to meet specific human resource needs. The new government intends to review this program and have shown willingness to allow additional bonus points for close relatives in Canada.

While the Liberal platform promises a review of the current Temporary Foreign Worker Program, early indications are that more emphasis will be placed on permanent immigration instead. A five-point plan has been promised to ensure regulatory compliance by employers and foreign workers alike.

Canadian Citizenship

The Conservative government implemented several changes in June 2015 for those seeking naturalized Canadian citizenship. The physical residency requirement in Canada was increased from three years (in any four-year period) to four years (in any six-year period). Also, time spent in Canada as a student or a foreign worker had been removed from the residency calculation.

The Liberal election platform has pledged restoration of the residency time credit as before. The Liberals have also indicated intention to repeal Bill C-24 (also known as Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act) whereby, under certain conditions, the government could revoke Canadian citizenship of those with dual citizens, as well as those who may qualify for citizenship of another country, under certain circumstances.

Mohammad Hafeez has been a licensed immigration consultant for over 20 years and is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants. He has a show on CHIN Radio Sunday nights.Contact him at canadianimmigration@sympatico.ca.