Canada’s federal budget, released on March 22, 2017 by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and named ‘Building a Strong Middle Class’, focuses on the middle class and putting Canadians first while taking a long-term outlook that fosters innovation. In terms of immigration policy, Budget 2017 proposes changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP) while improving economic immigration options for permanent residence applicants.
Budget 2017 commits $279.8 million over the next five years and an additional $49.8 million annually thereafter in order to facilitate proposed changes to and maintain delivery of Canada’s TFWP and IMP. These reforms and investments are expected to facilitate the temporary entry of high-skilled international talent into Canada, largely under the Global Skills Strategy, detailed in our blog post here.
In terms of temporary immigration, under the Global Skills Strategy, Budget 2017 proposes to:
– Support a 2-week processing standard for visas and work permits; and
– Introduce a new Short Duration Work Permit Exemption for work periods under 30 days per year or brief academic stays
More specifically, the proposed 2-week processing standard for visas and work permits will foster innovation and put Canadians first by targeting:
– High-growth Canadian companies requiring access to global talent, in order to facilitate and accelerate investments that create jobs for Canadians and grow Canada’s economy; and
– Global companies that are creating new jobs for Canadians through large investments, relocation or expansion into Canada, and establishing new production or expanding existing production.
The proposed Short Duration Work Permit Exemption to be introduced under the Global Skills Strategy will target foreign nationals entering Canada for work periods of less than 30 days, or brief academic stays. This exemption category will be used to facilitate short-term, inter-company work exchanges, study exchanges or the entrance of temporary expertise. In the long term, it is expected that the access to international talent provided by this new exemption category will facilitate the growth of the Canadian economy, and in turn, provide more jobs for Canadians.
In terms of permanent immigration, Budget 2017 proposes to:
– Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to ensure that the Express Entry system is responsive to the needs of the Canadian labour market; and
– Commit more resources and funding to reducing barriers to high-skilled employment opportunities through the Targeted Employment Strategy for Newcomers.
Given that the Express Entry system is used to manage Canada’s economic permanent residence programs, in order to ensure a long-term sustainable economic outlook, this system must recognize and respond to the needs of the Canadian labour market. As such, the proposed amendments to IRPA are expected to ensure that those candidates who are most likely to succeed economically in Canada are selected for permanent residence.
In recognizing that high-skilled foreign nationals often face barriers with respect to the recognition of their foreign credentials in Canada, Budget 2017 proposes the Targeted Employment Strategy for Newcomers to reduce these barriers and promote high-skilled employment. This strategy will involve three aspects:
– Improved pre-arrival supports enabling newcomers to begin the foreign credential recognition process before arriving in Canada;
– A loan program that will assist newcomers with the cost of having their foreign credentials assessed; and
– Targeted measures to test innovative approaches to help skilled newcomers gain Canadian work experience in their profession.
Finally, Budget 2017 proposes to amend IRPA to allow the Government to set relevant fees in a timely manner. It also highlights a commitment to make better use of digital technologies and integrated information in order to facilitate applications and decrease immigration processing times.
Budget 2017 confirms many of the previously disclosed details regarding Canada’s new Global Skills Strategy. The Short Duration Work Permit Exemption will allow companies in Canada more predictable access to professional services which may not be offered by Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Further, proposals to amend the Express Entry system will better align the selection criteria for Permanent Residents with Canada’s labour market needs and create new opportunities for foreign nationals seeking to come to or remain in Canada permanently.
Overall, allocating more resources to both the TFWP and the IMP will result in more avenues available to employers and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada temporarily.
For more information on the federal budget and Canadian immigration, please contact a member of our team at PwC Law LLP.