Canadian Immigration 2016: A year in review

Posted by Immigration Law Team|Canada Immigration
Dec 16

Throughout 2016, Canada’s immigration system has shifted from a focus on traditional attributes such as education and skilled work experience, to a greater emphasis on core Canadian values, such as inclusivity, diversity, recognizing humanitarian principles and prioritizing well-rounded economic growth.

This past year, the Canadian government introduced several new initiatives which will allow companies in Canada to leverage both foreign talent and unique labour market opportunities. Focusing on simplifying the hiring process for foreign nationals, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) announced the removal of visa requirements for certain countries, and the creation of both the TV/Entertainment industry exemption and the Global Skills Strategy. Changes to the Express Entry system provide better chances of success for international students, and foreign workers with Canadian work experience. The Employer Portal, introduced in late 2015, aims to smooth the work permit application process for Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) exempt foreign workers. Finally, the application process for spousal sponsorship has been streamlined, with the objective of reducing processing times to 12 months or less.

The government has also recognized Canada’s diverse cultural landscape by re-introducing the Francophone Mobilité program, sponsoring over 35,000 Syrian refugees since late 2015, and proposing to increase the age of dependents to allow families coming to Canada to remain united. In doing so, IRCC has reintroduced Canada’s open immigration system and reinstated itself as a model for diverse yet balanced immigration policy.

Reflected in the 2017 immigration targets announced by IRCC in late October, family class targets were increased from 80,000 to 84,000, and economic class targets increased from 160,600 to 172,500. Refugee resettlement targets decreased from 55,800 to 40,000, however the government continues to double those resettlement targets set in 2015 and in years prior. These targets, combined with policy advancements, demonstrate a well-rounded and sustainable future for Canada’s immigration strategy.

1. Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

As of November 10, 2016 citizens from visa-exempt countries excluding the US are required to obtain an eTA before flying to or through Canada. All visa-exempt travellers without an eTA will be prevented from boarding their flights to or through Canada. For more information, please see PwC Law’s blog post from April 29, 2016.

2. Canada Facilitates Entry for Citizens of Mexico, Bulgaria, Romania and Brazil

In 2016, many efforts were made to strengthen bilateral relationships with important Canadian trading partners and surrounding regions, thereby increasing business opportunities and investment. For instance, the Government of Canada announced the removal or softening of certain visa requirements for citizens of Mexico, Bulgaria, Romania, and Brazil.

Mexico: As of December 1, 2016, provided they hold a valid eTA, Mexican citizens are no longer required to hold a visa to enter Canada. Those Mexican citizens already holding a valid Canadian visa are exempt from the eTA requirement and can continue to travel to Canada on their valid visa. For more information about visa requirements for Mexican citizens,  please see PwC Law’s blog post from June 30, 2016.

Bulgaria and Romania: For information on current visa requirements for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens, please see PwC Law’s blog post from November 20, 2016.

Brazil: Although visa requirements for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens are similar, Brazilian citizens who have neither held a Canadian visa in the past ten years, nor who currently hold a valid US non-immigrant visa will still require a Canadian temporary resident visa.

3. Employer Compliance Portal

In late 2015, IRCC introduced the new “Employer Portal”, replacing the old, paper-based compliance regime.  For more information on the Employer Portal, please see PwC Law’s blog post from October 19, 2015.

4. Lights, Camera, Action: TV Production/Entertainment Industry Exemption Announced

The Canadian government expanded the International Mobility Program by introducing a new LMIA exemption to facilitate the issuance of work permits to certain foreign nationals employed in the TV and film sectors. This was done to support existing public investment in TV and film productions, as well as to recognize the significant economic benefit that high-value productions bring to Canada.

5. Bienvenue: Mobilité Francophone

In March 2016, IRCC announced a target of 4% francophone immigration under Canada’s Federal economic immigration stream by 2018. On June 1, 2016, as part of this effort, IRCC announced a new mobility stream. For more information, see PwC Law’s blog post from March 18, 2016.

6. Changes to the Express Entry System

In late 2016, the Canadian government introduced several change to the Express Entry system in an effort to meet the system’s objective of prioritizing candidates who have the strongest chances for economic success in Canada. For a summary of the changes, please see PwC Law’s blog post from November 11, 2016.

7. Changes to Family Reunification

In December 2016, the Government of Canada announced changes to both inland and overseas spousal sponsorship applications. For a summary of these changes, please see PwC Law’s blog post from December 8, 2016.

Canada also announced a new intake procedure for Parent and Grandparent sponsorship applications, detailed in PwC Law’s blog post from December 14, 2016.

8. Coming Soon – What to Expect in 2017

A. Age of Dependents

The Government of Canada has proposed to re-introduce and raise the maximum age at which a child may be considered a “dependent child” for immigration purposes, from 19 years of age to 22 years of age. Learn more about this change from PwC Law’s November 3, 2016 blog post.

B. Citizenship Changes

In early 2016, the government tabled a bill aimed at providing greater flexibility for Canadian permanent residents seeking to obtain citizenship. Specifically, the Act to Amend the Citizenship Act would reduce the period of time an applicant must be physically present in Canada prior to applying for citizenship and provide more flexibility in accruing this presence, thereby making it faster and less restrictive to meet this requirement. Further, the bill repeals the Minister’s ability to strip dual citizens who have been convicted of certain offences against Canada’s national interest of their Canadian citizenship. Finally, the bill restores the previous age range of 18-54 years for citizenship applicants to demonstrate knowledge of Canadian history and language skills.

C. Global Skills Strategy

Canada’s new ‘Global Skills Strategy  program is  intended to provide start up or fast-growing companies in Canada with quicker, more reliable access to highly qualified global talent, thus allowing them to better respond to emerging business opportunities in highly dynamic industry sectors. For more information, please see PwC Law’s blog post from December 1, 2016.


Changes to Canada’s immigration policy this past year have reflected a renewed, long-term outlook encompassing both economic growth and humanitarian considerations. Based on this progress, future Canadian immigration policy will continue to prioritize economic growth in key industry sectors, facilitating both permanent and temporary immigration to Canada and as such, employers can expect to benefit from future changes through easier access to skilled international talent. For more information on these changes, please contact a member of our team.

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