As 2022 comes to a close, Clarke Immigration Law is thinking ahead to the new year and all the potential changes to Canadian immigration laws on the horizon. This past year has seen many developments as the many Orders in Council (OIC) from the pandemic have been expiring. We continue to meet with new clients who submitted applications under those old policies and programs, expecting the Officer to grant their requests even after the policy expired. As you may expect, the Officers refused those applications. Of course, if other individuals submitted those applications and they were accepted, they would not need our help and we would not be aware of those approvals.
In no particular order, here are our predictions for 2023:
1. More digitization of IRCC forms and processing
I cannot take credit for the move from paper applications to submitting digital applications; however, that was the focus of my presentation to Parliament in November 2020. Thank you again to MP Raquel Dancho for inviting me to speak to the CIMM committee. Here are some of the remarks made at that time:
My first point is that IRCC needs to further digitize the system and expand online services. For example, Spousal sponsorships and Temporary Resident Permit applications could easily be submitted online. In 2018, the Refugee Protection Division at the IRB introduced the e-Post system and it has been very successful. Epost makes it is easy for counsel to see details of documents that have been uploaded. IRCC has started to use e-Post for refugee claimants inside Canada and this tool be useful in other contexts. In short, a robust online system may provide solutions to dealing with long processing times and backlogs.
After I made those points to Parliament, many IRCC applications were digitized. At our last CBA National Immigration Conference, we heard from a group of IRCC Officers who described the differences between 19 (!) different online portals. Each portal has its own peccadillos and we regularly deal with portal issues. Staff at CIL are members of various listservs and we can see lawyers across Canada experiencing daily issues wtih the portals.
2. Fewer Issues with IRCC Portals
Related to the first point, I know that IRCC has been working hard to resolve the (many!) technological issues with the portals. It can seem that IRCC is slow to react to concerns. To a certain extent, IRCC is similar to an oceanliner and it changes course very slowly. For example, in 2022, we expressed many issues with the ArriveCAN app. I spoke with friends at CBSA and I know they were also expressing their frustrations internally. Finally, the government eventually listened to these concerns.
3. Flexible Work Permits
Minister Fraser has demonstrated a clear understanding of the current labout shortages. He has made a few improvements to help Canadian businesses and to allow foreign nationals to work in Canada. This has included the change to allow international students work full-time. Recently, they unveiled a new Work Permit program to add more flexibility in the system.
Canadians, as well as folks from around the work, are dealing with inflation and labour shortages. Here at CIL, we are getting many requests from businesses in Winnipeg that need workers. There is a significant need for workers in key parts of the labour market.
We expect 2023 will bring additional Work Permits, possibly for spouses of Permanent Residents or Canadian Citizens. We are also hoping for Work Permits for siblings Permanent Residents or Canadian Citizens. Brothers and sisters of Permanent Residents or Canadian Citizens used to be included within the definition of “family members” prior to 2004. When IRPA was ratified, siblings were removed from that definition and moved to “relative”.
4. Lower CRS Scores for EE
IRCC has announced a significant increase in the number of Permanent Residents. The government is hoping to approve many applications 2023 and more in 2024. To meet those numbers, CIL predicts more skilled workers to be selected which will mean that minimum CRS scores may come down.
5. Longer Wait Times and Larger Backlogs
For decades, Canada has been one of the top destination countries in immigration. When I started helping international students at the University of Victoria in 1996, I met students from different corners of the world. When Trump was elected in the USA, the demand to come to Canada skyrocketed. All the applicants who considered “either Canada or the USA” as options were suddenly realizing that, in fact, our countries are quite different. The Canadian government supports families and respects cultural differences while the USA adopts a “melting pot” approach.
At the beginning of 2022, the Ukraine war led to uncertainty in Europe. Energy prices have been increasing around the world and Europeans are facing a cold winter.
I have family in the USA and in Europe. We have been hearing about all the issues and we have been trying to help as many people as possible to come to Canada.
Based on the above, Canada has continued to surge. Minister Fraser indicated that Canada is the #1 destination country and IRCC Officers have been overwhelmed with applications. We expect the demand to continue in 2023.
6. Increase in AI Decision Making
The backlogs at IRCC and all the points above will likely lead to more AI decisions. We have seen applications processed by Chinook and we have won cases at Federal Court from those decisions. The DOJ has been actively vetting Applications for Leave and Judicial Review to protect the IRCC decisions made by Chinook. We have yet to see a Federal Court judge provide guidance on how AI can be used to make decisions on immigration applications.
I expect IRCC will continue to ramp up their use of Chinook and other AI systems to deal with the backlogs. In turn, I expect Federal Court decisions that will consider the appropriate use of these systems by government agents.
7. Changes to MPNP
If you read this space, you know that Alastair Clarke was invited to give a presentation to the Immigration Advisory Council for Manitoba. They are currently looking at improvements and changes to the MPNP program. We expect the government will be updating the program and adding flexibility into our provincial system.