Canada is rolling out a one-time special immigration program to grant permanent residence to 90,000 recent international graduates as well as temporary foreign workers with work experience in essential occupations.
International students will qualify for the new program if they have graduated from an eligible post-secondary program within the past four years, after January 2017, and if they are currently employed. They do not need to be in a specific occupation to meet the requirements.
The program is also open to temporary foreign workers with at least one year of work experience in one of the 40 health-care occupations, as well as 95 other essential jobs across a range of fields, such as caregiving and food production and distribution.
This time-limited immigration pathway will take effect on May 5 and remain open until Nov. 5 or until the target is reached.
“The pandemic has shone a bright light on the incredible contributions of newcomers. These new policies will help those with a temporary status to plan their future in Canada, play a key role in our economic recovery and help us build back better,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.
“Our message to them is simple: Your status may be temporary, but your contributions are lasting — and we want you to stay.”
The Liberal government has made immigration a critical part of Canada’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery with plans to welcome 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, after the annual intake of immigrants nosedived by 45.7 per cent last year to just 185,130.
The 90,000 intake under the new program will account for almost a quarter of this year’s overall immigration goal.
With the border remaining closed to non-essential travel, many would-be immigrants who have already been granted permanent residence have been unable to come to Canada.
It has prompted officials to shift gears and focus more on prospective candidates who are already in Canada and normally would face a lengthier process to qualify.
In February, Ottawa raised eyebrows when it issued 27,332 invitations — five times more than its previous high of 5,000 people — to hopeful candidates already living in this country.
Mendicino said these are unprecedented steps taken to create “the fastest and broadest pathways” for permanent residency and toward achieving the 2021 immigration level plan through a series of “smart choices.”
“We need workers who possess a range of skills in a range of sectors within our economy to keep it going forward and accelerate our economic recovery,” he said.
“We value those who are highly educated, those who are highly skilled, but we also need people who work in the agriculture sector and in trades and construction sector who provide manual labour to build our communities. For too long, we haven’t been able to provide these pathways.”
Among the 90,000 spots of the program, 20,000 will be dedicated for temporary foreign workers in health care; 30,000 for those in other selected essential occupations; and the remaining 40,000 for international students who graduated from a Canadian institution.
All candidates must have proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages, meet general admissibility requirements; be authorized to work and be working in Canada at the time of their application to qualify. Migrants who are already out of legal status won’t be eligible.
To promote Canada’s official languages, three additional streams have also been created for French-speaking or bilingual candidates, with no intake caps.
Mendicino said the immigration department has recently hired an additional 62 officers to boost its processing capacity and the new program will only accept applications online to allow remote processing by staff, most of them are still working from home.
He said processing immigration applicants within and outside of the country are not mutually exclusive, and officials will continue to process applications of those who are abroad because Canada needs immigrants to fill labour market needs and replenish an aging population.
These special public policies, he said, will encourage essential temporary workers and international graduates to put down roots in Canada and help retain the talented workers in need in the country.
“Imagine you’ve been asked to bring in the greatest number of permanent residents in the history of the country. People could’ve said, ‘Put a pause on immigration.’ We said no, because we believed we need to continue to grow our economy through immigration,” said Mendicino.
“Newcomers create jobs. They create growth. They give back to their community. They are rolling up their sleeves and invested in Canada even if they don’t have permanent residence. They’re reflecting uniquely Canadian qualities: hard work, caring for one another and compassion. That’s why today’s announcement is so important.”
Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung