This week, the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Sean Fraser, revealed the 2023–2025 Immigration Levels Plan which is aiming to welcome 465,000 permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.
It comes after the country saw over 405,000 newcomers in 2021, and the IRCC has reiterated the importance of international students and the role universities play in the targets.
“Last year, we welcomed the most newcomers in a single year in our history,” Fraser said in a statement.
“This year’s immigration levels plan will help businesses find the workers they need, set Canada on a path that will contribute to our long-term success, and allow us to make good on key commitments to vulnerable people fleeing violence, war and persecution.”
Asked by The PIE what role international students are expected to play in the plan, IRCC noted that the Canadian government “recognises the tremendous economic, cultural and social benefits that international students bring to the country”.
“They are an important source of future permanent residents”
The country’s “diverse and inclusive society, high-quality educational institutions and opportunities to work or immigrate after graduation” led to close to 622,000 study permit holders being in the country at the end of 2021, a spokesperson said.
The majority of post-secondary international students are eligible to apply for a post-graduation work permit of up to three years upon graduation, and they are “an important group of workers, working in every industry for employers right across the country”, IRCC continued.
Earlier this year, Canada announced it would temporarily remove the limit on the number of hours that international students in the country can work from November 15 to address labour shortages.
“They are also an important source of future permanent residents,” IRCC said. “More than 157,000 former international students became permanent residents in 2021—a new record—including more than 88,000 who transitioned directly from a post-graduation work permit to permanent status.”
Former students transitioning to permanent residence use the Express Entry system, but other streams, such as the Provincial Nominee Program, the Atlantic Immigration Program, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the Start-up Visa Program or spousal sponsorship, also offer opportunities.
New features in the Express Entry system are designed to attract newcomers with required health care, manufacturing, building trades and STEM skills and qualifications, the government said.
“While we encourage international students who are interested in immigrating to Canada permanently to explore their opportunities to apply, having a temporary status in Canada is not a guarantee that they will eventually qualify for permanent residence,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson also pointed to the Motion 44, which the minister responded to in the House of Commons during September.
“The government’s response outlines a range of existing pathways to be expanded or adjusted to increase opportunities to transition from temporary to permanent residence, including ongoing efforts to support international students,” the spokesperson explained.
Between 2016 to 2021, just over 1.3 million new immigrants settled permanently in Canada, with the 2021 census finding that close to one in four people were or had been a landed immigrant or permanent resident. The number of new permanent residents in Canada surged by some 275,000 so far in 2022.
By 2035, the worker-to-retiree ratio is expected to reach two to one, up from seven to one 50 years ago.
Canada’s Fall Economic Statement, published on November 3, pointed out that the economic benefits of immigration “depend on how well newcomers integrate into the labour market”.
“Canada is doing well in this regard as newcomers to Canada have steadily improved their labour force participation over the past few years,” it said. “Canada continuing to be a destination of choice for those looking to build a better future for themselves and their families will be an important factor in our continued economic growth.”
Colleges and Institutes Canada said it was pleased to see the commitment to address immigration backlogs, adding that members have a long history of supporting newcomers to integrate successfully in Canadian communities and “stand ready to support further investments to support labour market integration”.
“We are pleased to see that the government continues to support learners to promote skills development as a critical component of Canada’s economic recovery and transition to net-zero,” noted CICan president and CEO, Denise Amyot.
“Canada is falling behind other countries who are making significant investments in research”
Universities Canada added that the statement “could have done more to make smart investments in long-term growth by investing in Canada’s universities”.
“Canada’s universities help attract the talent that Canada needs and this in turn attracts investment to Canada,” the organisation representing Canada’s universities at home and abroad said.
“Universities are a smart investment as employers across the country face the worst talent crunch in generations. Canada cannot afford to fall behind in the global race for talent. To keep Canada competitive, the federal government should support research, fostering Canadian talent and maintaining Canada as a top destination for the brightest students and researchers around the globe.”
The government should also raise expenditures on research and development, which amounted to 1.7% of GDP in 2020, “far behind the OECD average of 2.95% and the second lowest level in the G7”, Universities Canada noted.
“Canada is falling behind other countries who are making significant investments in research,” it said.
“The federal government must renew support for the world-leading research being conducted at our universities if Canada’s economy is to remain globally competitive.”