In an exclusive interview with Y Media Group Editor and CEO, Canada’s Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser openly discussed the new policy changes in the immigration system and how they would address the labour shortage. He further explained his vision of making the system more advanced and accessible. Read on.
Yudhvir Jaswal: Could you please shine a light on the announcements that you made recently regarding resuming express entry draws and extending work permits?
Minister Sean Fraser: This critical policy to resume express entry draws and extend work permits will help people who’ve been struggling by not knowing their ability to stay or continue to work in Canada. The crux of the announcement is that those who’ve had a recently expired or soon to be expiring postgraduate work permit can apply for an open work permit which will permit them to continue to stay in Canada and work. When the economy suffers from an acute labour shortage, we must avoid harm. The postgraduate work permit is an incredible program. These talented and skilled international graduates play a vital role in addressing our labour shortage. Those nearing the end of their post-graduation work permit are already well-integrated into Canada’s labour market and work in key industries across the country. As a result of unavoidable circumstances people faced throughout the pandemic, we are required to extend the duration period for students to continue to benefit from this postgraduate work permit. We’re transitioning them to an open work permit, which will allow them to stay in Canada and continue to work for Canadian businesses and contribute to our communities and our economy.
Since September, Canada paused invitations to apply under the federal high-skilled streams, including the Canadian experience class, federal skilled worker class and federal skilled trades class. Invitations to apply under these streams will now resume in early July. The vast majority of new applications will be processed within the six-month service standard. As a result of the temporary pause, the federal high-skilled processing inventory has been cut by more than half, decreasing from approximately 111,900 people in September 2021 to just 48,000 people by March 2022. This inventory will be further reduced by July 2022, allowing us to return to the service standards that our clients expect.
Yudhvir Jaswal: What would happen to those postgraduate work permit holders whose permits expired between October 2021 and January 2022?
Minister Sean Fraser: The program that we initially announced captures most people across Canada who are in this circumstance. I’ll be honest; I’m not a politician who will sit in Ottawa behind a closed door and pretend that everything is perfect. I’ve heard the same thing that you have. We’re looking right now to examine the number of people impacted by this and the nature of their situation. We have to look at adjustments to make sure that we don’t harm the economy and can include additional people into the policy. It’s something that we’re willing to look at. I want to ensure that this policy is constructed as broadly as possible. I believe it’s a good thing for the individuals and the Canadian economy. So we’ll dig in, and once we have completed our analysis on how many people are impacted and the extent to which they’re affected, we’ll see if we need to make any adjustments.
Yudhvir Jaswal: There are still concerns regarding the parents and grandparents program backlogs. Could you please throw light on this as well?
Minister Sean Fraser: One of the things that I find to be a real challenge with the parents and grandparents program is that the supply and demand mechanics of the equation are entirely enormous compared to all other streams in Canada’s immigration system. This is the most challenging immigration stream that I deal with. This year, we’re targeting 23,500 individuals who can be resettled as permanent residents through the parents and grandparents program. I intend to increase that number over the next two years to 32,000. We received over 200,000 applications through this stream in specific years. So we’re going to be in a difficult position when we try to create as many spaces for as many people as possible, knowing that we’ll never satisfy that intense demand. We continue to look to programs like The Super Visa that allows people to stay here longer, even though they may not have been selected to take part in the parents and grandparents program. We’re constantly looking at ways to improve this in order to bring more families together and make sure that people have the opportunity to come to Canada and be with their families.
Yudhvir Jaswal: Could you please highlight a little about digitalization in the immigration system?
Minister Sean Fraser: We must constantly invest in our system, and there are a few different ways to do that. One is by putting more resources toward the system. We invested $85 million to reduce wait times for work and study permits, temporary residence visas, proof of citizenship documents and PR cards. In the recent federal budget, there’s another $385 million that will help improve the quality of our immigration system. We also hired 500 more people to help process cases more quickly. The second piece of the puzzle is the technology side. We can’t expect a 21st-century immigration system if we don’t embrace 21st-century technology. We’re in the middle of the most extensive digital platform modernization in Canada’s immigration system history. More features have come online in recent months. By this summer, we’re going to have 17 different lines of business where you’ll be able to apply to come to Canada through a digital portal. This is really exciting. We’ve already had functionalities come online this year that allowed people to get status updates on their family reunification cases on their phones or laptops rather than calling IRCC. It’ll be much faster as it will reduce the demands on the system and improve the quality of service people enjoy. The final thing that we need to do is continuously grow our immigration level space. I have significant ambition because I believe immigration is perfect for the economy and our national interest, both in the short term and long term.