This year is shaping up to be a potentially eventful one when it comes to the evolving landscape of Canadian immigration law. Several announcements from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have already happened, and more are expected in 2024, influencing policies, procedures, and opportunities for those seeking to move north of the 49th parallel.
Reducing International Student Permits
The Federal government has just announced substantial changes to the rules around international student permits, capping the total annual amount for the first time.
IRCC has provided some clarity around this new cap, though many questions related to the implementation of the cap, and particularly the process by which provinces will issue now-required attestation letters, remain unanswered.
Targeted Express Entry Draws by Occupation
IRCC issues invitations to apply for permanent residence to candidates who are registered in the Express Entry pool. Since Express Entry began in 2015, these rounds were issued to all candidates in each immigration stream that uses Express Entry (Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades).
In 2023, Express Entry started to target candidates working in certain occupations, which has lowered the score for people in these occupations (by various amounts), but which has increased the score quite a bit for people in the general pool. We are starting to see the effects of this in 2024, as people in the general pool are finding it much more difficult to get an invitation.
IRCC seems to be introducing more special pathways to people coming from certain countries. Often these are for humanitarian reasons (Ukraine, Turkish and Syrian temporary residents, people affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict, etc.) but they also have programs for certain foreign nationals who are not in a crisis situation, such as residents of Hong Kong. In either case, IRCC is doing this much more than they were before.
Family Reunification Programs
Family reunification could be a focus of Canadian immigration policy in 2024. The IRCC had already introduced policies to support reuniting family members fleeing Sudan and Afghanistan, as well as changes to the temporary resident visa (TRV) process aimed at bringing families back together faster.
In addition, as of late January, the Federal government announced it would not appeal a court ruling that found part of the Canada’s Citizenship Act unconstitutional. Known as the so called ‘Lost Canadians’ case, this Ontario Superior Court ruling could have significant implications for Canadian families living abroad, as well as the overall IRCC policies. We’ll be watching how IRCC responds to this case closely over the coming months.
An Uncertain Road Ahead
The above are just a few of the emerging trends from the IRCC in recent months. While these trends cover a range of topics, there are countless more that could emerge quickly. Ongoing labour shortages in sectors such as construction and manufacturing, ongoing geo-political conflicts, new trade agreements—and disputes—are all just a few topics that could impact Canadian immigration in 2024.