By Kareem El-Assal
The Forum of Ministers Responsible (FMRI) for Immigration met in Saint John, New Brunswick on July 28 to discuss a host of major immigration policy issues.
Topics on the agenda included Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan, a more agile economic immigration system, regional economic immigration, settlement, and refugees resettlement.
The big takeaway is that Canada’s immigration ministers agreed to develop a multi-year Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) allocation plan. Currently, even though Canada sets its permanent residence targets over a three-year period, PNP allocations are determined on an annual basis. Moving forward, the ministers agreed that PNP allocation targets will also be set on a three-year basis. The ministers agreed to determine the multi-year PNP plan by March 31, 2023.
The FMRI is comprised of Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial immigration ministers. They meet each year to discuss immigration issues of national importance. The FMRI is a decision-making body with the goal of supporting a flexible, timely, and effective immigration system for Canada.
Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser added in the post-meeting press conference that there is no certainty at the moment on the precise numbers on the increased PNP allocations for each province and territory. The reason, he said, is the federal government needs to have follow-up conversations with provinces and territories to ensure they have the settlement capacity necessary to welcome more newcomers.
The rationale for a multi-year PNP plan is similar to why Canada re-introduced a multi-year Immigration Levels Plan back in 2017. The rationale for the Immigration Levels Plan 2018-2020, and subsequent plans, has been to allow stakeholders including government, the settlement sector, and employers the ability to plan in advance for higher immigration levels. Canada is now guided by the Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024 and Minister Fraser is set to table the 2023-2025 plan by November 1st of this year.
At present, Canada’s PNP targets over a three-year period are contained in the levels plan. However, each province and territory’s PNP allocation is set on an annual basis. The federal immigration minister sends a letter to their provincial and territorial counterparts each year with their respective allocation, typically in the first quarter of the calendar year.
However, the country’s immigration ministers have now agreed that by the end of March 2023, the federal minister will inform each province and territory of their PNP allocation over a three-year period. This will allow each province and territory to plan ahead, including identifying how to best use their allocation to achieve their economic development goals, as well as to identify what operational steps they need to take to be able to process PNP applications as efficiently as possible. As a province or territory’s PNP allocation increases, they need to ensure they have enough staff and the requisite technology in place to process higher PNP volumes within their service standards.
The PNP has grown in prominence since it was introduced in 1998 to promote a broader distribution of immigration across Canada. Prior to its introduction, most immigrants settled in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, which made it challenging for the Atlantic and Prairie provinces to support their economic development through immigration. The PNP only contributed to about 400 new immigrant arrivals in 1999, but it is now set to welcome over 80,000 new immigrants in 2022 and over 90,000 by 2024. The PNP, next to the federal Express Entry system, is among the two major pathways for economic class immigrants to land in Canada.
The post-meeting press release noted the immigration ministers also discussed assisting Afghan refugees, supporting Ukrainians, improving application processing times, taking steps to strengthen public support for immigration in Canada, among other topics.