Immigration Services – Liberal Government Brings Significant Changes to Canadian Immigration Programs

June 15, 2016

The new Liberal government has been working hard to absorb tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. But that's not all they are doing. Below are some highlights from the first half of 2016.

1. One-time fee exemption

Foreign nationals who are criminally inadmissible to Canada for DUIs and other misdemeanours, were previously required to pay the CAD$200 government fee in order to enter Canada, no matter the purpose or duration of their stay.

Under the new directive, they will be granted a one-time fee exemption. Assessment is based on the officer's discretion, and confirmation that the foreign national is not a risk to public health and safety. Subsequent visits will trigger the fee payment requirement.

2. Easing work permit options for Francophones working outside of Quebec

The new program, Mobilité Francophone, will facilitate movement of native French speakers destined to provinces outside of Québec. Applicants who qualify as high skilled workers will be considered exempt from the lengthy and arduous process of testing the Canadian labour market before obtaining a work permit. This will save employers at least 8 weeks and $1000 in government fees.

3. New rules for Foreign Workers waiting on their new documents

Foreign nationals are required to maintain their status documents throughout their stay in Canada. As long as an extension application is filed in advance of the expiry date, the foreign national can remain in Canada under “implied status” until the application is adjudicated.

Historically, departing Canada was considered abandonment of the extension application and implied status was lost. Visa-requiring nationals would not be permitted re-entry without a valid visa.

Under the new directive, visa-required nationals may be permitted to re-enter Canada as visitors while a decision is pending on their work/study permit application, as long as they demonstrate sufficient financial means. They are not authorized to work or study during this time. Visa exempt nationals may be eligible to obtain their new document at the port of entry.

4. Expedited processing for spousal sponsorships inside Canada

The Department has added resources and increased quota levels to reduce the existing inventory of spousal sponsorship cases. They have increased the quota by 14,000 bringing it to 62,000 spaces, and committed $25M of the budget to support these efforts. Processing times both in land and overseas for spousal and family sponsorships will be significantly reduced, many to around 12-15 months, which is less than half of the previous wait time.

5. eTA postponed until the Fall

Currently, visa exempt nationals entering Canada by air can board their flights without any documentation. The program, which requires visa-exempt nationals to obtain pre- authorization before traveling by air to Canada, was set to launch in full effect as of September 29, 2016; however, it has been further pushed to November 9, 2016. The eTA process is quick and simple, as it is completed online and costs $7. It is issued for five years, or to the passport expiry date, whichever is sooner. Citizens of the US are exempt from the eTA requirement.

6. Visa lift for Mexican citizens entering Canada

In 2009, Prime Minister Harper imposed visa requirements on Mexican citizens entering Canada as a reaction to a high number unfounded refugee claims. This negatively impacted the NAFTA partners' ability to do business in the region.

As a result of the “Three Amigos” Summit in late June 2016, it was announced that the visa requirement will be lifted in December 2016. Mexican nationals will have to obtain an eTA, and visitors to Canada will be admitted at the port of entry. Applicants seeking to work or study in Canada will still have to make their application at the consulate in advance of travel.

For additional information and details of these changes, please contact BDO Immigration Services.


Mark Chow, Partner
Doreen Buksner, Senior Manager

1100-123 Front Street West
Toronto, Canada M5J 2M2

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