Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser make an announcement on upcoming changes related to Express Entry and opportunities for international graduates.

Saint John, New Brunswick

April 22, 2022

As delivered

Hello, everyone. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here with everyone this morning. The rebound from COVID is going to require policies that bring a focus on economic growth.  We are seeing one of the strongest economic recoveries in Canada of any developed economy in the world.

We’ve now seen 115% of the jobs that were lost during the pandemic returned. Our GDP has exceeded pre-pandemic levels and as of the most recent labour force survey just a few weeks ago, we can now say proudly Canada’s unemployment rate is not just the lowest since the beginning of the pandemic but it’s at the lowest rate it’s been at since we started keeping track of those statistics in 1976.

Despite the extraordinary jobs recovery and economic growth that we’re seeing as we bounce out of the pandemic recession if I think back to the end of last year before the Omicron variant hit our communities there were 965,000 job vacancies. The reality is that immigration is going to play a key role if we’re going to maximize our economic potential as we do emerge from the pandemic recession and seek to build a stronger economy on the back end of the pandemic than we had going in.

As Canada continues to recover from the pandemic, employers and businesses are actively looking to fill hundreds of thousands of vacant positions in all sectors across the country. I can’t walk down Main Street of any community I visit without finding a help wanted sign in the window. Since the start of the pandemic newcomers in particular have continued to make immeasurable contributions to our society and to our local economies.

I know we’ve all heard countless stories about how newcomers helped Canada get through this extraordinarily difficult time, whether it’s those working on the frontlines helping in retailing, grocery stores, working in our hospitals, providing vital services in the transportation and food sectors. Nombre d’entre eux sont même des propriétaires d’entreprises qui créent des emplois au Canada ou qui aident les entreprises à réussir grâce à leurs nombreuses compétences et leurs talents.

Newcomers make essential contributions in areas that will be key to Canada’s future prosperity, such as health care, science and research. Immigration is more important now than ever to fuel Canada’s economy. Our strong economic growth is now outpacing the ability of the economy to find workers.

We need to make sure that we utilize Canada’s position as the top destination of choice for global talent and ensure that businesses and employers have access to the skilled workers they need to grow and succeed. To help bring even more skilled workers quickly to Canada we’ve already made investments to boost the processing capacity of IRCC.

It’s resulted in a doubling of the number of permanent resident decisions in the first quarter of this year compared to the same time period last year, which was the most successful year we’ve ever had in terms of the number of permanent residents we’ve resettled in Canada. From January to March alone we’ve made over 156,000 final decisions on permanent residence applications and through these efforts in the first three months of the year we’ve already welcomed more than 113,000 new permanent residents since January.

We’ve also processed more than 100,000 work permit applications in the first quarter of the year, doubling the number processed over the same time period last year. There is no doubt that Canada needs immigrants to succeed. Throughout the pandemic, we have heard from employers across the country who need skilled immigrants to meet their labour needs.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of jobs available in sectors across the economy that are waiting to be filled. Today I’m pleased to announce a series of measures that are going to help ensure that the economy retains essential workers it needs to succeed.

First I’d like to share that Canada is going to extend post-graduation work permits for recent international graduates and for those whose permits already have or will expire this year, we will ensure you are eligible for an additional open work permit for 18 months. We’re working on a simplified and expeditious process.  Details are going to be made available in the weeks ahead.

This is going to give peace of mind to a lot of people who have been wondering whether they’re going to be able to continue to work, continue to stay in Canada, looking down the barrel of the challenge of an expiring work permit, making sure they’re going to have the ability to stay and continue to make contributions, thousands upon thousands of people, is going to make a serious difference for the economic recovery.

I would like to announce today that Canada will extend post-graduation work permits for recent international graduates. Those whose permits have already expired or will expire this year will all be eligible for an additional 18-month work permit.

These talented and skilled international graduates play a vital role in addressing our labour shortage. Those nearing the end of their postgraduate work permit are already well integrated into Canada’s labour market and are working in key industries across the country.  This will allow applicants to continue contributing to our economy while they continue to gain valuable work experience.

Unfortunately travel restrictions in place during the pandemic delayed the processing of overseas applications for skilled newcomers and this led to a significant growth in the inventory of cases we have at IRCC. If you think about it, it’s common sense.  At a time the borders were closed to protect the public against the spread of COVID we had to pivot our strategy to welcome more people who were here on a temporary basis.

During that time Canada became the top destination in the world for workers who were looking to relocate to another country. This has created a phenomenon where, although we resettled more permanent residents than any year in Canada’s history, we saw more people in the line-ups who were trying to come to Canada to make a contribution to our communities.

To help manage this phenomenon Canada put a pause on new applications for permanent residents from skilled newcomers who were outside of the country at the time. I am pleased to share today that we’re also going to being to invite new candidates to apply for permanent residence under the Express Entry system beginning in July.

This includes skilled newcomers who are already in Canada on temporary status and includes many of those who will benefit from the extension of an open work permit, who are looking at the potential expiry of a postgraduate work permit. The federal high skilled processing inventory has been cut in half, decreasing from almost 112,000 in September of last year to just 48,000 by March of this year.

This inventory will be even further reduced by July and will allow us to return to the service standard of six months that our clients expected before the pandemic. Today, I am pleased to announce a series of measures that will help us address our labour shortage. First, Canada will be inviting new applicants to apply for permanent residence through our Express Entry system starting in July.

This includes skilled newcomers who are already in Canada on temporary status. With travel restrictions during the pandemic it made sense to target skilled immigrants who were already here in Canada. Since 2020 foreign nationals in Canada as visitors have been able to apply for an employer specific work permit without having to leave Canada.

For those who wish to stay in Canada and find meaningful employment, we’re now extending this policy to February 2023. For the first time Canada offered a special one time temporary residence to permanent residence pathway or TR to PR to a wide range of temporary workers and students at all job skill levels.

Canada will continue to finalize these applications for permanent residence and we’re announcing new measures for those who have already applied through this program. To help reunify families we’ll begin to offer open work permits to immediate family members who were included on a permanent resident application through the pathway but are currently living outside of Canada.

Applicants who applied for an open work permit while waiting for their permanent residence application to be finalized will be able to get permits valid until the end of 2024 and individuals will no longer need to stay in Canada while their applications are being processed.  Our extraordinary economic growth we’re experiencing is outpacing our ability to find and keep workers. That’s why immigration is so important now to continue to fuel our economic growth as we seek to rebound from the pandemic.

The measures I’ve announced today aim to address some of the pressing needs in our labour market with new talent from abroad and support our government’s broader efforts to ensure Canadian employers have the workers they need to succeed including through Minister Qualtrough’s recently announced temporary foreign worker program workforce solutions roadmap.

At the same time we’re going to continue to offer opportunities to skilled newcomers already in Canada including recent international graduates. Immigration is a big part of the solution to our labour shortage problems, and the steps taken today will allow us to attract even more talent from around the world.

Once again I want to say thank you very much to all those in attendance today for joining us. I’m pleased to answer any questions you may have. Thank you very much.