The pandemic was a once-in-a-century disruption that forced countries across the globe to make drastic changes to its policies and programs. Canada too was forced to make numerous changes to its immigration system during the pandemic.
However, a quick comparison of how the US and Canada reacted to the pandemic, especially regarding its immigration programs and policies, clearly shows why the US has a long way ahead to catch up with Canada as the world’s most immigrant-friendly destination.
No Immigration Shutdown
Citing job losses due to the pandemic and the importance of protection jobs in the US for Americans, the US government shut down all work visas and suspended issue of new green cards in June 2020.
Since the H-1B visa and other work visas are used when there are no skilled American workers, this strange decision helped neither American workers nor foreign skilled workers. Of course, this decision did not help control the pandemic in any significant way either.
On the other hand, Canada did not shut down its immigration programs and continued to process existing and new applications. Of course, immigrants could not enter the country due to international travel restrictions, but the move underlined Canada’s status as a pro-immigration destination.
Immigration Draws Continued as Normal
Canada continued to conduct federal and provincial immigration draws and issued ITAs to eligible candidates throughout the pandemic.
The only major change to the conduct of draws was the shift in preference from the Federal Skilled Worker program to Canada Experience Class and other Express Entry streams of Provincial Nomination programs.
Canada work experience is not mandatory under the FSWP, which meant most skilled workers qualifying through this program were living abroad. Considering the travel restrictions, Canada chose to focus its draws on those already in Canada on a work permit.
New Streams and Pilot Programs Made Permanent
Not only did Canada continue its existing immigration programs, it also introduced new federal and provincial streams to ensure there was no shortage of skilled workers for critical jobs in the country.
The TR to PR program was a temporary immigration program with streams for English-speaking and French-speaking skilled workers in healthcare and non-healthcare essential occupations. Further, there was another stream for English-speaking international graduates in the country.
Such was demand for these streams that the application cap for some streams was hit in less than 24 hours.
At provincial level, provinces continued to update their list of in-demand occupations and created new PNP streams depending on the condition of the provincial economy and the extent of vacancies in the province.
Quebec has introduced a host of new pilot programs, which, in all probability, will become permanent programs in the years ahead. Ontario has a new program targeting 100 entrepreneurs who must invest $2 million each in the province. BC has converted its Tech pilot into a permanent program.
Saskatchewan has joined the list of provinces with tech-specific PNP streams, and more provinces are likely to follow. At the federal level, Canada also decided to convert the Atlantic Immigration pilot program into a permanent program.
All these developments showcase that it has been business as usual with Canada’s immigration system.
Massive Draws to Meet Immigration Targets
This is probably where the distinction between Canada and the US was clearly visible to foreign skilled workers. While the US had shut down immigration, Canada was conducting massive draws to give Invitation to Apply for permanent residence to as many foreign workers already in the country.
Canada’s probably the only developed country that announces immigration targets. Despite a lean year at the peak of the pandemic, Canada managed to achieve its revised immigration target for 2021.
Further, it has announced higher targets for the 2022-2024 cycle and there’s nothing to indicate that Canada will not succeed in achieving this.
The fact that Canada’s immigration system ran the way it was supposed to, with regular draws and normal processing and completion of formalities, shows why it makes sense to choose Canada over all other skilled immigration destinations.
Canada has a merit-centric immigration system that has worked fine even during the massive disruptions caused by the pandemic. And now that the pandemic is virtually over, it’s safe to conclude that Canada has only emerged stronger and readier to accept more skilled immigrants.