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WES Weekly Roundup March 13, 2024

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World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. The weekly roundup includes research, stories, and events of interest to the Canadian immigration and settlement community. This content has been created by WES and is reproduced here with their permission, in partnership.

Canada announces new immigration pilots to support rural and Francophone minority communities, will create a permanent program (Government of Canada)

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada will be expanding immigration policies into rural and small-town communities across the country to tackle critical labour shortages and bolster Francophone integration. Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced that the federal government will be renewing and making permanent the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP), that was set to expire summer 2024. Originally launched in 2019, the objective of the RNIP was to attract and retain more skilled workers to live and work in smaller and northern communities. The program partnered with 11 communities across northern Ontario and Western Canada. As of January 2024, 5158 newcomers obtained permanent residency through the pilot. With the extension comes the addition of the Rural Community Immigration Pilot and the Francophone Community Pilot, set to be launched this fall. Both programs are expected to be transitioned into permanent programs. The immigration pilots have a goal to enable rural, remote, and minority francophone communities outside of Quebec, in enabling economic migration and inclusion through a streamlined pathway to permanent residency for newcomers looking to settle in smaller centres. Local government representatives welcome the new programs and are looking forward to ensuring their communities have access to a pool of skilled workers to support the growth of their economies.

British Columbia releases details of new Provincial Attestation Letter system under Canada’s international student cap (ICEF Monitor)

Provinces across the country are making new provisions for international student programming in response to the two-year federal cap on international student admittances. The Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills in British Columbia announced how new regulations will be applied to the province's education system, including the launch of a new system to issue Provincial Attestation Letters (PALs), that all provinces and territories are required to provide under recent changes. BC is one of the first provinces after Quebec and Alberta, to establish the PAL mechanism in response to new requirements from IRCC. The PAL is a verification letter that will be sent from the province to the institution, then from institutions to international applicants as proof that the potential students have been accounted for within the cap framework. Applicants are required to submit their attestation letters along with their study permit application. Higher-ed institutions that use their full allocation will not be eligible to submit new applications until a new allocation is issued by the federal government for the following year. British Columbia has a confirmed allocation that allows for 83,000 undergraduate study permit applications - much less than the 97,000 application filings of 2023. The distribution for PALs will be 53 percent for public post-secondary institutions compared to 47 percent for private institutions. Government officials in BC note that the province is continuing to develop 'made-in-BC' solutions that adequately respond to BC's unique environment and shared goals with the federal government.

Ottawa says it will bypass Quebec's immigration cap to speed up family reunification (CBC)

The Federal Immigration Minister of Canada, Marc Miller, has decided to bypass Quebec's immigration cap to accelerate family reunification, planning to grant permanent residency to more than 20,000 applicants. Despite months of requests from IRCC for the Quebec government to increase its family reunification capacity, which is capped at approximately 10,000 applicants per year, Quebec has not complied. Miller criticized the cap as "artificially low" and labeled the backlog of reunification cases as a humanitarian crisis, emphasizing the importance of social justice in his decision. Currently, family reunification applicants in Quebec experience significantly longer wait times compared to other Canadians, with spousal sponsorship taking about 34 months and parent or grandparent reunification taking approximately 50 months. This move by the federal government is expected to create tension with Quebec's Coalition Avenir Québec government, which is already facing legal action due to delays in family reunification processes. The lawsuit may be dropped if Ottawa's plan proceeds. Quebec's Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette's office responded to the federal government's decision, calling it a direct challenge to Quebec's jurisdiction over its immigration targets. The province insists on determining its immigration levels independently, arguing that Ottawa's intervention is unacceptable. Quebec acknowledges the significant delays but describes its immigration approach as balanced and is exploring solutions that respect its prerogatives. Critics from various political groups in Quebec view the federal government's action as an infringement on provincial jurisdiction and emphasize that the issue of family reunification is being politicized.

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