Publications, reports, and articles.

The Economic Mobility Pathways Project – Policy Principles and Lessons Learned

Posted on:
June 17, 2019

A Canadian Perspective on Complementary Pathways for Admission
IRCC-UNHCR Partner’s Dialogue on the Economic Mobility Pathways Project (EMPP) – Outcomes Document
IRCC and UNHCR Canada | IRCC et HCR Canada
June 2019 | Juin 2019

Executive Summary | Résumé

“On 29 April, 2019, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Canada convened domestic partners to discuss the Economic Mobility Pathways Project (EMPP), and to think through the policy principles of complementary pathways for admission.

Complementary pathways are described in the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) as one way to facilitate access to protection and solutions for refugees. While Canada has a robust resettlement framework to provide protection and solutions for refugees, partners were eager to test third country employment opportunities as a complementary pathway that would demonstrate Canada’s support for the GCR and countries hosting refugees in large numbers. IRCC, together with UNHCR and implementing partners RefugePoint and Talent Beyond Boundaries, endeavored to test this pathway and what it means to bring the worlds of refugee protection and economic immigration together through the EMPP.

Through this exercise, partners identified several core protection principles that framed Canada’s approach to testing complementary labour pathways. These included complementarity to resettlement – that refugees admitted through this project would not encroach on the protection spaces Canada offers to refugees through resettlement; ensuring that refugees had access to protection and durable solutions by offering permanent residency; ensuring gender equality and balance; respecting the dignity of refugees and their autonomy; and, alignment with broader protection and solutions strategies.

At its core, the EMPP questioned whether refugees can access Canada’s economic programs. It is widely understood that they can – many refugees possess the skills, talents, and requisite qualifications to meet the criteria for economic immigration. This is evidenced through the first candidate, who arrived to Canada with a job offer in March 2019, and by several more candidates in process. However, this project also demonstrated that while refugees may qualify for Canadian economic programs, they may face challenges in accessing them by virtue of the circumstances of their displacement – lost or expired documentation; limited funds; difficulty in obtaining proof of professional or academic experience; and, limited access to consultants or lawyers who may guide them through the immigration process. The EMPP challenged Canada and partners to address these barriers, and test whether administrative and financial flexibilities can assist refugees in overcoming them.

This paper provides a summary of the EMPP, the partners, and government branches involved in its implementation, and the lessons that have been observed thus far. It explores the policy dimensions and implications of merging two distinct, and traditionally separate worlds, and the innovative partnerships integral to the successful implementation of complementary labour pathways in the long term. In the domestic context, this document serves as a summary of the work accomplished to date, and identifies areas for potential consideration and/or replication in other national contexts. In the spirit of sharing promising practices and lessons learned with international partners, it also provides a useful tool for engaging in global discussions on complementary pathways more broadly, including with UNHCR, other interested States and other stakeholders. As the international community prepares to launch the three-year resettlement strategy under the GCR this July, this paper aims to contribute concrete ideas to support efforts to better share responsibility and find solutions for more refugees through complementary labour pathways.”

Reflections & Conclusion | Pensées et conclusion

“Overall, the EMPP has been successful thus far in challenging Canadian economic streams to respond to the barriers preventing refugee access to Canada through complementary pathways. The project has demonstrated the importance of engaging new and traditional partners throughout all stages of the process, and required all partners to rethink our assumptions about refugees and their ability to autonomously access complementary third country labour pathways. With regard to partners, EMPP revealed the importance of engaging partners active in the resettlement and protection space, as well as actors who have the knowledge and expertise in engaging the private employment/business sector. Additionally, actors that have intimate knowledge of the pathways available and the settlement services required post-arrival can provide critical support throughout the process.

The EMPP confirmed that while many refugees express a high degree of autonomy and agency, accessing complementary labour pathways independently is often prohibited by the challenges caused by displacement, including lost or expired documentation, limited funds, and difficultly in accessing opportunities in the country of asylum among others. The project has indicated that while economic pathways to Canada were not designed for refugees, many refugees meet the requirements of our economic programs, and may require only administrative and financial flexibilities to facilitate their access.

Despite the valuable early lessons learned thus far, some policy questions remain which require further consideration in order to successfully expand and enhance complementary pathways globally. These include to what degree governments should be flexible, or otherwise alter their programs to mitigate the challenges faced by refugee; who should bear the costs in the long-term; how can meaningful connections be made to education and livelihoods programming to upgrade skills and qualifications; how can apparent tensions between available opportunities be reduced; how can we sustainably facilitate the connection between refugees, employment opportunities, and complementary pathways to encourage autonomous uptake; and, how can refugees be made more autonomous in seizing labour mobility opportunities (as opposed to relying on immigration consultants)? These are considerations which are not restricted to complementary labour pathways, but would apply to complementary pathways more broadly.”

Table of Contents | Table des matières

                    I.            Executive Summary

                  II.            Introduction

                III.            Testing Labour Pathways and Building the Evidence Base: Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Project

Project Principles

                IV.            Thinking through Complementary Pathways – Early Lessons Learned

A.      Enhancing Partnerships and Coordination – Engaging with the Private Sector

B.      Building Protection-Sensitive and Accessible Systems – Unpacking our Assumptions

C.      Enhancing the Evidence Base – Roles and Responsibilities

D.      Enhancing the Evidence Base – The Operational Considerations

Identification of Qualified Refugees

Disseminating information and managing expectations

Connections to Destination Countries and Employers

Evidentiary Proof

Financial Requirements

Contextual Considerations

                  V.            Reflections & Conclusion

                VI.            Next steps/Going forward

Download the full report | Télécharger le rapport complet (en anglais) :

Other UNHCR Canada resources | Autres ressources du HCR Canada :

2019-07 : Canadian cities join 175 others in global campaign to welcome refugees |

Des villes Canadiennes se joignent à 175 autres villes dans la campagne mondiale d’accueil des personnes réfugiées

2019-07 : Latin American countries agree [on] road map for integration of Venezuelans | Les pays d’Amérique latine adoptent

   une feuille de route pour l’intégration des Vénézuéliens

2019-07 : What to Know About Irregular Border Crossings | Ce qu’il faut savoir des passages irréguliers à la frontière

2019-06 : Refugees are good for Canada | Les réfugiés contribuent à la réussite économique du Canada

·         Are Refugees Good For Canada? (Economic Integration Explainer) | Les Réfugiés un Bon Pari Pour Le Canada?

·         Video | Vidéo

2019-06 : Irregular Arrivals at the Border, January – May 2019: Background Information |

Les arrivées irrégulières à la frontière – janvier à mai 2019: informations générales

Research and Evaluation Branch Knowledge Scans (available externally on request) |

Analyse des connaissances de la Direction générale de la recherche et de l’évaluation (disponible à l’extérieur sur demande)

·         2018-07-12 : Non-resettlement durable solutions for refugees

·         2018-06-28 : Selecting highly skilled refugees – Settlement implications

·         2018-06-26 : Refugee family ties

·         2018-06-15 : Refugees and human capital

·         2018-06-14 : Refugee job opportunities and long-term success


Research at a Glance is designed to inform the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) community and other interested parties about recently published, policy-relevant research from government, academic and NGO sources. The views expressed in the documents described do not necessarily reflect those of IRCC.


This paper provides a summary of the EMPP, the partners, and government branches involved in its implementation, and the lessons that have been observed thus far. It explores the policy dimensions and implications of merging two distinct, and traditionally separate worlds, and the innovative partnerships integral to the successful implementation of complementary labour pathways in the long term.