by Heather Bell
It is not unusual for our office to receive multiple enquiries weekly from south of the border about immigrating to Canada. The United States (U.S.) has always been a top source country for permanent and temporary residents to Canada. Since 2006, approximately 90,000 Americans received permanent residency. Last year alone, Canada welcomed 7,000 permanent residents from the U.S., while another 30,000 were temporarily working in Canada.
Leading up to the November election and immediately after, phone calls and email enquiries to our firm quadrupled. It was not just media hype and speculation. On November 8th, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) website did indeed crash. We heard from Americans who had previously considered immigrating to Canada and were now serious to do so; Canadians wanting to sponsor their American spouse and children; businesses looking to transfer workers to Canada; temporary residents worried about their permanent residency prospects; and undocumented workers or those under the DREAMer program fearful they will be deported. Google trends showed an immediate spike of American residents searching for Canadian immigration.
Source: Google Trends
These enquiries do not necessarily mean Canada will see a dramatic influx of American citizens and residents immigrating to Canada this year. Many will decide to stay in the U.S. and others will return to their home country. For those who are serious, they must still meet the requirements of Canada’s immigration programs.
However, with such uncertainty in the U.S., there is a silver lining worth highlighting. Undoubtedly, Canada will see an economic and social boost. More foreign nationals, not just Americans, may consider Canada as their preferred country to live and work. We’ve already seen American and other foreign businesses look to expand to Canada and transfer talent here, which will ultimately create new opportunities for Canadians. As the new U.S. administration looks to curb its immigration, Canada continues to increase the number of immigrants accepted.
Evidence of the U.S. and Canada’s contrasting approaches to immigration was immediate. Within days of President Trump’s inauguration, we saw the first immigration Executive Order signed (and later blocked) temporarily banning citizens from seven countries to the U.S. Canada responded by offering temporary resident permits, restoration of status and extensions of stay to those who were stranded in Canada.
More recently, the new U.S. administration announced it will suspend the popular H-1B visa, a program that helps U.S. companies hire skilled foreign workers. Canadian companies are actively recruiting these workers to come to Canada instead. There are multiple work permit options, including under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Labour Market Impact Assessment, and the recently announced Global Talent Stream program starting in June 2017.
While Canada can benefit from what’s happening down south, it must also be ready to protect its immigration interests for its own citizens and residents, including the many Canadians who live and work in the U.S. President Trump has made it clear that the re-negotiation of NAFTA is at the top of his to do list. Even before negotiations have started, just two weeks ago, we saw Canadian specialized nurses being suddenly denied work permits under NAFTA. Whatever revisions are made, we hope it does not come at a cost to Canadians.
It has only been two months since President Trump’s inauguration, and it can be exhausting keeping up with the news. So, let’s end on a high note. Regardless of what happens over the next few years, we can all agree that Canada should embrace the multiple opportunities in the wake of the uncertainty.
If you have any questions about Canadian immigration, please contact our immigration team at email@example.com