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Top 5 Immigration Issues to Watch for in 2023

2022 was a year of surprises in Canadian immigration: we saw Canada welcome over 437,000 new permanent residents, the roll-out of immigration measures to support those fleeing conflict in Afghanistan and Ukrainian, and the implementation of various public policies to address Canadian labour shortages. As the new year starts immigration advocates and people making Canada their destination are justified in wondering what the year will bring. Here are our top issues to watch in 2023:

1. Will application processing delays be reduced? At the end of last year, IRCC announced plans to increase the number of people immigrating to Canada per year to 500,000 by 2025. At the same time, since the COVID-19 pandemic, IRCC has struggled to address an unprecedented backlog creating processing delays. For example, the current processing time for Canadian Experience Class applications is 20 months, and processing times for temporary resident visas from outside Canada exceed 7 months for many countries (e.g. United Kingdom 221 days, Italy 223 days, Cuba 240 days).

In 2022, IRCC stepped up its efforts to address the backlog by hiring new staff, using artificial intelligence, streamlining processes, and increasing the use of digital applications. Between August and December, IRCC reduced its backlog by almost 500,000 applications. The use of these new technologies suggests that application processing delays will continue to reduce, despite the projected increase in applications.

On January 16, 2023, the Globe and Mail reported that a policy memo it reviewed revealed that IRCC is considering drastic measures to decrease its backlog. The memo states that IRCC may waive some of the requirements for eligibility for temporary resident visa applications, including the applicant’s need to establish temporary intent and sufficient funds. IRCC has not made a public statement addressing this memo.

If you have been waiting a long time for your application to be processed, you may be able to speed up your application by making a mandamus application. Our firm has years of experience in making successful mandamus applications. Please book a consultation with one of our lawyers to find out whether a mandamus application is appropriate for you.

2. Will it become easier for immigrants to become established in Canada?

A recent announcement from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada suggests that at least one category of immigrant – medical doctors – will soon find it much easier to become established in the country. The college, a certification body responsible for assessing foreign-trained physicians and determining their eligibility to write certification exams, is actively working to remove barriers to licensing for internationally educated doctors by, among other things, increasing the college’s capacity to review their applications and grant them exam eligibility. In addition to streamlining the certification process, the college will allow foreign-trained doctors who do not meet all the Canadian requirements to work in their field of specialization to apply their training to more general disciplines.

Finally, the college is also expanding its Practice Eligibility Route program, a pathway which can cut the amount of time it takes for a foreign-trained physician to be approved to work in their field of specialization from seven years to two, or less.

Currently, most internationally trained specialist physicians cannot be licensed until they have completed five years of practice in their fields, with at least the last two of those years in Canada (completed under restricted or provisional licences). Under the college’s expanded pathway, that five-year requirement would be reduced to as little as 12 weeks, or up to two years, depending on the applicant.

With Canada aiming to accept 500,000 new immigrants per year by 2025, we welcome the college’s announcement and its intention to streamline the certification process for foreign-trained doctors immigrating to Canada. We are hopeful that other professional industries in Canada will follow suit.

3. How low will Express Entry selection scores go before they stabilize?

On July 6, 2022, IRCC restarted draws under the Express Entry system after it was temporarily shut down over the COVID-19 pandemic. With the resumption of the Express Entry system, IRCC raised the minimum selection score to receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence. This was done in order to curb access to permanent residence through the system as the number of candidates in the Express Entry pool grew during the closure.

Since the re-opening of the Express Entry system, the minimum selection score has generally decreased, falling to 491 in November 2022. Where the minimum selection score will go and if it will stabilize remains to be seen. While IRCC will continually need to curb the demand for permanent residence through the Express Entry system due to Canada’s attraction as an immigration destination, it is likely that the selection score will continue to decrease as Canada looks to meet its elevated immigration targets.

4. What form will parental/grandparent sponsorship selection take this year?

In 2018, IRCC experimented with a lottery system for parental and grandparent sponsorship selection. IRCC received 95,000 ‘interest to sponsor’ applications and randomly selected 10,000 to apply. The lottery system was introduced as an alternative to the prior ‘first-come, first served’ system. The prior system was viewed as unfair for those who could not submit applications quickly due to geography or lack of legal representation. The ‘first-come, first served’ system was used again in 2019 and the cap of 27,000 ‘interest to sponsor’ applications was filled within 11 minutes.

In 2020, IRCC returned to the lottery system, receiving approximately 200,000 ‘interest to sponsor’ applications. Demand for the program far exceeded the 10,000 spaces available for selection. Due to the high demand in 2020, the 2021 and 2022 lotteries have continued to draw from the 2020 ‘interest to sponsor’ pool. While the lottery may be preferred to the ‘first-come, first-served’ system, advocates are calling for a weighted system which would boost an individual’s chance in the lottery based on the number of years they express interest.

5. What will happen with the Safe Third Country Agreement?

The Safe Third Country Agreement, in force since 2004, remains in force – for now. However, this may change in 2023. A constitutional challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada last October. Our firm represented Rainbow Railroad in its intervention in the case. A decision from the Supreme Court is one factor which might cause the Safe Third Country Agreement to change.

Another is the fact that Canada and the United States are currently negotiating changes to the agreement. The Minister of Public Safety recently confirmed that one of the agreed-upon changes would permit Canadian authorities to return asylum seekers to the United States even if they enter Canada outside a regular port-of-entry. Currently, the agreement only applies to asylum seekers who claim refugee protection at official ports -of -entry along the Canada-United States land border.

As always, if you have questions about immigration and refugee matters feel free to contact us by email at to arrange a consultation with one of our experienced immigration lawyers.


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