The Globe and Mail published an article yesterday reporting that immigration inflows in 2020 have substantially declined. Permanent resident arrivals have decreased by 66% in the second quarter of 2020, and we have seen a 50% decline in temporary work permits to foreign workers.
These numbers do not come as a particular surprise given that our borders have been closed since last March. In addition, processing of existing applications has been substantially delayed due to the pandemic, even for fast track applications usually handled within 2-3 weeks such as under the international mobility program.
Nevertheless, interest by Chinese nationals in immigrating to Canada remains high. I have despite the pandemic received a considerable number of enquiries from China.
As a result of China’s belt and road initiative and the emergence of a class of experienced Chinese businesspeople wishing to diversify income sources and consider Canada as their new home, our permanent residence policies continue to receive substantial scrutiny. Also contributing to this interest from China is the Hong Kong situation.
China offers a wealth of highly skilled immigrants capable of contributing significant economic benefits to Canada. They are educated, hard working, experienced, and driven to succeed.But they are prudent and disciplined and do not turn on a dime, particularly in relation to uncertainty. The process of welcoming and installing Chinese immigrants in Canada thus requires special care.
On the uncertainty front, the present border situation is not helping. Moreover immigration application processing delays have poured cold water on many new possible applications, whether for work permits or permanent residence.
I am receiving questions on Canada’s immigration policies. Will immigration to Canada return at previous levels? Will immigration policies be changed?
In addition, the situation is not be helped by the diplomatic tensions between Canada and China in relation to the MENG, Wanzhou matter. And considering that Canada has announced that it is reviewing its relationship with China, it is to be expected that many Chinese immigrants are pausing and watching.
In the best of times, a move to Canada is a major personal decision for a Chinese national. Language is of particular concern. While many highly skilled Chinese individuals have a good working knowledge of English, some harbor a particular fear of Canada’s language requirements for permanent residence. The thought of submitting to a language test is terrifying for some.
The language landscape is furthermore complicated by Quebec’s language rules. It is not currently possible for any immigrant to gain permanent residence through a Quebec selection without being successful on a recognized French test. Learning English is terrifying enough, but French is just an impossibility. Unfortunately, Quebec is losing out on the deal, with most Chinese immigrants very quickly deciding to live outside Quebec and take a chance on English.
Canada’s borders will reopen, hopefully sooner than later. Should Canada continue to have an interest in welcoming Chinese nationals, it would be well-served to be sensitive to present concerns and reassure that part of the world on its continued openness.
Michel P. Coderre is a Montreal business, tax, and immigration lawyer