Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Atlantic Immigration Class): SOR/2021-242
Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 155, Number 26
SOR/2021-242 December 13, 2021
IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION ACT
P.C. 2021-1000 December 9, 2021
Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, pursuant to subsection 5(1) and sections 14 footnote a and 92 footnote b of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act footnote c, makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Atlantic Immigration Class).
Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Atlantic Immigration Class)
1 Section 25.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations footnote 1 is amended by adding the following after subsection (4):
Atlantic economic candidate
(5) For the purposes of determining whether a child is a dependent child, the lock-in date for the age of a child of a person who is a member of the Atlantic immigration class and who makes an application under Division 6 of Part 5 is the date on which the application for endorsement was made to the province.
2 Paragraph 70(2)(b) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
- (b) the economic class, consisting of the federal skilled worker class, the Quebec skilled worker class, the provincial nominee class, the Canadian experience class, the federal skilled trades class, the Atlantic immigration class, the Quebec investor class, the Quebec entrepreneur class, the start-up business class, the self-employed persons class and the Quebec self-employed persons class; and
3 Section 72.8 of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
Requirements — family member
72.8 Subject to subsections 25.1(3) to (5) and for the purposes of this Part, to be considered a family member of an applicant, a person must be a family member of the applicant both at the time the application under Division 6 of Part 5 is made and at the time of the determination of the application.
4 Subsection 73(1) of the Regulations is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:
- Atlantic province
- means Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador. (province de l’Atlantique)
5 (1) The portion of subsection 74(1) of the Regulations before paragraph (a) is replaced by the following:
74 (1) For the purposes of paragraphs 75(2)(d), 79(3)(a), 87.1(2)(d) and (e), 87.2(3)(a) and 87.3(2)(f), the Minister shall fix, by class prescribed by these Regulations or by occupation, and make available to the public, minimum language proficiency thresholds on the basis of
(2) Paragraph 74(1)(c) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
- (c) the potential, taking into account the applicants’ linguistic profiles and economic and other relevant factors, for the establishment in Canada of applicants under the federal skilled worker class, the Canadian experience class, the federal skilled trades class and the Atlantic immigration class.
(3) Subsection 74(7) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
(7) The results of an evaluation of language proficiency by a designated organization or institution using an approved language test are conclusive evidence of an applicant’s language proficiency in respect of the federal skilled worker class, the Canadian experience class, the federal skilled trades class or the Atlantic immigration class, as the case may be.
6 Paragraph 87.1(2)(a) of the English version of the Regulations is amended by striking out “and” at the end of that paragraph.
7 The portion of subsection 87.2(1) of the Regulations before paragraph (a) is replaced by the following:
Definition of skilled trade occupation
87.2 (1) In this section, skilled trade occupation means an occupation, other than a restricted occupation, in the following categories listed in Skill Level B of the National Occupational Classification matrix:
8 The Regulations are amended by adding the following after section 87.2:
Atlantic Immigration Class
87.3 (1) For the purposes of subsection 12(2) of the Act, the Atlantic immigration class is prescribed as a class of persons who may become permanent residents on the basis of their ability to become economically established in Canada.
Member of class
(2) A foreign national is a member of the Atlantic immigration class if they
- (a) are named in an endorsement certificate issued by the government of an Atlantic province — on or after the day on which this section comes into force — under an Atlantic immigration agreement between that province and the Minister, which must be valid on the date on which their application for a permanent resident visa is made and must not subsequently have been revoked;
- (b) intend to reside in the Atlantic province that issued the endorsement certificate;
- (c) meet either the work experience requirements set out in subsections (3) and (4) or the recent graduate requirements set out in subsection (5);
- (d) have an offer of employment that meets the requirements set out in subsections (6) to (8);
- (e) meet the educational requirements set out in subsection (9);
- (f) have had their proficiency in the English or French language evaluated by an organization or institution that is designated under subsection 74(3) using a language test that is approved under that subsection, the results of which must be less than two years old on the date on which their application for a permanent resident visa is made and must indicate that the foreign national has met the applicable threshold that is fixed by the Minister under subsection 74(1) for each of the four language skill areas; and
- (g) have — unless they are authorized to work and already working in Canada — in the form of transferable and available funds, unencumbered by debts or other obligations, an amount equal to one eighth of the amount identified, in the most recent edition of the publication concerning low-income cut-offs published annually by Statistics Canada under the Statistics Act, for urban areas of residence of 500,000 persons or more, as the minimum amount of before-tax annual income that is necessary to support a group of persons equal in number to the total number of the applicant and their family members.
(3) A foreign national meets the work experience requirements if
- (a) they have acquired, within the five years before the date on which their application for a permanent resident visa is made, at least one year of full-time work experience, or the equivalent in part-time work experience, in at least one of the occupations that are listed in Skill Type 0 Management Occupations or Skill Level A, B or C of the National Occupational Classification matrix, exclusive of restricted occupations;
- (b) during that period of employment they performed the actions described in the lead statement for the occupation as set out in the occupational descriptions of the National Occupational Classification; and
- (c) during that period of employment they performed a substantial number of the main duties of the occupation as set out in the occupational descriptions of the National Occupational Classification, including all of the essential duties.
Excluded work experience
(4) For the purposes of paragraph (3)(a),
- (a) any period of self-employment is not included in calculating a period of work experience; and
- (b) any period of work acquired in Canada is not included in calculating a period of work experience, unless the foreign national was authorized to work and had temporary resident status during that period.
(5) A foreign national meets the recent graduate requirements if they
- (a) obtained, as a full-time student, within the two years before the date on which their application for a permanent resident visa is made, a post-secondary educational credential issued by an institution in an Atlantic province that is set out in the document entitled Recognized Post-Secondary Institutions – Atlantic Immigration Program, published by the Minister, as amended from time to time, on the completion of a program of study that was
- (i) of at least two years in duration,
- (ii) not devoted primarily to the study of English or French as a second language, and
- (iii) undertaken primarily as in-person learning;
- (b) were physically present in the Atlantic province for at least 16 months during the two years preceding the day on which that credential was issued;
- (c) had temporary resident status for the entire period of study working toward the credential and any work or study completed during that period was authorized; and
- (d) were not in receipt of a scholarship or fellowship that was conditional on their return to another country at the conclusion of their studies.
Offer of employment
(6) The offer of employment must meet the following requirements:
- (a) it must be for continuous full-time work having a duration that is
- (i) indeterminate, in the case of an offer for employment in an occupation that is listed in Skill Level C of the National Occupational Classification matrix, or
- (ii) of at least one year after the date on which a permanent resident visa is issued, in any other case;
- (b) it must be for employment that the foreign national is able to perform and is likely to accept and carry out;
- (c) it must be made by the employer named in the endorsement certificate, and that employer must not be referred to in any of subparagraphs 200(3)(h)(i) to (iii) or more than 50% owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the foreign national or their spouse or common-law partner;
- (d) subject to paragraph (e) and subsection (8), it must be for employment in an occupation that is listed in the same or a higher Skill Type or Skill Level of the National Occupational Classification matrix as most of the work experience relied upon for the purpose of paragraph (3)(a); and
- (e) in the case of a foreign national who meets the recent graduate requirements, it must be for employment in an occupation that is listed in Skill Type 0 Management Occupations or Skill Level A, B or C of the National Occupational Classification matrix.
Skill Types and Levels
(7) For the purposes of paragraph (6)(d),
- (a) Skill Type 0 Management Occupations in the National Occupational Classification matrix is higher than Skill Level A;
- (b) Skill Level A is higher than Skill Level B; and
- (c) Skill Level B is higher than Skill Level C.
Health care work experience exemption
(8) A foreign national who meets the work experience requirements set out in paragraph (3)(a) based on experience in an occupation that corresponds to unit group 3012 or 3233 of the National Occupational Classification and who has an offer of employment in an occupation that corresponds to unit group 3413 or 4412 of the National Occupational Classification does not need to meet the requirement set out in paragraph (6)(d).
(9) A foreign national meets the educational requirements if
- (a) in the case of a foreign national who has an offer of employment in an occupation that is listed in Skill Type 0 Management Occupations or Skill Level A of the National Occupational Classification matrix, they hold a post-secondary Canadian educational credential from a program of study of a duration of at least one year or a foreign diploma, certificate or credential supported by an equivalency assessment — which must be less than five years old on the date on which their application is made — establishing that the foreign diploma, certificate or credential is equivalent to that Canadian educational credential; or
- (b) in the case of a foreign national who has an offer of employment in an occupation that is listed in Skill Level B or C of the National Occupational Classification matrix, they hold a Canadian educational credential or a foreign diploma, certificate or credential supported by an equivalency assessment, which must be less than five years old on the date on which their application is made.
9 A foreign national who is named in an endorsement certificate described in paragraph 87.3(2)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations is not a member of
- (a) the Atlantic Canada Intermediate Skilled Worker Class established by the Ministerial Instructions Respecting the Atlantic Canada Intermediate Skilled Worker Class, published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on March 4, 2017;
- (b) the Atlantic Canada Highly Skilled Worker Class established by the Ministerial Instructions Respecting the Atlantic Canada Highly Skilled Worker Class, published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on March 4, 2017; or
- (c) the Atlantic Canada International Graduate Class established by the Ministerial Instructions Respecting the Atlantic Canada International Graduate Class, published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on March 4, 2017.
Coming into Force
10 These Regulations come into force on January 1, 2022, but if they are registered after that day, they come into force on the day on which they are registered.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
Issues: Canada’s four Atlantic provinces have experienced a number of unique challenges in recent decades, including lower natural population increases, lower immigration levels, and higher interprovincial migration. While these challenges were present in other jurisdictions, they were acute in Atlantic Canada. Despite the success of the Provincial Nominee Program, created in 1998 to address specific provincial economic and demographic needs, retention of newcomers in the Atlantic region remained an issue.
As a result, an economic development strategy was launched in 2016 for Atlantic Canada — the Atlantic Growth Strategy — with immigration as a key pillar. The Atlantic Immigration Pilot (the pilot) was introduced in 2017 under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to test new approaches to attract and retain newcomers to the region, and to encourage employers that had not yet used immigration to consider it among their human resources strategies.
Description: Given the success of the pilot, and further to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration’s 2019 mandate letter and 2021 supplemental mandate letter, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (the Department) is introducing a permanent Atlantic Immigration Program (the program).
The amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (the Regulations) will support the creation of a permanent program by establishing a new Atlantic Immigration Class under the “economic classes” section of the Regulations. This section outlines the Department’s permanent economic immigration programs and defines the eligibility criteria for each program. While retaining key pilot elements, certain eligibility requirements of this new class (e.g. language, education, and work experience) have been strengthened, based on lessons learned from the pilot, other economic programs, and the Department’s formal evaluation of the pilot. The targeted adjustments to requirements will support the program in attracting the strongest candidates, setting-up newcomers for economic success once in Canada, and supporting strong long-term economic and retention outcomes.
Rationale: The pilot has successfully addressed regional labour market needs and increased newcomer retention in the Atlantic region. For example, the majority of newcomers that came through the pilot continue to live in Atlantic Canada after their first year, and early evidence indicates that the pilot has a higher retention rate than other economic programs in the region. As well, many employers designated under the pilot were first-time users of immigration, indicating that the pilot increased awareness of the benefits of immigration and provided an opportunity for employers to consider immigration as a tool to address their chronic labour shortages. The evaluation of the pilot found that 58% of surveyed employers reported that this was their first time using an immigration program to hire a foreign worker. Given the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides authority for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to issue instructions to create economic immigration programs that are limited to a duration of five years, amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations are required to make the program permanent in order to continue to address regional labour market needs and increase newcomer retention in the Atlantic region.
Total costs of the regulatory changes are estimated at $23.7 million present value (PV) over ten years, and reflect transition and ongoing processing costs for government, costs for employers to complete mandatory onboarding training and intercultural competency training, and to connect candidates and their families with settlement service provider organizations. Total benefits are estimated at $1.3 million PV and represent processing time savings for Atlantic provinces. There are also many qualitative benefits of the regulatory changes including increased retention of immigrants to Atlantic provinces and employers in these regions, and benefits to newcomers due to the increased support provided via mandatory settlement plans. More broadly, the regulatory changes benefit Canada by bringing immigrants with valuable skills to areas of the country which have traditionally been underserved by migration. The program will also help to support Canada’s reputation both as a leader in immigration, and in maintaining a welcoming and inclusive society which values cultural diversity.
Immigration is a driving force in meeting Canada’s demographic and economic growth objectives. Attracting immigrants with particular skills and expertise from around the world will help bolster Canada’s economic performance as a nation, and offset realities such as a shrinking labour force, aging population, and low fertility rates. By the early 2030s, it is expected that Canada’s population growth will rely exclusively on immigration.
Immigration currently accounts for the overwhelming majority of labour force growth in Canada, but its benefits are spread unevenly across the country. In 2018, approximately four in five new permanent residents in Canada settled in the ten largest cities, only one of which — Halifax — is in Atlantic Canada. The concentration of newcomers landing in Canada’s largest cities hinders potential economic and demographic growth in less populated regions of the country, including Atlantic Canada. As Atlantic Canada’s population ages and baby boomers retire, the region’s labour force continues to shrink. Between 2012 and 2018, the Atlantic region’s labour force declined by 31 000 people (or 2.4%), while the rest of Canada saw steady increases. In addition to demographic challenges, Atlantic Canada also experienced high levels of outmigration resulting in low population growth rates, and employers have difficulty filling jobs, despite many local economies being poised for growth.
Over the last two decades, the Department has worked with provinces and territories to support their use of the immigration system to help meet regional labour market and demographic needs, and to increase the attraction of different regions in Canada to newcomers, in order to diversify their distribution so that more of Canada can benefit from immigration. For example, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) was created in 1998 to give provinces and territories a tool to attract and retain immigrants in their jurisdictions to fill regional and local employment gaps. Accordingly, the PNP was designed to assess an applicant’s economic eligibility, as well as an applicant’s “intention to reside” in the nominating jurisdiction. The PNP has been successful in shifting patterns of where newcomers chose to settle from just 11% of economic immigrants settling outside Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec in 1998, to 31% in 2019.
Despite the PNP’s success, landing patterns continue to favour Canada’s largest cities, and stakeholders (such as provinces, communities, industry organizations, employers) have continued to ask the federal government for targeted solutions to improve retention in smaller centres and to meet targeted labour needs. This has led to a suite of regional economic immigration pilots designed to test new approaches to attracting and retaining newcomers in regions and/or communities that have historically been underserved by immigration.
The Atlantic Immigration Pilot was launched in 2017 as a key pillar of a broader economic development strategy led by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency: the Atlantic Growth Strategy, to help address regional labour market needs and test innovative approaches to permanent immigration. To meet varying labour market and skill level needs, three immigration pathways are available under the pilot, depending on an individual’s work experience (high-skilled; intermediate-skilled; and international graduates). Specifically, the pilot tested three innovative aspects that aimed to attract and retain skilled immigrants in Atlantic Canada in support of regional economic growth:
- An employer-driven focus: In addition to guaranteeing full-time employment for the principal applicant, employers play a more active role in the retention of candidates than in other programs by supporting newcomers with language training, housing, transportation, and other settlement factors to help with integration. This includes fostering a welcoming workplace.
- Individualized settlement supports: The pilot is also the first immigration program which requires 100% of participants to obtain a settlement plan from a settlement service provider organization to enhance integration into the community and long-term retention.
- Pan-Atlantic governance approach: The pilot is governed by the Department in close partnership with the Atlantic provinces on a pan-Atlantic basis, and leverages the expertise of delivery partners in the region such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, federally and/or provincially funded settlement service provider organizations, and other regional stakeholders (e.g. universities and colleges, economic development organizations).
The pilot was launched through Ministerial Instructions under section 14.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which allows the Minister to issue instructions to create economic immigration programs that are limited to a duration of five years. It was accompanied by bilateral agreements between Canada and each of the four Atlantic provinces to define the roles and responsibilities of each party in relation to the pilot. While the Ministerial Instructions reflect the maximum term authorized, the pilot was originally created to last approximately three years. The pilot was designed to address varying labour market and skill level needs, as well as to provide enhanced flexibility by including different skill levels and establishing flexible selection criteria, compared to the PNP. The pilot operates through the following stages:
- Designation process: An employer must first become designated under the pilot, which requires that they meet a set of requirements (i.e. be in good standing with provincial occupational health and safety and labour authorities and not be in violation of the Immigration, Refugee and Protection Act or the Regulations). An employer would then connect with a settlement service provider organization to learn about the settlement needs of their newcomer employees, and to commit to preparing their workplace to welcome newcomers. Settlement service provider organizations are agencies that provide services to newcomers to Canada. These services include language training, information and orientation, community connections and employment-related services.
- Endorsement process: Once designated and a candidate has been identified, the employer connects the candidate with a settlement service provider organization to obtain a settlement plan for them and their family members. Employers are responsible for finding prospective candidates that best meet their labour needs, for example through recruitment missions, job postings, and campus recruitment sessions. Employers have the flexibility of hiring candidates that are already in Canada on a work permit, recent international graduates, or candidates outside of Canada. The employer submits an endorsement application, containing the job offer and settlement plan to the province for approval. The province, ensuring that these program requirements are met, would then need to approve the employer’s endorsement of the candidate.
- Immigration application process: Once endorsed, the candidate would complete a permanent residence application, and send it to the Department. Candidates may be eligible to apply for a temporary work permit, as an optional step in the process, should the employer demonstrate an urgent need for the candidate to arrive and begin work. Once the application is approved, the candidate and their family can come to Atlantic Canada, and the employer would support their settlement and integration into the workplace and community in partnership with settlement service provider organizations.
According to recent data from Statistics Canada, estimates show that population growth in the Atlantic provinces in 2018–2019 was among the highest observed since the 1970s, with immigration — including from the pilot —being the main driver of this trend. footnote 2 Atlantic provinces are reporting positive population growth, with Prince Edward Island exceeding the national average. Retention levels in some Atlantic provinces are also increasing, with Nova Scotia now reporting retention rates in line with the national average.
In early 2019, the pilot was extended for two years based on early positive results and to continue to assess its impact, until December 2021. At the time, strategic program changes were made through the Ministerial Instructions and bilateral agreements in response to early results and stakeholder feedback (including from employers and candidates). The eligibility period under which candidates can apply through the international graduate stream was extended from 12 months to 24 months to increase the population of recent graduates that could use the pilot to enter Atlantic Canada’s labour force as permanent residents. Flexible work experience requirements for candidates in the health care sector were also introduced to allow foreign nationals with work experience in higher-skilled health care occupations to fill labour market needs at the intermediate-skilled level. Further, additional authorities were developed to allow the Atlantic provinces to more easily de-designate employers that are misusing the program. Finally, new requirements to the temporary work permit pathway were introduced to ensure that foreign nationals obtaining a work permit under the pilot have the skills and experience necessary to quickly transition to permanent residence and stay in the Atlantic region. To further support retention of newcomers to the region, the Department also made an adjustment allowing the spouses of all principal applicants to apply for an open work permit, including the spouses of intermediate-skilled workers and as a result, further supporting gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) considerations. These strategic changes will be incorporated under the permanent program.
A formal evaluation of the pilot was launched in 2019 and covered the period from pilot implementation in March 2017 to the end of fiscal year 2019–2020. It found that the pilot successfully met its objectives, and reported a few areas for improvement that have been addressed in the design of the permanent program, for example, by clarifying roles among governance and delivery partners; increasing awareness of services available to employers and candidates; and, ensuring clear communication to partners and stakeholders on announcements, program changes, and updates.
While the Ministerial Instructions reflect the maximum term authorized (i.e. until March 5, 2022), the pilot will effectively expire on December 31, 2021, with the end of the bilateral agreements with each of the four Atlantic provinces.
The amendments to the Regulations will support making the pilot a permanent program, which builds on the strengths of the pilot and retains the core objective of attracting skilled immigrants to Atlantic Canada to address demographic and economic needs, as well as to address retention issues in the region. Similar to the pilot, the permanent program will continue to help employers find skilled workers to fill jobs, so they can grow their businesses and the economy. The permanent program will also continue to complement the PNP by maintaining key program elements that distinguish the Atlantic Immigration Program as Canada’s flagship regional economic immigration program (e.g. aligning immigration with region-wide economic development strategies), and offering provinces additional pathways through which candidates can migrate to the region and support provincial economic needs.
The regulatory amendments address the Minister’s 2019 mandate commitment to make the pilot a permanent program with at least 5 000 admission spaces, support a number of Government of Canada priorities, such as stronger diversity and inclusion; economic growth through innovation; regional development (e.g. Rural Development Strategy, Federal Tourism Strategy, Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan); and align with Canada’s 2021–2023 Immigration Levels Plan.
The amendments to the Regulations are modelled off the Ministerial Instructions that governed the pilot, with some key adjustments. They establish a new Atlantic Immigration Class, under the economic classes for applicants, as a pathway to permanent residence for foreign nationals who have the ability to become economically established in the Atlantic region and have the intent to reside in Atlantic Canada. In this way, the look and feel of the Regulations will vary from the pilot, given the regulations provide for a single immigration class, as opposed to the three separate program streams found in the pilot. This is mainly to streamline the Regulations and ensure that they are more comprehensible to Canadians, and potential program participants, such as employers and candidates.
The regulatory amendments also specifically define the selection criteria for eligible candidates, as was done in the pilot Ministerial Instructions, including the language, education, work experience, and settlement fund requirements. The language and education requirement for certain occupations are strengthened to ensure candidates have the necessary human capital to successfully integrate in the workforce. In addition, this section includes a flexible work experience requirement for the health care sector to help the Atlantic region respond to labour market needs in this chronically in-demand sector. This flexibility allows candidates with work experience in high-skilled health care occupations to access the program with a job offer in the health care sector at the intermediate-skill level. Following the prepublication of the proposed regulations, a transitional provision was added which clarifies that permanent program candidates are not members of the pilot. A candidate with an endorsement certificate under the permanent program is therefore not able to be assessed against the requirements of the pilot during the period in which the Ministerial Instructions are also still in effect (i.e. between January 1, 2022, and March 5, 2022).
Certain program elements and changes do not require regulatory amendments but will be covered in bilateral agreements between the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and each of the four Atlantic provinces. These include, among others, the roles and responsibilities of Atlantic provinces and the Department, the employer designation and candidate endorsement criteria, compliance measures, performance measurement, as well as the settlement requirements. In addition to retaining key pilot design elements and the program changes implemented in 2019 (i.e. extending the eligibility period for recent graduates, flexible work experience requirements for candidates in certain health care occupations, allowing the spouses of all principal applicants to apply for an open work permit, including the spouses of intermediate-skilled workers, and enabling provinces to more easily de-designate employers who are not using the pilot with genuine intent), permanent program bilateral agreements will strengthen the designation criteria to ensure that the program is exclusive to employers who genuinely wish to support the settlement of their newcomer employees and have demonstrated using best practices in the settling and integration of newcomers. The program will also retain the core settlement elements of the pilot, with certain enhancements, which will increase the uptake of front-end employer training and increase the eligibility and access for certain federally funded settlement services to newcomers under the program.
The Department has engaged on a regular basis with the Atlantic provinces since the development of the pilot, and has worked closely with all four provinces in monitoring the pilot’s performance and making amendments along the way to ensure it achieved its intended objectives. In addition, the Department hosted multiple meetings that brought employers, settlement service provider organizations, academic institutions, and federal and provincial government officials together to share feedback on the pilot. The feedback was positive overall, highlighting the flexibility and ease of use of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot. Employers were particularly supportive of the mid-term changes to the pilot which helped many in the health care sector hire even more internationally trained nurses to fill the vacancies that couldn’t be filled locally. Further, governance partners, delivery partners, and other stakeholders were interviewed, surveyed, and invited to participate in focus groups during the evaluation of the pilot.
Since November 2019, federal and provincial partners have been meeting regularly to design the permanent program, taking into account the findings from the pilot evaluation and lessons learned from all partners and stakeholders. Federal and provincial partners are supportive of the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
The proposed Regulations were published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on June 12, 2021, followed by a 30-day comment period. One submission was received, regarding processing times for permanent residence applications under the permanent program, which did not impact the regulatory proposal.
Modern treaty obligations and Indigenous engagement and consultation
No modern treaty implications are anticipated because indigenous peoples in Canada are not impacted by the amendments. These amendments focus on the admissibility to Canada of foreign nationals.
Atlantic provinces could develop new immigration streams within their respective PNPs, and model them after the successful elements of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot. However, this option loses the benefit of the pilot’s pan-Atlantic perspective and ensuring that the program aligns immigration with broader regional economic development objectives. As such, a regulatory change will establish the program as a separate class to give the Department the authority to administer the permanent program.
Benefits and costs
The Regulations would have significant cost implications for both the Government of Canada and employers who utilize the Atlantic Immigration Program, estimated at $23.7 million present value (PV) over a ten year period. Total monetized benefits are estimated at $1.3 million PV, resulting in a net cost of $22.4 million PV over ten years. However, there are many qualitative benefits of the proposal which are expected to result in an overall positive net benefit for Canadians.
An important first step in developing a cost-benefit methodology is establishing a baseline scenario against which options may be measured. For this analysis, the baseline is a scenario where the Atlantic Immigration Program does not exist, and as such foreign nationals must apply to work through different immigration programs. Following engagement with subject matter experts, the PNP was used as the baseline scenario as it was identified as the most likely alternative program to be utilized by program candidates.
Both the Atlantic Immigration Program and PNP programs are similar in terms of their objective to fill local labour market needs and distribute the benefits of immigration across Canada by empowering government and employer partners. However, there are some key differences in Program design. First, while the PNP is governed by provincial and territorial governments, the federal government will be the authority for the Atlantic Immigration Program. As such, under the PNP, provinces are required to assess the language, education, and work experience credentials of applicants. Under the Atlantic Immigration Program, these criteria will be evaluated by the federal government. Second, employers will play a more active role in the program, and will be required to take mandatory onboarding training, intercultural competency training, and connect applicants and their families with local settlement provider organizations. These elements are not required for employers of workers in the PNP. Furthermore, the Atlantic Immigration Program will also impose requirements for applicants, as they are required to work with settlement provider organizations to develop a settlement plan. While settlement plans exist under the PNP, they are optional rather than required. By mandating settlement plans for applicants under the program, the federal government aims to increase retention to Atlantic provinces.
The baseline is then compared with the Regulations which will implement a permanent program. Assumptions for the analysis were based on publicly available information, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) datasets, and subject matter expertise. The results are discussed below.
Following the prepublication period, values used for the estimation of costs and benefits were updated, more specifically, the expected admissions target and expected endorsements from the program, as well as the government costs for the enforcement of the program. For further details regarding methodology, the full cost-benefit analysis is available upon request from IRCC, at IRCC.AIPP-PPICA.IRCC@cic.gc.ca.
Costs to government
Incremental costs to the Government of Canada consist of both transition and ongoing costs. Transition costs include items such as costs for communications products, updates to program delivery instructions and other administrative materials, and costs to implement settlement features of the program and issue program guidance to settlement service providers. These costs will be incurred in the year 2022 and are estimated at approximately $0.5 million.
Ongoing costs to the Government of Canada reflect the additional cost burden of admitting individuals to Canada via the Atlantic Immigration Program, rather than through an alternative program, the PNP. Total ongoing costs to government are estimated as $21.7 million PV over ten years. While these costs primarily stem from costs for settlement services which are required to be provided under the Atlantic Immigration Program, a portion of ongoing costs are also due to the reallocation of costs for the federal government to assess language, education, and work experience credentials, as provinces are required to assess these criteria for the PNP.
Costs to government are calculated based on the assumption of 6 000 target admissions per year (including both principal applicants and dependents) for the Atlantic Immigration Program. This allocation is based on IRCC’s Departmental Multi-Year Levels Pan for 2021–2023, the most current approved plan at the time of this analysis.
Costs to employers
The Regulations also present ongoing costs for employers who choose to utilize the Atlantic Immigration Program, estimated at $1.5 million PV over ten years. These costs reflect the requirement for employers to complete onboarding training required for designation under the program, complete intercultural competency training, and connect candidates and their families with settlement service providers to support their retention and integration.
As the pilot has only been implemented since 2017, data on the volume of active employers, newly designated employers, and endorsement volumes are limited. Based on the available data, these costs were computed using the assumption of 746 new designated employers each year, and 3 319 endorsements each year for all employers actively using the Atlantic Immigration Program.
Costs to applicants
The Regulations are expected to result in minor costs to inland applicants. Inland applicants will be required to engage with settlement provider organizations to develop settlement plans, something that is not mandatory under the PNP. This requirement is not anticipated to impose significant costs as the number of applicants that will be affected is small, these costs are therefore addressed qualitatively.
Benefits to Atlantic provinces
In addition to these costs, the Regulations will also present many benefits for Canada. First, there will be benefits in the form of cost savings for Atlantic provinces, estimated at $1.3 million PV over ten years, since the cost for provinces to process applications under the Atlantic Immigration Program is less than the cost to process applications under the PNP. This is due to the fact that while provinces are required to assess the language, education and work experience credentials of the foreign national under the baseline scenario, it is the responsibility of the federal government for the Atlantic Immigration Program. As such, these costs are included in the incremental increase in costs to IRCC detailed above.
Further benefits to the Atlantic provinces are expected in that the Atlantic Immigration Program will encourage immigration retention in the region and subsequently positive long-term economic outcomes. While Canada as a whole faces challenges with an aging population, low fertility rates and labour market shortages, Atlantic provinces also experience high levels of outmigration, resulting in negative population growth rates. In particular, while in 2019 the Atlantic provinces had the highest median age in Canada, the pilot evaluation found that as of the end of 2019, 60% of pilot principal applicants were between the ages of 18–34, with just 1% being age 55 or older. The Atlantic Immigration Program will therefore also assist in addressing demographic imbalances in the Atlantic region.
The pilot evaluation further found that retention within the first year in Canada was highest among pilot principal applicants at 94%, compared with the retention rate for PNP, which was found to be 86%. After two years, while retention rates for both programs declined, retention for the pilot still exceeded retention for the PNP, at 78% and 75% respectfully. Due to the fact that the pilot was only introduced in 2017, there is currently not enough data to assess and compare retention rates for the Atlantic Immigration Program over the long term. However, retention will be closely monitored by the Department to evaluate the extent to which the program is able to meet this objective.
Improved retention is a disproportionate benefit to Atlantic provinces for whom the program is designed, since improved retention in these regions is essentially at the expense of lower migration to other provinces and territories. However, in this case, such a disproportionate effect is beneficial for Canada as a whole, since it serves to address specific labour gaps and demographic imbalances in these regions, which are not felt to the same extent elsewhere in Canada.
Benefits to employers
Improved retention in Atlantic provinces will also benefit employers in these regions, since newcomers who better integrate into their new communities may be more likely to continue working for the same employer. Therefore, improved retention will also translate into a higher likelihood of employee retention for businesses. The Regulations will also result in further benefits to employers who utilize the Atlantic Immigration Program, as they will be better equipped to address their labour needs. Particular elements of the program will be designed to meet this objective, such as the enhanced employer support services delivered by the Dedicated Service Channel with an orientation on immigration and assistance in navigating immigration programs. These elements will be especially useful for employers who are new to utilizing immigration to fulfill their labour needs.
It is expected that, through the Atlantic Immigration Program will be more costly for businesses to utilize than the PNP, they will still choose the Atlantic Immigration Program due to the anticipated benefits of improved employee retention, the fact that they will be better equipped to address their labour needs, and the support they will receive from the Dedicated Service Channel.
The pilot evaluation report also observed that the pilot had shorter processing times for applications than similar programs, such as the PNP. Therefore, the Atlantic Immigration Program is expected to benefit employers who are seeking to fill job vacancies in a timely manner to address more immediate employment needs.
Benefits to newcomers
The Regulations benefit newcomers, since the Atlantic Immigration Program supports their integration through mandatory settlement plans and connection with settlement service provider organizations, and requires employers to take an active role in their integration. Combined, these measures will assist in making newcomers feel welcomed and supported as they settle in their new communities. Indeed, a survey undertaken in 2020 to evaluate the pilot revealed that 92% of pilot principal applicants indicated that settlement plans were helpful in identifying their settlement and integration needs.
Benefits to Canadians in general
More broadly, the Regulations benefit Canada by bringing immigrants with valuable skills to areas of the country which have traditionally been underserved by migration. The Atlantic Immigration Program will also help to support Canada’s reputation both as a leader in immigration, and in maintaining a welcoming and inclusive society which values cultural diversity.
- Number of years: 10 years, from 2021 to 2030
- Base year for costing: 2021
- Present value base year: 2021
- Discount rate: 7%
|Impacted stakeholder||Description of cost||2021||2022||2030||Total (present value)||Annualized value|
|Government||Transition costs (IT, updates to policy and program delivery instructions, communications, training, costs to implement settlement and integration standards)||$0||$523,809||$0||$489,541||$69,700|
|Government||Increased application processing costs||$0||$3,346,227||$3,325,483||$21,698,755||$3,089,415|
|Employers||Cost for training, engagement with settlement service providers, and connecting candidates and their families with settlement service provider organizations||$0||$233,767||$233,767||$1,523,047||$216,848|
|All stakeholders||Total costs||$0||$4,103,803||$3,559,250||$23,711,343||$3,375,962|
|Impacted stakeholder||Description of benefit||2021||2022||2030||Total (present value)||Annualized value|
|Atlantic Provinces||Processing time savings||$0||$204,039||$204,039||$1,329,363||$189,271|
|All stakeholders||Total benefits||$0||$204,039||$204,039||$1,329,363||$189,271|
|Impacts||2021||2022||2030||Total (present value)||Annualized value|
The Regulations will impact employers in Atlantic provinces and provincial governments. Employers will incur costs as a result of the regulatory changes, while provinces will incur cost savings as discussed above. Some provinces will face higher impacts, as provinces with a larger labour force tend to receive a higher number of endorsements than smaller provinces. The table below presents the number of endorsements and designated employers per province, as well as their corresponding impacts for employers and provincial governments.
|Province||Endorsements per year||New designated employers per year||Annual cost to employers||Annual cost savings to provincial governments|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||419||79||$25,351||$26,286|
|Prince Edward Island||228||43||$13,867||$14,260|
|Nova Scotia||1 477||382||$117,932||$89,034|
|New Brunswick||1 196||242||$76,617||$74,459|
As presented above, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are the provinces with the highest number of endorsements and new designated employers. As such, their estimated impacts are higher when compared to Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Small business lens
The small business lens applies, as there are impacts on small businesses associated with the proposal.
Employers who use the Atlantic Immigration Program will incur compliance costs to complete required onboarding training for designation, complete intercultural competency training, and connect candidates and their families with settlement service providers to support their retention and integration.
As the pilot has only been implemented since 2017, data on the volume of active employers, newly designated employers, and endorsement volumes are limited. Based on the available data, the analysis above uses the assumption of 746 new designated employers each year, resulting in 6 714 total new designated employers in the 10 years of analysis.
While no data exists on the proportion of employers currently participating in the pilot that are small businesses, Statistics Canada notes that 97.9% of businesses operating in Canada are small businesses, so this was used as a proxy for the purposes of the small business lens. It is therefore assumed that in the 10 years of analysis, a total of 6 570 small businesses will be affected by the Regulations.
There are no accommodations or flexibilities afforded to small business in the Regulations. However, the employer requirements identified above have proven successful in supporting the integration and retention of skilled workers in the pilot, and supporting pilot participating employers. While these requirements will be in place for all participating employers, they are key contributing factors in meeting the program objectives of ensuring successful retention in the region and addressing the labour market needs of these businesses.
Moreover, the long-term benefits to each business in navigating the immigration system, assistance in addressing employment needs, and improved employee retention (and hence profitability) are expected to outweigh the costs imposed through the additional compliance burden.
The table below outlines the impacts of the Regulations on small businesses.
Small business lens summary
- Number of small businesses impacted: 6 570
- Number of years: 10 (2021–2030)
- Base year for costing: 2021
- Present value base year: 2021
- Discount rate: 7%
|Activity||Annualized value||Present value|
|Cost for small businesses to become a designated employer, complete training, and engage with settlement organizations||$188,500||$1,323,948|
|Cost for small businesses to connect candidates and their families with settlement organizations||$6,944||$48,771|
|Total compliance cost||$195,444||$1,372,720|
|Activity||Annualized value||Present value|
|Total administrative cost||$0||$0|
|Totals||Annualized value||Present value|
|Total cost (all impacted small businesses)||$195,444||$1,372,720|
|Cost per impacted small business||$27||$188|
The one-for-one rule does not apply since there is no incremental change in administrative burden on businesses.
Regulatory cooperation and alignment
The amendments are not related to a work plan or commitment under a formal regulatory cooperation forum.
The amendments will align with the common immigration objectives of the four Atlantic provinces, taken together as a group, as governance partners with the Department in this program.
Strategic environmental assessment
In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, a preliminary scan concluded that a strategic environmental assessment is not required.
Gender-based analysis plus (GBA+)
Atlantic employers benefitting from the program are expected to be broadly gender-balanced or slightly male-dominated, in line with general gender trends in the Canadian labour market.
All applicants under the program are and will continue to be assessed equally according to a defined set of selection criteria, irrespective of gender, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other diversity factors. Given the program has been designed to be employer-driven, foreign nationals will initially be identified by the employer and not by the Government of Canada. Designated employers under the program will be required to take intercultural competency training as part of their commitment to establishing a welcoming workplace, which is expected to include training on how to overcome implicit bias in hiring and managing employees.
During the pilot phase, data showed that the majority of principal applicants who applied for the work permit at the intermediate-skill level were male. This meant that a disproportionate number of spouses of principal applicants (most of whom were female) had to wait until they received permanent residence status to enter the labour force and fully integrate into the local community. As a result, in 2019, the Department extended the temporary open work permit to spouses of all pilot candidates. Under the permanent program, the Department will maintain the spousal open work permit and also extend access to certain settlement services to temporary residents. This will support spouses in their early integration into their new community while the principal applicant is working. Internal data show that principal applicants and their spouses/dependents access IRCC-funded settlement services at the same rate. Of a total 4 407 principal applicant admissions through the pilot, 2 768 were male and 1 639 were female; and of 4 517 spouses and dependents, 1 954 were male and 2 563 were female (data as of July 31, 2021).
The pilot was designed so that all applicants and their adult dependents (in most cases a spouse) are encouraged to contact a settlement service provider organization to receive an individualized needs assessment and settlement plan. This is done so that the settlement needs of the whole family unit are taken into account. The permanent program will maintain this element as well.
The permanent program will also expand the work experience requirement to allow the following to accumulate the one-year work experience requirement over a period of five years, instead of three years: recent parents who were on parental leave; skilled refugees who may have not been able to work in their field recently due to displacement; or, persons that have had a long-term illness. This shift expands the talent pool employers will be able to recruit from.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration’s 2019 mandate letter included the commitment to make the Atlantic Immigration Pilot permanent, with at least 5 000 new spaces. The Department’s evaluation of the pilot found that the pilot was meeting its objectives of supporting Atlantic employers in filling their labour needs and increasing retention of newcomers in the Atlantic region. A permanent program will continue to address the challenges faced in the Atlantic region of an ageing population, outmigration, and difficulty in attracting and retaining immigrants.
Given the potential economic impacts of COVID-19 on employment and businesses, immigration will continue to be a key tool to support economic recovery efforts in the region. As a program designed to support economic development in the Atlantic region and meet both the regional and specific labour market needs of the provinces, the program enables the federal government and Atlantic provinces to prioritize key sectors and occupations to meet their economic development and labour needs. This allows for adjustment to evolving economic realities, and supports for economic recovery by filling labour shortages such as those resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Implementation, compliance and enforcement, and service standards
The regulatory amendments will come into force on January 1, 2022.
While the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will be accountable for the administration of the program, the program will be implemented by the Department in close partnership with the four Atlantic provinces. Bilateral agreements between Canada and each of the four Atlantic provinces have been developed, based on those established during the pilot phase, with adjustments to strengthen the Atlantic provinces’ capacity to carry out their roles and responsibilities under the permanent program. Similar to the pilot phase, provinces will continue to be responsible for the designation of employers and issuance of endorsements to candidates that meet the requirements of the program. The Department will continue to be responsible for the overall management of the program, the assessment of temporary and permanent residence applications, final selection, admissibility decisions, and temporary and permanent visa issuance, as well as program integrity, performance management, and evaluation. Processing standards will be in line with other permanent residence programs under the economic class.
Prior to the launch of the permanent program, the Department will coordinate with the Atlantic provinces to ensure a smooth transition from the pilot to the permanent program. Communications activities will also take place to inform the public of the program launch, and to provide employers in the Atlantic region with support in understanding and navigating the new aspects of the program. After program launch, the Department will monitor the performance of the program as part of its commitment to program integrity and client service. It will also continue to meet regularly with the Atlantic provinces to ensure effective program governance.
Regional Economic Programs and Policy
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
365 Laurier Avenue West