Immigration Minister John McCallum has recently announced that the Government is going “to be producing radical changes to the citizenship bill” in that they will scale back knowledge requirements the Tories implemented in 2006, which required that new immigrants aged 14 to 64 pass a test about Canadian rights and responsibilities, based on a booklet provided by the government. The Liberals also plan to scrap a language proficiency requirement the Tories enacted in 2014. Since that time, prospective citizens have had to demonstrate an adequate grasp of English or French either by taking a third-party test or by providing evidence of language training by government funded language-training programs, which are provided for free.

According to Liberals this was problematic, because often times, families are sponsoring elders and grandparents at a very elderly age and it is very challenging and difficult for them to be at such a high proficiency of English or French. Those new Canadians play an important role to look after children to be there and to support the family, not to mention their right to participate in the political life of their new country.

It appears the Liberals plan to revert to something resembling the immigration system that existed under their watch in the early 2000s — which had no language proficiency requirements and only required immigrants aged 18 to 54 to pass a multiple choice general knowledge test about Canada.

During the recent Canadian national election, the Liberal Party of the newly-elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, proposed numerous other reforms to Canada’s immigration system. The upcoming changes will affect various categories as detailed below:

– The Parent and Grandparent annual sponsorship cap will be doubled, from 5,000 to 10,000 visas, allowing more parents and grandparents to immigrate to Canada in 2016. Additionally, the budget for handling family class immigration applications will be doubled, allowing reduced wait times for families.

– Candidates who have close relatives in Canada will be able to receive more points on their Express Entry profile, thus eliminating the discrepancy between the points they receive under the Federal Skilled Workers Program (FSWP) and those they ultimately gain when assessed under the Express Entry rules.

– The two year waiting period for “Conditional Permanent Residence” for individuals sponsored by their Canadian spouses/common-law partners will be bypassed.

– The maximum age for dependent children will be restored from 19 to 22, making it easier for immigrants to bring their older dependents to Canada.

– The $1,000 Labor Market Impact Assessment fee for families seeking caregivers for members with mental or physical illness will be eliminated.

– Refugees or protection seekers awaiting a decision regarding their case by the government will be again entitled to free healthcare.

– The Canadian Citizenship residency time credit will be restored for holders of work and study permits who subsequently become permanent residents.

Not everybody is happy with these changes. Conservative pundits and columnists are increasingly vocal in claiming that the coming reforms, while pretending to fix the mistakes made by the Tories, will actually steer backwards Canada as a whole. We’ll live and see.


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