Canadian immigration programs experienced significant challenges and delays in 2021, as Canada adapted policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many candidates inside Canada, 2021 offered new immigration programs and policies designed to make it easier for them to stay, but for many candidates outside Canada, the country’s COVID-19 policies excluded them from consideration. With 2021 wrapping up in a matter of weeks, it’s time to focus on what to expect for Canadian immigration in 2022.

Canada is hoping to welcome 411,000 new immigrants in 2022. While this would normally be no issue for Canada, the country has struggled to process applications in a timely manner over the past year, leaving a backlog of 1.8 million applications needing to be processed. However, if Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is able to gain control of its backlog, 2022 could be a record-shattering year for Canadian immigration.

Let’s take a look at all of the factors that will play a role in Canadian immigration in 2022.

Not a reader? Watch the vid! Moving2Canada and Canada Abroad teamed up to produce a video covering what to expect in Canadian immigration in 2022.

If you want to speak to someone about your immigration plans, or if you want assistance with your application, consider booking a consultation with Moving2Canada’s trusted partner, Canada Abroad. Get started by booking a consultation here!

Existing immigration backlog

Applicants who currently have an application processing with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) know that the processing times have significantly increased since March of 2020. In 2019, IRCC took an average of eight months to process an Express Entry application. However, due to the impacts of the pandemic, some applications submitted in 2019 and 2020 are only now beginning to be processed. 

An August report by the Toronto Star revealed that as of July 31, 2021, IRCC had backlogs of more than 561,700 applications for permanent residence, 748,381 applications for temporary residence, and 376,458 applications for citizenship that were still waiting to be processed. There are almost 100,000 permanent residence applications submitted through the Express Entry system alone that need to be finalized before Express Entry processing times can return to their previous processing standard.

Despite the backlogs, however, Canada’s Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, has recently indicated that he’s open to increasing Canada’s immigration levels, as immigration is a key component of Canada’s long-term economic strategy. Minister Fraser is obligated to release an updated Immigration Levels Plan by February 2022, so new immigration targets should be revealed soon.

What to expect for Express Entry draws in 2022

While Express Entry draws have continued throughout the pandemic, Express Entry draws in 2021 were very different from pre-pandemic patterns. Prior to the pandemic, an Express Entry draw typically took place once every two weeks and candidates from all Express Entry programs were considered in each draw. In 2021, all Express Entry draws were restricted to candidates in either the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) or Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

This was a strategic decision made by IRCC in order to prioritize permanent residence applications from candidates who were already inside Canada in order to meet its high immigration targets while borders were closed. This is also why Canada invited more than 27,000 CEC candidates in a single Express Entry draw in February 2021.

Since September 15, 2021, Express Entry draws have been exclusively inviting provincial nominees. This is due to the existing backlog of immigration applications. IRCC cannot continue to issue large numbers of Invitations to Apply at this time as it does not have the capacity to process any new files. In a recent memo, IRCC has indicated that it will only resume all-program Express Entry draws once the backlog has been reduced — although they haven’t said how long this will take or how much of the backlog they need to get through. 

IRCC has been working hard on clearing out this backlog. The department has spent more than CAD$15-million on overtime for its employees to work on this backlog between April and October of 2021 alone. 

How will Express Entry candidates be selected in 2022?

Earlier this year Canada released the Budget 2021: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience. Canada’s budget for 2021 included specific detail outlining upcoming changes to Canadian immigration and immigration systems. Among the details were specific statements regarding the Express Entry system. The Budget 2021 promises improvements to immigration that will: 

  • deliver a modern immigration processing platform 
  • support racialized newcomer women 
  • enhance the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program 
  • accelerate pathways to permanent residence (TR to PR pathway) 
  • streamline Express Entry, and 
  • enhance capacity and service standards within the IRCC Client Support Centre.

The Government of Canada intends to propose amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPR) to prioritize the selection of Express Entry candidates who better meet Canada’s labour market needs.

Based on statements made in the Budget 2021, these changes could include changes to the existing Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scoring system, or they could make changes to which NOC codes will be eligible to use the Express Entry system. Before 2015, the Federal Skilled worker Program would only accept applications from 50 specified NOC codes that were in demand in Canada. If immigration officials feel that they are not tapping the best candidates at this time it is possible that they could start restricting NOC codes in 2022 (although we have no indication that this is being considered at this time).

The pandemic has taught us that immigration policies are extremely flexible. With a new Immigration Minister at the helm of the department, and with the country emerging from the crisis phase of the pandemic — there are many possibilities for the future of Express Entry. Only time will tell.

Want to find out if you’re a good candidate for Express Entry? Complete the free Express Entry assessment form from Moving2Canada’s trusted immigration consultant partner, Canada Abroad. Get started here!

New National Occupational Classification (NOC) system being introduced 

The government of Canada will be implementing new NOC Codes in 2022. This update will be known as the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2021. Even though it states 2021, it will only come into effect in late 2022.

The new National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2021 will influence various Canadian government departments including IRCC. The new NOC codes will be 5 digits instead of 4. They will also be getting rid of the existing NOC Skill levels (level 0, level A, level B, level C and level D). These will be replaced by TEER levels which stand for Training, Education, Experience and Responsibility. 

There will be 6 TEER levels consisting of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. The former NOC skill level 0 and NOC skill level A will mostly remain unchanged, becoming TEER Levels 0 and 1, respectively. NOC Skill Level B occupations will be the most affected. 47 NOC Skill Level B occupations will be moved into TEER Level 3, with the other NOC B occupations moving to TEER Level 2. 

At this time, Canada has not released any details about how the TEER Levels will be integrated into the Express Entry system. It’s possible that only TEER Levels 0-2 will be eligible for Express Entry, rendering some NOC Skill Level B occupations ineligible. However, it’s also possible that the eligible TEER Levels could include 0-3, thus expanding the list of eligible occupations for Express Entry. More details will become available in 2022, but it is something to be aware of, especially for candidates in those 47 NOC Skill Level B occupations that will be moved to TEER Level 3.

Full reporting on the new 2021 NOC Codes is available here.

New application portals for Canadian immigration applicants

In 2021, IRCC introduced two new online portals for submitting applications, which are important for those looking to enter Canada in 2022. 

The first portal is for those submitting applications for temporary resident visas (TRVs) or visit visas. IRCC announced that those who submitted an application for a TRV before September 7, 2021 may need to resubmit their application in order for it to be processed. Applicants were instructed to re-submit their application through the new IRCC portal.

Transitioning to the new application portal for TRVs was important to ensure that those who met all of the requirements to travel to Canada under the country’s COVID-19 travel measures would have their applications processed. The new portal allows applicants to specify that they meet the current travel exemptions and are eligible to enter Canada at this time. By specifying this on their application, IRCC can focus on processing those applications where the applicant will be able to travel once their TRV is issued, as opposed to spending time on TRVs that cannot be used at this time. 

The TRV portal has recently expanded to accept study permit applications. This portal is separate from the previous IRCC Secure Account, which is also sometimes referred to as a GCKey. 

The second new portal that IRCC introduced was the Permanent Residence Portal. This is a major change for those who are going to be submitting applications under one of the following streams in 2022 as they no longer have to mail in a paper-based application:

  • Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) — non-Express Entry only
  • Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP)
  • Agri-Food Immigration Pilot
  • Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIP)
  • Start-Up Visa
  • Self-Employed People (Federal and Quebec)
  • Quebec-selected skilled workers, entrepreneurs and investors
  • Spouse or common-law partner sponsorship
  • Child sponsorship
  • Parent & Grandparent sponsorship
  • Home Support Worker & Home Child Care Provider Pilots
  • Adopting a child through the immigration process
  • Protected persons and convention refugees in Canada
  • Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
  • Temporary resident permit holders applying for permanent residence

New 2022 vaccination requirements for travel to Canada

Throughout 2021, Canada has maintained many travel exemptions for unvaccinated travellers coming to Canada for certain reasons. However, as of January 15, 2022, the number of exemptions will be greatly reduced, meaning that vaccination will be mandatory for many travellers who were previously exempt. Notably, fully vaccinated travellers have been able to travel to and from Canada since September 2021, although special travel requirements remain in effect.

Currently, unvaccinated travellers can still enter Canada if they meet one of the following exemptions to Canada’s travel restrictions and follow Canada’s special travel requirements (including COVID-19 testing and mandatory 14-day quarantine). 

  • Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents;
  • immediate family members of Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents who are travelling to Canada for non-discretionary reasons;
  • extended family members and long-term partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents (or their partners) who apply for written authorization from IRCC;
  • immediate family members of temporary residents in Canada who receive written authorization from IRCC;
  • temporary workers who hold a valid work permit or who are approved for a work permit but have not yet been issued the work permit;
  • COPR-holders with a valid COPR;
  • IEC participants who have not yet activated their work permits must have a valid job offer in order to enter, this job offer does not need to be in an essential sector;
  • international students attending a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) that is on the approved list (schools which have a COVID-19 readiness plan) and have either a valid study permit or a letter of introduction showing that they’ve been approved for a study permit;
  • a handful of other rare exemptions outlined here.

As of January 15, 2022, the following groups will no longer be allowed to enter Canada unless they are fully vaccinated: international students, work permit holders (exemptions remain for agriculture & food processing workers), essential service providers, professional and amateur athletes, and those reuniting with family members in Canada. Exemptions will continue for unvaccinated children under the age of 18 who wish to reunite with family members or attend certain post-secondary institutions.

On January 15, 2022, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers will only be allowed to enter Canada if they meet one of the limited exceptions, including:

  • agricultural and food processing workers;
  • foreign marine crew members;
  • those entering on compassionate grounds;
  • new permanent residents;
  • newly resettled refugees;
  • children under the age of 18 who are currently exempt from the travel restrictions, including international students who are studying at a designated learning institution that has a COVID-19 readiness plan; those travelling with a parent, step-parent, tutor or guardian who is either fully vaccinated, or a Canadian citizen, permanent resident of Canada or person registered under the Indian Act; and those travelling to reunite with immediate or extended Canadian family members in Canada; and
  • national interest exemptions.

In order to be considered “fully vaccinated,” you must have received the full series of one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for entry to Canada (or a combination of accepted vaccines). You must have received your last dose at least 14 days prior to travelling. As of November 30, 2021, Canada accepts seven vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Covishield, Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm, Sinovac, and Covaxin. If you have been vaccinated using a different vaccine, Canada does not consider you fully vaccinated at this time.

Children under the age of 12 travelling with fully vaccinated parents/guardians can enter Canada and are exempt from quarantine requirements, but will have to follow certain special measures, like avoiding schools, camps, and daycares. Refer here for details about requirements for children under the age of 12.

Canada’s COVID-19 travel measures are subject to change at any time. For the latest information, please refer to Moving2Canada’s COVID-19 Travel Updates page.

New Canadian immigration regulatory board 

As of November 23, 2021, the former Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) became known as The College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants. This new body is the regulatory body tasked with overseeing and regulating all Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs). 

This is an important change for those seeking assistance or advice on their Canadian immigration application in 2022. 

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and the Citizenship Act require that individuals who provide paid immigration or citizenship advice or representation be authorized to do so. These Acts make it an offence for anyone to represent or advise for a fee at any stage of an application or proceeding if they are not a member in good standing of one of the following:

  • a law society of a province or territory (for lawyers or, in Ontario, paralegals)
  • the Chambre des notaires du Québec
  • the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants

You can learn more about authorized representatives and how they can assist you with your immigration journey by reading Moving2Canada’s guide.

If the past year was any indication, 2022 could have some surprises waiting in the realm of Canadian immigration. But — by being proactive, you can plan ahead for roadblocks in your immigration journey. 

If you want to speak to someone about your immigration plans, or if you want assistance with your application, consider booking a consultation with Moving2Canada’s trusted partner, Canada Abroad. Get started by booking a consultation here!

Deanne Acres-Lans is a regulated Canadian immigration consultant (R#508363) and founder of Canada Abroad, an Ottawa-based immigration consultancy. She was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada and previously lived in South Africa for 8 years. Deanne has over twelve years of immigration experience, both working for the Canadian Government and in her own private practice.

To book a consultation with Deanne and the Canada Abroad team, start here.