Faced with unprecedented refugee flows from the conflict in Syria and mindful of backlogs in various immigration programs, including those for spouses and children, newly appointed Immigration Minister John McCallum recently announced new targets for immigration levels in 2016.

The new targets set by the minister represent a refocusing of Canada’s immi­gration policy away from purely economic considerations—a shift that may have important ramifications for many seg­ments of Canadian society and prospective immigrants alike.

While it is important not to overstate the degree to which the announcement represents a new policy direction, for many Canadian residents with family members abroad, these targets may offer new oppor­tunities for reunification in Canada.

Given the new expanded quota, new oppor­tunities for sponsoring parents and grand­parents are available with the two-year super visa allowing family members to be in Canada while applications for permanent residency are pending. The policy seeks to add 12,000 family members with a path to permanent residency in Canada, for a total of 80,000 new permanent residents through the family class program in one year.

Changes to immigration legislation will also increase the maximum age for dependent children from 19 to 22 years, thereby allowing more Canadians and permanent residents to bring their children to Canada. Another change to the family class program includes the removal of a two-year waiting period for permanent residency for new spouses—a policy that was sometimes criticized for causing appli­cants to have to choose between continu­ing to cohabitate with an abusive partner or being denied status in Canada.

Generally speaking, the recently announced changes to the family class program can be seen as facilitating non-economic immigra­tion. But despite the projected increase in family-class and refugee-class immigration, economic immigration will continue to account for more than half of new perma­nent residents in Canada.

Economic immigrants can generally be described as immigrants who provide an economic advantage to Canada through investment, or individuals who fill a void in the Canadian labour market.

Through programs such as the federal skilled worker program, the provincial nominee program, and the related Express Entry program, economic immigrants will account for approximately 160,000 new permanent residents in Canada in 2016 alone. Interested parties should take advantage of these economically related programs, especially since more are expected to roll out over the coming year.

It was also announced that applicants applying through the Express Entry program will now be granted additional points towards their permanent residency application if they have Canadian siblings. With every point counting, this may tip the scales and allow for an Invitation to Apply for Permanent Residency being granted.

For more information on qualifying as well as assessing and optimizing your score under the new immigration targets, please contact Mealanie or Michael.

Brendan Dawes, Associate, assisted with the research and writing of this article.