Quebec Stabilizes Immigration

Breaking News from Quebec:

Quebec Government confirms that it has no plans to significantly increase immigration levels — at least in the short term.

A document entitled “The Immigration Planning in Quebec for the 2017-2019 Years” was presented Thursday, June 2, 2016, by the Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion of Quebec, Kathleen Weil, to the National Assembly of Quebec. Its recommendations will be submitted for public consultations at the end of the summer.

The minister confirmed that Quebec does not aim to bring 60,000 new immigrants per year, as once Prime Minister Philippe Couillard said. The government is proposing to stabilize immigration targets around 50,000 for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019. A concern was expressed that more significant increases during these years could provoke a negative reaction among a number of Quebecers due to increased challenges in terms of the integration of newcomers and their contribution to the enrichment of Quebec society.

According to Kathleen Weil, Quebec should welcome 51,000 immigrants in 2017 and 2018 respectively, which corresponds to the average level of admissions in recent years. The government proposes to increase this target to 52, 500 in 2019, when the recently launched new selection system will be further honed.

To summarize, the government wants more young people, particularly more who are skilled, and more candidates with training fitting labor market needs. Selection of future Quebecers will be directed towards young (at least 65% have to be under 35 years of age) immigrants, and the province will be even more open to skilled workers, especially to those with temporary status in Quebec and those who already know French, given the sensitive subject of Quebec’s common language. The government plans to set the proportion of adults to be selected in the skilled worker category who have a threshold command of French at a minimum of 85% of the total. Applicants with a background in industries with high unemployment levels will be given priority.

The Quebec government intends to increase the share of “economic migration,” for which Quebec has its full jurisdiction, to 63% of the total in 2019. The share of the Quebec selection in immigration is expected to reach 75% by 2019. One quarter of Quebec immigration stems from the responsibilities of the Canadian government, which is a signatory to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

In the area of refugee sponsorship, the document acknowledged experienced difficulties. The launch of an extensive consultation with refugee sponsor groups, agencies and departments working in refugee resettlement was announced, “to fully understand the needs and strengthen our support model.”

The document further reinforced the idea that permanent and temporary immigration, in concerted efforts with economic and territorial contributors, should have a positive influence on the development of Quebec’s regions. It was generally well accepted by the media, who expressed a unanimous wish that the government still accept more skilled immigrants but at the same time praised it for not increasing quantity without first attempting to solve the lingering issues of immigrants’ integration and acquisition of French language skills (so-called “francisation”). The Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Quebec even issued a statement of support immediately after the publication of the report.

Le Soleil reminded its readers about a heated debate on immigration that had inflamed the National Assembly this past March. A government document clearly stated at that time that to avoid a decline in its working age population below its 2011 level, Quebec has to set a minimum target of 60,000 immigrants admitted annually. Kathleen Weil hinted that it was only an indicator, but the prime minister of Quebec seemed to jump the gun and announced the new immigration objective, which led to heated exchanges between the members of the Assembly.

At a press conference Thursday, Minister Weil emphasized the importance of reducing unemployment among newcomers, which is still almost three times higher than in the non-immigrant population. And in her opinion, stabilization of volumes will lead to better integration, the need for which is clearly recognized.

At the same time, she stressed the necessity to have the newcomers’ French skills improved in the short term, and to make this improvement (“francization”) more flexible in order to make it accessible for those who have been hard to reach so far.

Link to the report

What does this mean for our clients, who are already in process, and for those who are only pondering the idea of immigrating under the Quebec Skilled Workers program?

It is clear that MIDI would continue exercising their retroactivity right (at the time of an amendment to the rules, any file for which processing has not started is subject to this amendment, effective immediately) – meaning that those who have not received a request for an update from MIDI (“intention de rejet” letter) by the time the amendment takes effect will be assessed under the new rules. And judging by the report, the knowledge of French is very likely to become mandatory starting in 2017.

Since day one, we have been advising our clients to continue learning French while in process – and now is the time to literally “step on it” – because MIDI could officially pass this amendment at any time in 2017, and new requests for an update could already imply the necessity to provide French test results even for those who have enough points so far (remember: there is usually no warning regarding if, when and how the preferred training list and even selection grid could be updated). And by the current rules (and processing times), only those who demonstrated at least B1/B1 levels in oral proficiency would be allowed additional time to upgrade their French to the B2/B2 threshold.

Those only planning to immigrate under QSW will have a fierce battle for the remaining 5000 spaces in the “second wave” quota for the second half of the 2016-2017 intake, the last one to be processed on the first-come, first-served basis and likely with no French required. It remains to be seen how the online system will behave starting June 13, when it is supposed to reopen after the utter disaster of February 2016, when a system crash did not allow a single file to be submitted. Some things are not yet fixed as of today, so we are using the workarounds received by the MIDI. It is effectively a lottery, though everything must still be perfected as, bugs or no bugs, MIDI reserves its contentious right to refuse a file on a minor technicality. We continue collaborating with IT consultants and are ready for an influx of new applications to make this last “wave”; however, we accept those at the minimum threshold of points and with absolutely no knowledge of French only on certain conditions.