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Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser stands during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 29, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

As employers scramble to fill hundreds of thousands of vacant positions across Canada, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has loosened immigration rules to encourage qualified candidates to apply for permanent residence.

“With the economy growing faster than employers can hire for new jobs, Canada needs to look at every option so that we have the skills and labour needed to fuel our growth,” Mr. Fraser said in a statement on Friday.

“Immigration will be crucial to address our labour shortage, and these measures aim to address pressing needs in all sectors across the country while providing more opportunity for recent graduates and other applicants to build their lives in Canada and continue contributing to our short-term recovery and long-term prosperity.”

Here’s how the changes will work:

Express entry draws, permanent residence applications resume

In July, the federal government will end the temporary pause on express entry draws, which is the application management system for anyone seeking to immigrate permanently through the federal skilled worker and skilled trades programs, the Canadian experience class and a portion of the provincial nominee program.

During the pandemic, the government temporarily paused applications for federal high-skilled programs in order to work through a backlog created because of travel restrictions. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says the majority of new applications to these classes will be processed within the six-month service standard.

Qualified candidates can also apply for permanent residence again in July, Ottawa says.

Anyone applying for permanent residence will no longer be forced to stay in Canada while their application is being processed. The government says “applicants who apply for an open work permit while waiting for their permanent residence application to be finalized will be able to get work permits valid until the end of 2024.”

Immediate family members who were included in a candidate’s permanent residence application will be eligible for a separate open work permit.

International students can stay another 18 months

Former international students in Canada whose post-graduation work permits expired or are expiring between Jan. 31 and Dec. 31 of 2022 will qualify for an extension allowing them to stay in Canada for up to 18 months, beginning in June.

The government says it is exploring a “simplified, expeditious process” for these extensions, and details will be made available in the coming weeks.

A temporary policy that allows foreign nationals who are in Canada as visitors to apply for an employer-specific work permit without having to leave the country has also been extended to Feb. 28, 2023.

The new temporary policy has exemptions. For example, post-graduation workers whose program permits expired during the last extension eligibility period are not included in the new measures.

Previous changes

The measures come just weeks after Ottawa announced it was expanding access to temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in an attempt to ease the labour crunch. Earlier this month, the federal government said it would allow Canadian employers to hire significantly more temporary foreign workers. Employers who hire low-wage TFWs will be able to increase the number from 10 per cent of their total workforce to 20 per cent, beginning on April 30.

In key sectors that have been hit hardest by the labour shortage, like food services, hospitals, nursing and residential care, the cap on low-wage temporary foreign workers will be raised to 30 per cent of the employer’s total workforce for one year.

– With reports from Vanmala Subramaniam, Matt Lundy and The Canadian Press.

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