Australia’s Challenge to Canada’s Resolve

Australia's 800 lb. Gorilla & Canadian Immigration Policy

If you are focused on getting to Canada, you may be forgiven for missing the headline news out of Australia last week.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the abolition of the Australian 457 visa.

The 457 visa is (or, was) an employer-sponsored temporary visa, which provided a key stepping-stone for about 170,000 migrants each year.

Many used the 457 to get to Australia legally, then find ways to jump to the safety of permanent residency before their time was up.

But stay or no, the 457 visa allowed foreigners to steal jobs from Australian workers.

At least, that’s Mr Turnbull’s view.

Others reasonably argue that the 457 visa filled gaps in the Australian labour market.

That debate will run and run, but in the meantime, Turnbull figures that 457 holders are an easy target to help him burnish his political reputation as a get-tough/get-stuff-done sort of guy.

But let’s not forget, “stealing jobs from hard-working Americans Britons Australians” has a familiar ring to it…

Tighter controls is the new black

We don’t need to look further than Brexit to see a global trend of hardening attitudes towards immigration, and their profound effect on world affairs:

  • Last year in this space we wrote how Denmark was seemingly the first out of the starting blocks with fresh new curbs on asylum seekers and others;
  • Donald Trump can arguably thank his tough immigration stance for his upset win;
  • Closer to home, whatever the final result, Marine Le Pen’s credible threat in the French elections suggests that this is more than a passing fad.

Indeed, it’s beginning to look like a one-way street...

..or even a political stampede…

Is Canada the exception?

But what about Canada? 

Are they out of touch, on another planet, or what?

Just last month in this space, we wrote:

“Canadians want more immigrants, and faster, not less…the increase in visa invitations is simply a matter of IRCC choosing to accept more applicants. And IRCC is now doing exactly that.”

So, why are Canadians the exception to the rule?

The answer is: they may not be. And that's not just a comment on how difficult it is to get to Canada, although that remains true. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, media darling and record-setting party leader, governs with a majority government. But he is not unassailable.

Trudeau’s win, dramatic as it most certainly was, saw his Liberal party take just 39% of the overall vote.  Make no mistake: with a political landscape as fractured as Canada’s, that’s still huge.

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Even so, it would be almost inconceivable that all of those voters, or indeed all of his MPs, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him on every one of his policies.

Sure, we can say that most of his 39% is with him on immigration.

But most of 39% is beginning to sound like…not that many.

Put that way, Trudeau’s mandate doesn’t sound so strong.

So is Trudeau vulnerable on the immigration issue?

Musical Chairs

If he is, you don’t want find out the hard way, as many did when Turnbull made his announcement last week.

But there won’t be any “tough on immigrants” announcements by the Liberals, as we would expect from Turnbull, Trump, or even Le Pen.

Policy shifts by Trudeau will be quieter and more subtle. Especially if it involves a U-turn.

But he could bow to internal pressure just the same.

As we also noted last month: “Politics is a fickle business. Super star Justin’s star could fade just as quickly as it rose, and as we’ve noted, it didn’t require a rules change to increase migration numbers.”

To see how, its useful to know how the Canadian system makes visa invitations:

  • IRCC decides roughly how many applicants are to be invited;
  • Applicants are ranked by CRS score;
  • Invitations are issued to the highest scorers first, until the quota for that draw is reached.

The key word in the above is quotas, which are subject to whatever political adjustments are necessary to keep voters happy.

So there doesn’t need to be any bold announcement, just a few quiet assurances to the insiders, and the number of invitations drops.

Fresh challenges for the status quo

But even without Trudeau doing an immigration policy U-turn, there remains the 800 pound Australian gorilla now sitting in his office.

We’re talking about knock-on effects.

Australia has fired the starting gun on what is likely to be a series of tightening measures.

That means more applicants, from the UK and elsewhere, who have suddenly seen a door closed on them.

Where will they go?

Toronto may not be as warm as Sydney, but it is certainly attractive – and Canada regularly pips Australia on the leader board of highest standards of living.

It’s also the case that Canada already has annual immigration quotas. When those quotas are not reached, the policy levers are adjusted to welcome more applicants in.

That’s what we’re seeing right now.

But once those quotas are reached, we will quickly see visa application windows closed. 

This already happens like clockwork: every year, the window to apply for family sponsorship visas is opened on January 2nd or 3rd. Within days – quota reached – it closes again for another year.

The rest is simple math: increase the number of applicants, and the rate of invitations, and Canada will hit their targets faster.

What this means for you

Australia’s skilled worker loss may be Canada’s gain. But how that effects your application is another matter entirely.

The only way to be sure you will be eligible for a Canadian visa is to have one in your passport already.

Everything else is speculation.

The Canadian government owes nothing to anyone except its own voters. And voters have a tendency to be fickle.

Increasingly it seems that globalisation, and the free movement of people it has allowed, may be reaching a natural peak.

Brexit, Trump, and Turnbull, and the voters that support them, all seem to be reading same memo.  Will Le Pen, or Beppe Grillo in Italy, be the next to join that list? Time will tell.

In the meantime, if you are serious about going to Canada, do not wait.

These larger trends are reason enough to have your application in the pool as soon as possible.

We haven’t changed our outlook: this is an excellent time to apply, but even when times are good, it is still not easy, and decisive changes can happen overnight, and without notice.

Stay Tuned: More to Come

We will keep you up to date as further changes are announced. 

But bear in mind:  immigration rules change all the time, and the news that it’s gotten easier is both rare, and often shortly lived.

It won’t require new laws or an election to reduce these numbers again.

Either way, ‘the early bird gets the worm’: having your application ready to go, as soon as possible, could make a difference for many candidates.

And there are many different ways to approach the visa process. Knowing all your options, and having a strategy, is a key first step. There is more to the visa process than meets the eye.

If you’d like advice about how we can help you, please do get in touch. There may never be a better time to make it happen.

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