Modernizing the Immigration System
Advantage Canada recognized that in a modern global economy, Canada’s immigration policies need to be closely aligned with our labour market needs. Budget 2007 took action to make the immigration system more responsive to the new labour market realities in Canada. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program was streamlined to enable employers to bring in workers more quickly to address their immediate labour shortages. The Government also introduced the new Canadian Experience Class to expedite the process for skilled temporary foreign workers and foreign students with Canadian credentials and work experience to remain in Canada as permanent residents, under certain conditions.Canada must maintain the ability to compete globally for the best and the brightest by creating the optimal conditions to attract immigrants who can contribute fully to Canada’s prosperity. A well-managed and efficient immigration system is critical to achieving this objective. The Government will continue to modernize Canada’s immigration system.Budget 2008 builds on Advantage Canada priorities with additional measures to improve the immigration system’s capacity and flexibility to respond to Canada’s dynamic and evolving labour market needs. Concrete measures will be initiated to expedite the processing of permanent resident applications. Combined with the recent improvements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the expansion of the Provincial Nominee Program and the new Canadian Experience Class announced in Budget 2007, these measures will ensure that the labour needs of employers in all provinces and territories are met in a more timely fashion.To complement these actions, changes will be made to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to improve the immigration process. It is not fair for prospective immigrants to wait for years before being considered, and it is not desirable to wait that long for the immigrants the country needs. The measures proposed in Budget 2008 will expedite the processing of permanent residents to ensure that skilled immigrants can get to Canada when their skills are in demand. The proposed legislative changes will provide flexibility for concrete measures, as required, to more effectively manage the future growth in the inventory, such as addressing the number of applications accepted and processed in a year. The end result will be reduced wait times and improved service. These changes will allow Canada to take the first steps towards establishing a "just-in-time" competitive immigration system which will quickly process skilled immigrants who can make an immediate contribution to the economy.Action will also be taken to help address the growing demand at Canadian missions abroad for temporary resident visas for students and skilled workers. In particular, the Government will focus on helping post-secondary educational institutions attract foreign students and on facilitating their arrival in Canada. For example, an online application system, as well as other measures to improve service and speed up processing, will be implemented for student visas. These initiatives, combined with new Canada Graduate Scholarships for Canadian and international students, will enhance Canada’s ability to compete with other countries to attract and retain the best foreign students.Taken together, these initiatives will ensure the ongoing integrity of the immigration program. They will enable Canada to respond to growing demand and to admit more highly-skilled immigrants and their families, including foreign students. At the same time, Canada’s social and humanitarian objectives will be preserved and continue to be balanced with Canada’s labour market needs.Budget 2008 provides $22 million over the next two years, rising to $37 million per year by 2012–13, to implement this next critical stage of modernizing the immigration system.Improving Canada’s Borders
Our two-way trade with the world is equivalent to approximately two-thirds of our gross domestic product, and one out of five jobs is directly linked to trade. On a typical day, 266,000 people, 18,200 trucks, 77,900 courier shipments and 5,000 marine containers enter into Canada. These numbers reflect the increased mobility of people and goods in today’s world. This openness brings important benefits to Canada’s economy and society, but it also presents a number of risks.Given the importance of trade to our continued prosperity, our borders have to facilitate trade, travel and commerce, while protecting us from external threats. This is why Budget 2008 is investing in initiatives to:Ensure that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has the resources it needs to deliver innovative border services given current economic realities and a new security environment.Provide Canadians with access to better and more secure travel documents to cross international borders, particularly our border with the United States.Ensure the integrity of Canada’s immigration program so that our borders are secure and our communities are safe.Enhance the security of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region.Address obstacles to cross-border trade through the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.
Strengthened Front-Line Capacity
Better borders start with a stronger on-the-ground presence. The CBSA provides a critical front-line contribution to the prosperity and security of Canada by managing the access of people and goods to and from the country. Budget 2008 commits $75 million over the next two years to ensure that the CBSA has the resources it needs to deliver efficient and secure border services at more than 1,200 domestic and international locations. These funds will increase the number of on-site border services officers at key border installations in order to meet evolving operational demands resulting from increased trade and travel.
World-Class Travel Documents
Better borders also require better travel documents that address concerns over document vulnerability. Budget 2008 takes the steps needed to introduce a higher-security electronic passport by 2011. The validity period of the new passport will be doubled to 10 years. Canada will join other countries that have taken steps to strengthen the security of their passports.Budget 2008 also invests $14 million over the next two years to expand the joint Canada/United States NEXUS program by adding dedicated infrastructure, increasing the number of users from 160,000 to 350,000 and better targeting frequent travellers. The NEXUS program has been successful in reducing border transit times. Expediting crossings for low-risk frequent travellers will also free up resources to improve the clearance of regular traffic, thereby improving border security and reducing border congestion.Finally, Budget 2008 provides $6 million over the next two years for federal activities to support provinces and territories planning to introduce enhanced driver’s licences. Enhanced driver’s licences are optional licences that denote citizenship and are expected to be recognized as a valid travel document for land entry into the United States under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The United States is the primary travel and business destination for many Canadians who do not hold a passport, and many Americans visit and tour Canada every year without carrying a passport. The development of enhanced driver’s licences by provinces, territories and U.S. states is intended to provide Canadians and Americans who do not hold a passport with an accessible and convenient alternative. British Columbia and the state of Washington are currently deploying and testing enhanced driver’s licences. Other provinces and U.S. states are also in the process of developing enhanced driver’s licences for their citizens.Taken together, these investments will facilitate the secure movement of Canadians across international borders by providing access to reliable and accessible travel documents, in line with evolving international standards. These investments will also ensure a smooth transition to the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
More Secure Borders
Canada continues to be a destination of choice for millions of individuals seeking to stay temporarily to travel, work or study. While our economy and society are enriched by the movement of people across our borders, it also poses a number of risks.Border security remains a priority for Canadians. Criminals are increasingly more sophisticated and well funded, including those who engage in document fraud to illegally move people or goods across borders. Further to biometric field trials in Canada that were successfully completed in 2007, the Government will introduce the use of biometric data, such as fingerprints and live photographs, in its visa-issuing process to accurately verify identity and travel documents of foreign nationals who enter Canada. This initiative will enhance the integrity and efficiency of the border by preventing criminals from entering Canada, and facilitating the processing of legitimate applicants. Budget 2008 provides $26 million over two years for this initiative. Canada will join other countries such as Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, which have recognized the value of using biometrics in their immigration and border processes.
Marine Security—Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway
The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region is a key economic region with several international bridges and tunnels. It is a high marine security priority for both Canada and the United States. This area is also heavily travelled by both small pleasure craft and large commercial vessels.In 2005, an interim Marine Security Operations Centre in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region was established. Budget 2008 provides $15 million over two years to establish a permanent facility. The operations centre will help departments and agencies work collaboratively to collect, analyze and share information on marine and transborder traffic that is important to the security of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region. A permanent operations centre will also allow representatives from provincial/municipal and United States law enforcement agencies to participate.
A Stronger North American Partnership
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has helped make North America one of the most dynamic and prosperous economic regions in the world. Advantage Canada, the Government’s long-term economic plan, recognizes that Canadian companies must continue to profit from the commercial benefits of NAFTA, particularly as they strive to compete in North American and world markets.In August 2007, the Prime Minister met with the Presidents of the United States and Mexico in Montebello, Quebec, to discuss priorities under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. The Government is addressing these priorities by allocating $29 million over the next two years towards:Greater efficiency at the Canada-U.S. border through better cross-border communication systems and improved wait-time information.The future elimination of duplicate baggage screening on connecting flights in North America.Increased regulatory cooperation on projects in the chemical, automotive and transportation sectors.Greater protection of the North American food supply through vulnerability assessments.Improved trilateral cooperation on energy research and achieving compatibility of energy efficiency standards for key consumer products.These investments will address consumer needs, increase business competitiveness and enhance North American security. They will be sourced from the Security and Prosperity Partnership allocation made in Budget 2006.Our borders have to facilitate trade, travel and commerce while protecting us from external threats. This is why Budget 2008 is investing in borders by:Committing $75 million over two years to ensure the Canada Border Services Agency has the resources it needs to effectively manage the border.Introducing a higher-security electronic passport by 2011.Doubling the validity period of Canadian passports to 10 years when this electronic passport is launched.Providing $14 million over two years to expand the jointCanada-United States NEXUS program for low-risk frequent travellers across the border.Providing $6 million over two years for federal activities to support provinces and territories planning to introduce enhanced driver’s licences.Allocating $26 million over two years to introduce the use of biometric data into visas issued to foreign nationals entering Canada.Providing $15 million over two years to establish a permanent facility to enhance the security of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region.Allocating $29 million over two years to meet priorities under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.