Why Canada could see a boom in immigration—from the U.S.

New immigration rules favour Yanks

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Canada-US-flagsEvery four years, like clockwork, disillusioned Americans make the same tired threat: if their presidential candidate of choice doesn’t win, then, screw it, they’re moving to Canada. While the vast majority of them don’t, there has been a measurable increase in the number of both American and British immigrants coming to Canada over the last decade. Now those increases could pick up even more, thanks to a change in Canada’s immigration rules.

Canada’s new Federal Skilled Worker Program kicks in on May 4. Like the old immigration rules, potential immigrants get points for certain characteristics. The passing grade is still 67 out of 100, but the government has altered how many points each trait is worth. As a result, Yanks and Brits will have an advantage—as will Aussies, Kiwis, the French, anyone from an English- or French-speaking nation. For some, particularly older immigrants who don’t speak either official language well, immigration to Canada through this program will become next to impossible. But for others, like our southern neighbours, it’s about to get a lot easier.

The emphasis on language provides the biggest boost. The category is now the most crucial, worth 28 points—an increase of four. But that’s only half the story. In an e-mail exchange, Citizen and Immigration Canada explained that points given for bilingualism have been cut in half, from eight to four, due to a “lack of evidence that second language ability contributes to positive economic outcomes for the majority of applicants.” In other words, an English-only-speaking American now receives up to 24 points instead of 16—an eight-point increase. And five extra points are now given in the adaptability category (worth a total of 10 points) if your spouse is fluent in English or French. So if you’re a married American, you could gain 13 more points. Easy peasy.

That said, the other big changes to the new system relate to age, and if you’re older you could lose more than you gain. The age category has been boosted by two points and, more importantly, the target age range lowered. Previously, applicants could get the full 10 points if they were 49 or younger. That number has dropped dramatically to 35. And the work experience category, which benefits older immigrants, has been reduced from 21 points to 15. So, if you’re an experienced, 48-year-old American, you just lost 16 points—more than you’ll gain with the new language bonuses.
immigrationtocanadaBut for young Americans, moving to Canada will be much easier than before. The U.S. is typically our fourth biggest source of immigrants, followed closely by the U.K., each representing almost 10,000 new permanent residents per year. American numbers spiked somewhat during the recession, but both countries have been warming up to Canada over the last decade. In the early 2000s, between 5,000 and 6,000 new immigrants typically came in each year per country. By 2010, those numbers shot up roughly 40%, following, for the most part, yearly increases (see chart, above).

As you can see, there’s already a trend of Americans and Brits increasingly relocating to Canada (and to a lesser extent, the French). People want to move here—and for the ones already most similar to us, the Harper government just made it easier. That by itself is reason to suspect the increase we’ve already seen will continue—and could even spike.

You can follow @trevormelanson on Twitter.

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