An immigration processing centre in Cape Breton is expanding its workforce as Ottawa looks to shrink a backlog of people waiting to immigrate to Canada.
On Thursday, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser toured an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship office in New Waterford, N.S., that will soon add 41 full-time equivalent jobs.
Fraser has said a total 1,250 workers will be hired as Canada looks to tackle a record-high number of immigration applicants.
"[The] message that we're trying to send to people who are thinking of coming to Canada is that we want you here," said Fraser.
"We think it's good for our communities to welcome you to Canada, and we're very grateful for people expressing interest."
Fraser said that Canada is on target to welcome 430,000 new permanent residents to Canada this year.
Fraser said the country accepted 405,000 permanent residents in 2021 and, of that number, 150,000 started out as international students.
"Right now, we've seen an absolute explosion in the number of people who want to come and study in Canada," said Fraser.
"These are people who tend to show amongst the highest economic outcomes and we want to continue to embrace them."
Fraser said that international students who are still waiting for permission to come to Canada will be allowed to begin classes online as they wait for their study visas to be processed. And Fraser said the policy change will not jeopardize a person's ability to access a post-graduate work permit program, which many students use to transition into Canada's workforce at the end of their studies.
Fraser said Canada will have processed 104,000 study permits in August alone.
"We don't limit the number of applications that we're willing to take… We process whatever comes in," he said. "And it's common for us to have half a million international students in Canada at any given point in time."
Tyler Mattheis, president and CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership, which offers settlement services to newcomers, said he was pleased that Ottawa is working to improve immigration wait times.
"I think the only way to know what additional things should be done is to make these small steps, evaluate their impact and then address further steps that have to come," Mattheis said.
Also on Thursday, Fraser said that Canada will exempt permanent and temporary residence applicants who are already in Canada and meet certain criteria from the immigration medical examination requirement.
He said that simplifying the process will impact approximately 180,000 clients by saving them money and reducing wait times on their applications.
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