Preliminary figures show Canada admitted 280,636 new permanent residents last year, the highest number of legal immigrants in more than 50 years.
About two-thirds of the newcomers were economic immigrants and their dependants and 21 per cent came under the family class, who were predominantly spouses and children of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
In announcing these figures at an event in Toronto on Feb. 13, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney also said the government plans to reduce the number of visas granted under the family reunification program this year.
Priority will be given to spouses and children first, then to parents and grandparents, he said.
While parents and grandparents aren't seen as a boost to the economy, many immigrants entering the workforce rely on them for child care and help around the home, according to immigration advocates.
Ottawa is also set to change the points system that determines, which economic immigrants are admitted to Canada, to bring in newcomers who don’t have university degrees or language proficiency, but whose job skills are in demand in Canada, said Kenney.
But the government plans to further raise the language requirements for applicants with professional designations such as doctors, engineers, accountants and scientists to ensure their success in the country, he said.
Figures obtained through an Access to Information request by Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, show the government wants to reduce overall immigration next year by five per cent, mostly due to cut backs on family reunification visas, the CBC reported.
The figures indicate the government will issue about 11,000 family reunification visas for parents and grandparents overseas, down from more than 16,000 last year — a drop of about 31 per cent.
The Citizenship and Immigration numbers in the Access to Information document also show the government will issue about 56,000 federal skilled worker visas overseas this year, down from nearly 70,000 issued last year — a drop of about 20 per cent.
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