Where the EMPP falls within Canada’s latest immigration plan

Ali, a Fibre Optics Technician, and his family arrived in Toronto last week, headed to their new home in London, Ontario.

Canada continues its work towards reaching an annual immigration target of 500,000 permanent residents. 

Each November, the Canadian Government releases an ‘immigration levels plan’ to forecast permanent resident newcomers to Canada. In recent years, the plan has included a three-year outlook. This year’s plan outlines that in 2024, Canada aims to welcome 485,000 newcomers, in 2025 another 500,000, and in 2026 the level will stay steady at 500,000.


  • The 2024 level represents just over 1% of Canada’s population of 38 million. 
  • The proportion of permanent residents arriving under the economic stream stays consistent with recent years at just under 60% of the overall level. Family immigration accounts for 24% and refugee or protected person immigration is 16%. This distribution stays about even for the three forecasted years, but there are notable changes within each category from year to year. For example, the target number of privately-sponsored refugees rises while government-assisted refugee numbers fall. 
  • The plan includes new annual and progressively increasing French-speaking permanent resident targets outside Quebec, up from 4% in 2023 to 6% in 2024, 7% in 2025, and 8% in 2026. The goal is to uphold bilingualism across Canada and support the growth of French language minority communities.
  • Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP), where TalentLift’s work primarily falls, is part of the economic immigration level. Importantly, this means that folks moving from refugee situations because of their skills and talent are additional to Canada’s humanitarian programs. Each talented person hired by a Canadian team is an additional family able to leave displacement behind.
  • Dilruba, supported by our partners at FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance and TalentLift, is featured in this year’s annual report to Parliament. Dilruba is a talented healthcare professional working with the long-term care provider Chancellor Park in St. John’s. The report notes that her employer “struck gold” upon hiring her – and we note that this remarkable team has continued their impactful hiring strategy, providing opportunities to several other team members living in displacement. 
  • Canada plans to create a Chief International Talent Officer role and among the initiatives they will lead are ‘global skills missions’ to recruit talent internationally. 
  • Canada aims to introduce a new ‘client experience platform’ by the end of 2023 where applicants can better follow progress on their visa processing. 

Is the 2024 immigration target a high number? 

The 2024 immigration target of 485,000 is a relatively high number compared to recent decades, but Canada has long welcomed newcomers in ways that help to advance demographics (the Canadian birth rate isn’t high enough to sustain let alone grow the population) and the economy. Annual immigration has also changed and risen, historically, in response to major conflicts around the world.

Where do temporary residents (work permits) fit in? 

The levels plan does not include temporary work permit forecasts. But these numbers are included in an annual report to Parliament submitted by the Immigration Minister. Last year, the number of people who arrived in Canada with temporary work permits was 604,000. This includes people arriving under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program. 

What are 3 ways to improve Canada’s economic immigration for talented people in refugee situations?

Canada has made remarkable advances in building a more equitable and inclusive economic immigration system for people living in refugee situations worldwide. The growth of the EMPP and the innovations within it are creating new opportunities that benefit displaced families and the teams welcoming them across Canada, and modelling a skills-based solution for the international community. 

Continued innovation can deepen all these benefits, and ensure that anyone with the talent to contribute to Canada can equitably compete for that opportunity. 

First, we encourage Canada to expand access by people living in refugee circumstances to work permits, so they too can leverage this significant entry point to Canada – or 604,000 places in 2022. As noted in the report to Parliament, “a growing number of immigrants who are granted permanent residence are already in Canada as temporary residents.” In fact, many of Canada’s economic immigration programs either require or reward in-Canada experience. Similarly, Canada should extend EMPP accommodations to all permanent residence pathways in the economic stream which currently fall outside the pilot, such as the Express Entry programs. Canada will only achieve full equity for displaced talent when they can access the full suite of economic pathways, permanent and temporary. 

Second, as Canada aims to orient economic immigration to critical labour market needs, the government should introduce greater flexibility in language requirements in its federal programs. Many of these programs have a very high language bar. This includes new pathways under the EMPP for displaced talent, which range from an English level of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 4 to 7, and the French equivalents, depending on pathway. These levels, as well as the standardized test offered by the British Council to demonstrate English proficiency, can be prohibitive in particular for people living in refugee situations who may have fewer opportunities and resources to focus on language upskilling. Instead, TalentLift has recommended accepting an attestation from an employer confirming an applicant has the language ability to perform the job. Or, if a language minimum is in place, using a low CLB and accepting a more accessible test such as the Duolingo remote test.

Third, Canada should swiftly move to make the EMPP a permanent program, in parallel to making changes towards deeper equity. The EMPP is in a pilot stage, although it has operated since 2018. Just as Canada graduated the Atlantic Immigration Program from pilot to permanent fixture, the EMPP is ready for permanence. The EMPP is unique among immigration pilots because it is a set of accommodations as well as visa pathways, all developed to provide greater access to Canada’s economic immigration stream for talented people in displacement. It is at its core an equity program. Moving from a pilot to a permanent program is important for the longevity of these advances, and for ensuring that equity doesn’t change as governments or political priorities do.

With these and other changes, Canada will continue its global leadership as a top destination where displaced talent can thrive. 

Further background can be found at: 

Candidates living in refugee circumstances and seeking a job in Canada can join TalentLift. Employers seeking global talent while engaging their team in something transformative can start hiring.