The number of people in Canada illegally is expected to increase substantially in April 2015, when a large contingent of foreign workers see their work permits expire.
Their work permits will expire on April 1st 2015 because of a rule enacted on April 1st, 2011, that created a four year limit on cumulative time a foreign national can spend in Canada as a temporary foreign worker.
The rule change was made to reduce the perceived over-dependence of Canadian employers on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to meet their permanent labour needs.
The number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has increased from approximately 100,000 in 2002, to over 300,000 today, which some have criticized as a subsidy for business at the expense of Canadian workers.
Setting limits on how long a temporary foreign worker can work in Canada was seen as a way to limit the use of the TFWP to its intended role: to temporarily meet labour shortages until a permanent solution could be found.
People familiar with visa and immigration controls expect a significant percentage of those whose permits will expire on April 1st 2015 to over-stay their visa and reside in Canada illegally, leaving Canada with a problem that Americans are more familiar with: a sizeable illegal immigrant population.
The immigrant magnets of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto are expected to host the majority of those illegal migrants, which will likely put pressure on their infrastructure, public transit and policing resources, which are already being strained by rapid population growth.
Costs vs Generosity
Canadians are a generally generous people, who don’t like deporting individuals whose only crime is to stay in a country that affords them a better quality of life, but that generosity has to contend with the reality that unskilled foreign workers represent an economic cost for Canada.
Each additional person living in Canada comes with additional set costs in government spending, that can only be compensated if the person pays taxes that are at the Canadian average – something low-wage unskilled workers do not.
Allowing any of the literally hundreds of millions of people who would choose to immigrate and work in Canada if they could, to do so, would, in real terms, result in skyrocketing government spending levels and lower wages / higher unemployment rates for less skilled Canadians who would have to compete with the entrants in the labour market.
This means that immigration controls, and their integrity, are important for the economic well-being of Canada. Nevertheless, an extensive policing campaign that deports thousands of illegal immigrants, many of them living as families in Canada, would spark public outrage and would also be logistically difficult.
How Canada deals with the surge in the illegal immigrant population in 2015 remains to be seen.