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Title: Unlocking Opportunities: Navigating Canada's Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP)


Yameena Ansari


March 26, 2024


11:02 AM

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In a world fraught with crises forcing people to flee their homes, finding refuge can seem like an insurmountable challenge. The UNHCR reports a staggering 110 million forcibly displaced individuals worldwide as of mid-2023. As dedicated immigration and refugee lawyers, we understand the stark reality of limited humanitarian options for those seeking sanctuary in Canada. Despite Canada's commendable efforts in welcoming refugees, with 277,730 resettled between 2015 and 2023, there remains a gap between this humanitarian aid and the nation's ambitious immigration targets of over 400,000 new permanent residents annually.

Enter the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP), a beacon of hope amidst the complexities of immigration pathways. By blending refugee and economic pathways, the EMPP offers a lifeline to highly skilled refugees and displaced individuals seeking to call Canada home. While we commend Canada for spearheading this initiative and committing to its permanence, the program faces several implementation challenges that hinder its overarching objectives.

1) Enhancing Program Visibility:

The EMPP's potential remains largely untapped due to limited publicity. Despite our encounter with the EMPP in 2023 while assisting a client from Gaza, it became evident that awareness among legal practitioners and consultants is lacking, barring a few designated organizations. This dearth of awareness leads to underutilization, evident from unclaimed spots at the program's close in 2023. To address this, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) could conduct EMPP information sessions for immigration professionals and refugee-serving entities. Additionally, legal practitioners must actively disseminate information within their networks to amplify program awareness.

2) Transparent Allocation of Spots:

In 2023, the EMPP's non-job offer stream cap remained unfulfilled, leaving vulnerable refugees without recourse. Regrettably, IRCC does not publicize spot availability, necessitating direct outreach to trusted partner organizations for insights. Given the program's low cap juxtaposed with global displacement figures, the underutilization of spots is disheartening. To foster transparency, IRCC should publish real-time spot availability for each EMPP stream, streamlining the application process for both representatives and candidates.

3) Mitigating Documentation Barriers:

Despite fee waivers and flexibility in requirements, documentation hurdles persist for EMPP applicants. Language proficiency proofs, inaccessible testing centers, and transcript challenges pose significant obstacles. Current practices entail cumbersome humanitarian and compassionate appeals for unobtainable documents, exacerbating legal costs and processing delays. IRCC could alleviate this burden by allowing document substitutions and categorizing documents as "mandatory" and "optional," offering clarity to applicants and expediting processing.

4) Addressing Medical Admissibility:

EMPP applicants face undue scrutiny regarding excessive demand on health services, despite many being recognized refugees exempt from such assessments. Aligning EMPP practices with refugee law mandates eliminating health-related inadmissibility grounds, ensuring consistency and fairness in the application process.

In navigating the EMPP, addressing these challenges is paramount to realizing its full potential as a gateway to opportunity for displaced individuals seeking refuge and prosperity in Canada. Through collaborative efforts and policy reforms, we can uphold Canada's legacy as a beacon of hope and inclusivity on the global stage.

Authored by Kelly O’Connor and Yameena Ansari, Canadian Immigration Lawyers, Ansari Immigration Law.

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