The federal government hopes to convert more than 90,000 temporary foreign workers and graduated international students into permanent residents as part of its ambitious goal of admitting 401,000 immigrants this year, despite borders, being closed by the pandemic.

The new measures, announced Wednesday by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, will allow 20,000 temporary foreign workers in health care, 30,000 workers in other occupations deemed essential and 40,000 international students who have graduated from a university or college to apply to become permanent residents. There will be separate, dedicated spaces for French-speaking or bilingual applicants residing outside Quebec.

“We are committed to providing an opportunity for those who are already here in Canada by recognizing their contribution during the pandemic and giving them a path to stay,” Mr. Mendicino said in an interview.

Under the new rules, any foreign resident who graduated from a Canadian university or college within the past four years may apply to become a permanent resident.

Temporary foreign workers in 40 occupations related to health care will qualify. The categories include not only doctors and nurses but also home support workers, housekeepers and “other assisting occupations in support of health services,” according to a government description of the program.

The 95 qualifying essential occupations outside health care include workers in grocery stores, construction, transportation – such as bus drivers, taxi drivers and courier and delivery drivers – “harvesting labourers” and other workers in trades and services deemed essential.

The department estimates that about 70,000 residents have acquired permanent- resident status this year using other measures the government has taken to encourage in-country applications. Those measures included issuing work permits for international students in Canada, holding the largest-ever draw of applicants under the Express Entry system and granting permanent-resident status to undocumented asylum claimants working in health care.

Each successful applicant could have a multiplier effect since new permanent residents can apply to have relatives admitted as family-class immigrants, provided they comply with testing and quarantine measures upon arrival.

Still, whether the government can meet its target remains an open question.

Expanding the number of new Canadians admitted each year has been a consistent ambition of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, which took the annual intake of permanent residents from 241,000 in 2015, the year the Liberals came to power, to 341,000 in 2019.

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