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Green and Spiegel - An Immigration Law Firm
Nov 11, 2020

Joe Biden Wins U.S. Presidency: What Does This Mean for Canadian Immigration?

Alexander Toope


On Saturday, November 7th, Joe Biden secured victory in the U.S. Presidential election, defeating the incumbent Donald Trump and the Republican party. We would like to take a moment to discuss the ramifications of Biden’s victory on Canadian immigration.

What are the Biden administration’s immigration policy objectives?

The Biden campaign has laid out some immigration priorities that are far more progressive than any of the policies we have seen during the last four years under the Trump administration. Biden’s immigration priorities include the following:[1]

  • Modernize America’s immigration system;
  • Welcome immigrants and reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees;
  • End the mismanagement of the asylum system;
  • Protect ‘Dreamers’ and their families;
  • End prolonged detention and reinvest in a case management program;
  • Rescind the so called “Muslim ban”;
  • Tackle the root causes of irregular migration;
  • Reverse the Trump administration’s practice of separating parents from their children at the border.

These policy objectives deliver a clear message—The future Biden administration is committed to reforming America’s immigration system in a more progressive direction, a stark departure from the last four years.

While these policy objectives are admirable, it should not be understated how difficult it will be to accomplish these objectives. For most if not all of these immigration policies, unless Biden makes extensive use of executive orders, he would need to secure the support of Congress. It is looking increasingly likely that the Senate will remain under Republican control. This means that true immigration reform would only be achievable by gaining support from the very party that has been unwilling to support progressive immigration legislation during the Trump Presidency, a tall order indeed.

Will Trump’s electoral defeat actually bring an end to restrictive immigration policies in the U.S.?

Biden’s electoral victory unfortunately does not mean that the large portion of the U.S. population that voted for Trump, as well as other elected leaders, will embrace progressive immigration policies. Consider that on the eve of the election, President Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller unveiled a slew of immigration policies that would be prioritized by the Republican party going forward.[2] Among the priorities outlined by Miller included the following:

  • Limiting asylum grants;
  • Eliminating the visa lottery;
  • Punishing and outlawing "sanctuary cities";
  • Implementing new limits on work visas;
  • Expanding the so-called travel ban with tougher screening for visa applicants;
  • Establishing agreements with El Salvador, Honduras, and other countries to restrict the routes of refugee claimants seeking to enter the U.S.

The fact that these restrictive immigration targets are considered viable policy objectives by a party that just narrowly lost the Presidency, and is likely to win the Senate, cannot be reassuring for the Biden camp. Anti-immigration sentiments were a central component of Trump’s win in 2016, and if it were not for the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump may have very well channelled the same views to win the Presidency in 2020.

With the Democratic and Republican parties, and their respective voters seemingly miles apart on the issue of immigration, it will be incredibly difficult for Biden and his future administration to achieve immigration reform in the U.S.

How will Canadian immigration be affected by Biden’s victory?

While Biden’s victory in the U.S. election and his immigration policies will likely increase the perception that the U.S. is a welcoming place for immigrants, the fact remains that the U.S. is utterly divided on how to tackle the issue of immigration. Immigrants seeking to apply to the U.S. over the next four years may be optimistic of their chances under a Biden administration, but what if the U.S. reverses course in another four years, or the Senate blocks all immigration bills?

The uncertainty around U.S. election season is a time when many Americans look towards Canada as a possible destination to re-locate themselves and their families. Canada has a vibrant and strategic immigration system that values individuals coming to Canada from around the world and from all walks of life.

If you are an American who thinks that you may have a claim to Canadian citizenship having been born to a Canadian citizen parent, now is as good a time as any to claim citizenship.

If you do not have a claim to Canadian citizenship, you might consider applying for permanent residence. Canada has a wide range of permanent residence categories, including family class, economic categories under the Express Entry system, the Provincial Nominee programs, and Investor/ Entrepreneur streams.

Despite the complications related to Covid-19, Canada is steadfast in its commitment to accept permanent residents to Canada. The Canadian government recently unveiled an “Immigration Levels Plan”, which sets out impressive targets to increase the number of permanent residents accepted to Canada. Under the plan, 401,000 permanent residents are scheduled to be accepted in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023. This is an increase from 2019, where Canada accepted 341,180 permanent residents.

If you are not interested in permanent residence at this time, you could apply for a work permit, or if you wish to study as an international student, secure a study permit and study at one of Canada’s excellent universities.

Canada’s emphasis on attracting immigrants and developing clear immigration targets over the next three years, should provide confidence that Canada remains committed to accepting immigrants with open arms.

If you wish to discuss your options for immigrating to Canada, please contact our office

[1] The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants, Online: <>

[2] Trump Adviser Stephen Miller Reveals Aggressive Second-Term Immigration Agenda, October 30, 2020, Online: <>.

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