Canada will admit more than 250,000 immigrants for Canadian permanent residence in 2012, including approximately 150,000 economic class immigrants of which, 100,000 will qualify under the federal skilled worker program. The federal skilled worker program comprises the largest single stream of immigration to Canada with the Family Class being a close second. The federal skilled worker program uses a points based metric, where criteria such as education, work experience, age, language ability, and adaptability are used to evaluate the likelihood that an applicant will successfully settle in Canada. An applicant must score 67 points under the current points system in order to meet the threshold for admission.
However, a number of applicants, although eager to live and work in Canada on a permanent basis, cannot meet the current points’ threshold. For applicants who meet the federal skilled worker criteria, the growing inventory of applications for permanent residence (currently estimated at more than 300,000) result in lengthy processing delays that often exceed the expectations and objectives of applicants. Delays to visa issuance at Canadian visa offices abroad in the leading source countries for immigrants to Canada including China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines routinely surpass five years in processing time.
Canadian immigration policy provides for a number of programs that potential applicants may consider as a viable alternative to the federal skilled worker program.
What follows is a comprehensive review of Canada’s alternative immigration programs.
Immigrating to Canada under the Entrepreneur Class
This program provides permanent residence to those applicants who demonstrate an ability to become economically established in Canada on the basis of their business experience and significant personal net worth.
The centerpiece of the program is that the entrepreneur invests and becomes involved in the active management of a qualifying business operated in Canada that will contribute to the economy and create employment.
The basic criteria are:
- The applicant must have managed a qualifying business and have controlled an adequate percentage of equity of that business for at least two years in the period of five years preceding the application;
- Have a personal net worth of $300,000;
- And finally, undertake to control at least 33% of the equity of a qualifying Canadian business. Furthermore, the applicant must provide active and ongoing management of the qualifying Canadian business that will create at least one incremental full-time job for a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
Immigrating to Canada under the Federal Investment Class
Under this program, an applicant’s investment is remitted to provinces, which will be used to help finance small businesses or provincial infrastructure. As an investor, the applicant makes a prescribed investment of CDN $800,000. This investment is placed with the Receiver General of Canada.
Approximately five years after becoming a permanent resident, the Canadian government returns the investment, without interest, to the applicant.
To be considered an investor, the applicant must:
- have business experience;
- have legally obtained net worth of at least CDN $1.6M;
- and Indicate in writing to an officer that they intend to make or have made an investment.
There are certain criteria to be considered when evaluating business experience under the investment class. Precisely, the applicant must show that they have managed a qualifying business for at least two years in the five years preceding the application, and that the applicant has managed at least five full-time employees during this same time period.
This program differs slightly from the Entrepreneur Program, in that the Investor is not intended to become actively involved in the management of a qualifying Canadian Business.
Provincial Nominee Programs
All of the provinces have their own provincial immigration programs (known as Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP)), in order to promote immigration policies suited to a province’s particular needs. As a result, the provinces are receiving an increasing role in the selection of economic immigrants intending to settle in a province. In 2012, approximately 90,000 economic immigrants will be nominated or selected by the provinces, with the Province of Quebec accounting for approximately 45,000 selections. Quebec is the only province with the right to select its own immigrants. All of the other provinces have the right to nominate immigrants. In 2012 and for the foreseeable future, the numbers of immigrants to be granted permanent residence under a PNP or selected by the Province of Quebec is expected to increase.
However, as is the case with all immigration programs in Canada, the issue of resource allocation and processing delays continues to play an important consideration in the decisions faced by the majority of policy specialists and program managers. Quite simply, Canada as a destination attracts considerable interest which far surpasses the processing capacity of most immigration programs.
Applying for admission to Canada as a permanent resident will follow a different and generally, yet far more expedited process (9-15 months in most cases) if the application is approved under a PNP compared to the federal skilled worker program. In some instances persons who are otherwise not qualified for admission under one of the Federal programs, may qualify for admission to Canada under a PNP and may even qualify for a temporary work permit in the interim, allowing for early entry to Canada for the applicant and their accompanying dependants.
Here is how the provincial programs typically work. Qualified employers nominate a prospective worker under an expedited process which, once approved by the province, enables an application for permanent residence to proceed under a processing stream that completely bypasses the lengthy federal immigration selection process. At the initial stages, qualified employer-sponsored applicants could receive temporary, renewable, work permits, processed at missions outside Canada, or in certain cases, at ports of entry, while their applications for permanent admission are processed by the provincial authorities and thereafter by the federal authorities for medical and security screening. In many instances, applicants can conclude these formalities without ever having to actually return to their former place of habitual residence.
The skilled worker based PNP’s with the exception of Quebec and Manitoba, generally require an employer to sponsor the application for admission to Canada. Without a government approved employer sponsorship, the application will either not be approved, or will be routinely passed over in favour of applications with an employer sponsored approval.
To qualify as a sponsoring employer, employers under most of the PNP’s must demonstrate sufficient efforts to hire local Canadians and offer competitive terms and conditions of employment that are relevant to a particular occupation. Between provinces, variations exist in the terms and conditions of employment to qualify to sponsor a foreign worker for an occupation.
To qualify as a sponsored employee under PNP, the position being filled must generally conform to a National Occupation Classification skill level of O, A, B; or alternatively, must meet the terms of a particular pilot project designed for a specific critical skill shortage identified by the province. Pilot programs within the provinces are designed for low skilled workers and are limited in scope. Most of the provinces have variations of pilot projects for low skilled occupations.
In many instances persons who are qualified for admission to Canada under a PNP and may also qualify for admission under a temporary work permit in the interim, allowing for early entry to Canada for the applicant and their accompanying dependants.
Under all of the PNP’s, it is important to first assess the advantages of either commencing the process with a work permit, or proceeding straight away under PNP. Work permits issued under the low skilled occupations are limited to 24 months duration and cannot be extended under current rules. Work permits issued for skilled workers can be extended. Discussions are ongoing between the provinces and the Federal government to allow for extensions of work permits issued under the low skilled occupations.
Clearly, this is an area where ongoing involvement, experience and familiarity with each of the programs, the specific industries and the relevant issues, is a major advantage to a prospective applicant. Accordingly, interested applicants may wish to contact Attorney Colin Singer at [email protected] for further information.
Additionally, please refer to the following (http://www.immigration.ca/permres-pnp-overview.asp) an overview of policies and procedures governing the acquisition of Canadian permanent residence under the more popular provincial nominee programs (PNP’s) in Canada.
Immigrating to Quebec
The Quebec government admits immigrants under a unique two-step points based system (pre-selection and selection) which favours applicants who have a strong knowledge of the French language, a sought after profession and who will adapt well to Quebec society. A successful applicant is issued a Quebec Selection Certificate. Once issued, the Federal government assumes sole responsibility for medical and security screening. In practical terms however, Quebec can only be considered a suitable destination for French speaking applicants from countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, West African French speaking countries, Haiti, Belgium and France with applicants from less than advanced French speaking abilities being unlikely unable to qualify under the Quebec program.
Temporary foreign worker program
Applications for permanent residence under Canada’s economic class including the skilled worker program entail lengthy processing delays that often exceed the expectations and objectives of applicants. Delays to visa issuance at Canadian visa offices abroad in the leading source countries for immigrants to Canada including China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines routinely surpass five years in processing time.
But with the demand for labour far exceeding the available supply in certain trades’ and other occupations in many regions of Canada, some immigrants to Canada may be readily employable even before the issuance of their permanent residence visas.
Alternative solutions promoting early entry may be available by way of temporary admissions to Canada though the Temporary Foreign Worker program (TFW).
As a general rule, the hiring of a temporary foreign worker requires the issuance of a positive Labour Market Opinion from Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) which confirms that the job offer is genuine and that the hiring of a foreigner is likely to have a neutral or positive effect on the labour market in Canada.
For many employers who have hired a foreign worker, they are no doubt familiar with the labour market opinion process which can often be characterized as time consuming and bureaucratic as government authorities go to varying lengths to require employers to demonstrate substantive efforts to prove that no qualified Canadians are available, along with other formalities.
As outlined above, nomination under one of the Provincial Nominee Programs may also qualify for admission under a temporary work permit in the interim, allowing for early entry to Canada for the applicant and their accompanying dependants. Familiarity with this area of the law is a strong asset and even hiring managers often rely on the insight of competent immigration practitioners as the rules and procedures are frequently changing.
Certain sectors of the labour market, such as the Alberta oil sands and the construction sector in British Columbia are heavily reliant on this program as employers here have found it very difficult to fill labour market gaps while trying to remain competitive in Canada’s vibrant economy.
Typically the process to hire a temporary foreign worker is as follows:
- The foreign worker must receive a job offer and enter into an approved employment contract with a “qualified” employer in Canada.
- The foreign worker must prove that they meet the requirements for the position (education, licensing (where required) and requisite experience).
- The foreign worker must obtain a labour market opinion confirmation from Human Resources Development Canada (HRSDC). Processing delays vary greatly from a few days to six+ months depending on the type of occupation and location of the employer.
- The foreign worker must obtain a work visa. Processing delays vary greatly depending on the nationality of the applicant.
The accompanying dependent spouse of a successful applicant may also qualify for a work visa. Accompanying dependent children can attend public schools.
Low skilled pilot project worker program:
This temporary admission program follows a similar process to that of the Temporary Foreign Worker program but is considerably different in scope. The Low Skilled Pilot Project Worker Program was initially implemented to help alleviate a labour shortage in the Greater Toronto Area construction industry. It has since been expanded to other industries across Canada including the meat processing and hotel sectors in Alberta and other sectors elsewhere. Typically, the program caters to companies that require workers to fill positions that require minimal education and training and where the local labour market has been “certified” that there is an ongoing shortage of workers in a designated occupation. Work visas are issued on the basis of a contract of employment between a qualified employer and employee for a maximum period of 24 months and cannot be re-issued until the foreign worker has returned home for a period of at least four months.
The program has limited application because successful candidates will generally unlikely qualify for permanent admission to Canada due in large part to their lack of higher education. To qualify for work visa a successful candidate must demonstrate a likelihood that they will return to their home country before the expiry of their visa. The overwhelming majority of applicants to Canada are from “visa required” countries and cannot meet the arbitrary criteria used by visa officers to “gauge” this likelihood. Consequently, employers and prospective workers applying under this program who spend significant time and effort to apply are often left disillusioned by the process which often fails to bring the foreign worker to Canada.
Typically the process to hire a temporary foreign worker under the low skilled pilot project is as follows:
- The foreign worker must receive a job offer and enter into an approved employment contract with a “qualified” employer in Canada. Under the contract of employment the employer must provide for the return air fare of the foreign worker and in some instances, must also provide housing to the foreign worker.
- The foreign worker must obtain a labour market opinion confirmation from Human Resources Development Canada (HRSDC). Processing delays vary greatly and routinely surpass six+ months depending on the type of occupation and location of the employer.
- The foreign worker must obtain a work visa. Processing delays are generally very lengthy owing to the requirement to undergo a medical examination and follow other formalities.
The dependents of a successful applicant will not qualify for temporary admission to Canada.
Once admitted to Canada applicants can consider applying for permanent residence under an applicable Provincial Nominee Program. It is widely accepted however that low skilled workers are not considered as high priority for permanent admission by provincial immigration policy makers.
Interested readers with questions on the foregoing may contact Attorney Colin R. Singer by email at [email protected]