(Find Out How to be Selected)
On January 31st; February 7th; February 21st and February 28th 2015 CIC completed rounds of invitations for permanent residence under Express Entry. Attorney Colin Singer discusses the policy implications.
January 31st Invitations:
CIC invited 779 skilled workers, including professionals in natural and applied sciences and industrial, electrical and construction trades to apply for Canadian permanent residence. Each of the invited candidates in the Express Entry Pool declared they had a valid job offer or provincial nomination. The lowest score was 886 under the Comprehensive Ranking Score.
February 7th Invitations:
CIC invited 779 skilled workers from the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canadian Experience Class and Provincial Nominee Program. The lowest CRS score was 818.
February 21st Invitations:
CIC invited 849 skilled workers from the Canadian Experience Class. The lowest CRS score was 809.
February 28th Invitations:
CIC invited 1187 skilled workers from the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canadian Experience Class and Provincial Nominee Program. The lowest CRS score was 735.
Question: It appears the first rounds of candidates who were selected had high Comprehensive Ranking Scores. Why is this?
Colin Singer: We believe that during the initial stages, CIC wants to set the bar as high as possible. It also wants to showcase the Express Entry Immigration system as bringing into Canada candidates who with a high likelihood of integrating fully and quickly into the Canadian labour market. We know that applicants with a valid job offer or having Provincial Nomination have the highest chances of meeting these objectives. It is no surprise that CIC set the bar as high as it could on the first series of draws. We can see that the minimum scores are falling in each successive draw. We can expect this to continue for many of the remaining 15-20 draws in 2015.
Question: How does Express Entry operate?
Colin Singer: Under Express Entry, qualified applicants across many occupations are invited to submit their profile to an Express Entry Pool and to the Canada Job Bank.
Employers will be encouraged to review candidates with the highest ranking and provide a job offer to the candidate of their choice.
Applicants with an approved job offer or those selected by a province or with “Provincial Nomination” will be considered a “match” and will be invited to formally apply for Canadian permanent residence.
The profiles of the remaining applicants will be ranked for consideration without a “sponsor” or hiring employer. Using a point system according to a number of selection factors such as Age, Education, Language, Experience and other factors, the highest ranked candidates will be considered for their potential “human capital” contribution to Canada.
Immigration authorities will then decide which of the highest ranked applicants will be invited to apply for permanent residence. This will take place across economic class programs, including the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Skilled Trades Program the Canada Experience Class and certain parts of the Provincial Nominee Program.
Question: Under Express Entry, will candidates be dependent on a job offer from a “sponsor” Canadian employer?
Colin Singer: Annual levels for 2015 have been raised to between 260,000 – 285,000 which will represent Canada’s highest immigration levels in 5 years. From this level approximately 175,000 will comprise Economic Class immigrants and their dependants. A qualified job offer from an employer in Canada is a significant benefit that will enable candidates to relocate in 6 months. But it is not a requirement. The numbers of applicants who are expected to succeed in securing an approved job offer under Express Entry will likely be modest.
Question: How is immigration.ca positioned for Canada’s new Express Entry Immigration System?
We are pleased to confirm that our clients were among those issued invitations to apply for permanent residence during the initial draws conducted by CIC in 2015.
We strongly believe that employment recruitment and individualized search consulting assistance is an important consideration for all immigrant applicants to Canada. In 2007, we acquired Global Recruiters of Montreal (www.grnmontreal.com) an independently owned franchise of Chicago based Global Recruiters Network. GRN Montreal provides search consulting expertise that applicants and employers require. For the past 7 years we have provided all our immigration clients with invaluable, search consulting services from our in-house trained recruiters.
We believe our clients have the best chances to succeed in their immigration projects under the new Express Entry Immigration to Canada.
Changes to the Canadian Experience Class scheme have caused the lives of thousands of immigrants to be plunged into uncertainty, with some experts saying the Canadian government is guilty of making misleading statements and false promises, but with little to no chance of them being held to account.
Starting this year, all prospective immigrants have been pooled together under the Express Entry system, with immigration officials selecting candidates on the basis of what many say is an unbalanced points system. A person who would have previously qualified under the Canadian Experience Class, and consequently gained permanent residency in Canada, is now at the mercy of what is seen as a lottery system.
The Canadian Experience Class was introduced in order to give foreigners who had graduated or were working in Canada an opportunity to become permanent residents after gaining skilled work experience in Canada.
Over the years, the government laid out this path through which prospective immigrants were virtually guaranteed permanent residency. The criteria was clearly defined and promoted, and it covered education, work experience and language abilities. Having been enticed by the promise of the scheme, thousands of immigrants uprooted themselves from their homelands to come to Canada. They left their homes, jobs, and families behind, altered the course of their work and academic lives and planned their entire futures around the scheme – only to now be told that the rules of the game have changed, and the desired outcome is now not only not guaranteed, but also very unlikely.
With their permanent residency no longer assured as a consequence of these changes, thousands of immigrants have seen their lives derailed and are unexpectedly facing an uncertain future.
Experts argue that the changes to the CEC system can be seen as retroactive in their repercussions, which in any other sphere would result in a flood of lawsuits. However the immigration system doesn’t seem to be held to such standards, and as some recent court decisions have indicated, there is little hope for the CIC to be held legally accountable for the damage their decisions cause.
One case in point is the Austria vs. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) ruling, where 1,400 immigrants lost their case against Citizenship and Immigration Canada for terminating their permanent residence applications due to resource and staffing issues. The residency applications were filed before 2008 and had not been assessed by March 2012, with legislation passed in June 2012 declaring that CIC was henceforth not obliged to process those applications. Effectively, what Parliament had done was retroactively removed obligations CIC was duty bound to carry out. With such an inefficient, bureaucratic and legally dubious system in place, it is no wonder that so many people are getting increasingly disenchanted with the Canadian immigration system.
After allowing flexibility to Canadian universities in the temporary foreign worker rules, the federal government is now being pressed by the video game industry for some concessions in the required conditions for hiring foreign workers, arguing that the restrictions are hurting their businesses.
Canada’s video game industry employs more than 17,000 people. The industry’s wages are said to be higher than average and 40% or more of their employees hold a university degree, implying that a large number of their work force belong to “highly-skilled” category. “We should not be treated the same as some other industries that bring in low-skilled workers. We are at the cutting edge of what’s being done. People that we bring in are highly skilled, they are some of the best in the world and we fight for them. The more hurdles we have, the more chance we have of losing them to some of the companies in Asia,” says Martin Carrier, studio head at Warner Bros. Games Montréal.
According to the video game firms, the new rules depict the mistrust of the government towards employers and will make it difficult for them to hire highly-skilled foreign workers, who are critical to their business. “There has to be a level of trust … knowing that we invest a lot of money to bring outsiders into the country. We’ve done our due diligence and if we are going to put thousands of dollars behind a person just to move them here, it’s a worthwhile hire and we should not be facing additional hurdles from the administrative side,” says Carrier.
There are approximately 70 Canadian academic programs where game developers learn their skills. However, gaming companies argue that despite their efforts to hire local game developers from Canadian academic institutions, their industry still suffered from an unemployment rate of under 3%, making it necessary for them to hire foreign specialists. “Of the new entry-level people we hire, we know that 97% are Canadians or from Canadian universities. The issue starts at the intermediate or senior realm,” says Jayson Hilchie, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada.
French multinational company Ubisoft started its branch in Toronto after its Montreal branch grew to 3,000 employees. Ubisoft says that for certain projects, they need to hire from abroad, with almost a third of their employees being foreign hires. Ubisoft has also been offering co-op programs, in which they send their new employees overseas to get international experience. “We depend on more senior people to come here and train more junior people … If someone takes too much time to bring on board, we have to decline the work,” says Alex Parizeau, managing director of Ubisoft Toronto.
According to a parliamentary report of last year, the time and resources spent in foreign hiring had increased after the government shut down the fast-track immigration routes and told employers to prove they had made sufficient efforts to hire Canadian workers before starting to look abroad. The new rules require companies that offer median provincial wage or more to submit a plan on how they would transfer these positions to Canadian workers. In addition more stringent conditions have been imposed on companies that transfer workers with specialized skills and knowledge from abroad.
However, Mary Sorrenti, a vice-president at Game Pill believes that the new immigration rules will encourage the gaming industry to provide an opportunity to new graduates “to jump ahead in their careers”.
“Even though the traditional experience may not be that strong, a lot of these students started programming at a very young age. … Near term we have to look at creative solutions,” she said.
Even the gaming companies agree that they prefer to have Canadian employees as they are less expensive to hire and more likely to stay. “Recruiting and relocating of highly skilled workers is extremely expensive and procedures are long and arduous,” says Deirdre Ayre, studio head of Other Ocean. However, it’s the skills shortage that has led the industry to hire from abroad, and complicating the hiring procedures was not going to help. “There is no time for complicated processes or people will simply go elsewhere,” she says.
Alberta’s nominee program has been criticized for its lack of transparency while choosing temporary foreign workers who would be allowed to stay in Canada permanently.
The province had used a confidential list of 34 occupations last year to determine which workers will stay on. According to Clarizze Truscott of the Temporary Foreign Workers Support Coalition, Alberta should have been transparent about its selection of immigrants, and that keeping this information confidential was highly unfair to employers and workers who had been hoping to get selected to stay on. “If there is no transparency, the question is, is the government deciding on the basis of who lobbied most?” asks Truscott, who believes that the government should disclose if they prefer only to keep skilled workers and their reasons behind choosing those particular occupations.
According to the Department of Jobs, Skills Training and Labor, the list “was merely a temporary internal guideline” to help them choose the final 1,200 spots in the provincial nominee program of 2014. The department said that the list had been drafted “to ensure more industries could benefit”, and confirmed that some occupations such as welders, transport truck drivers, machine operators, and construction managers had received more attention last fall.
The list was posted on the department’s website and discovered by some temporary foreign workers who had been seeking information on whether they stand any chance of being selected for permanent residency under the provincial nominee program that accepts 5,500 candidates every year.
Following changes to the temporary foreign worker program, the provincial government agreed to provide one-year extension to a select group of about 1,000 TFWs or more.
The Department of Jobs, Skills Training and Labor has said that for 2015 it will choose the 5,500 nominees on the basis of three categories: labor market information, evidence of high levels of job shortages and industry general averages in recent years. “We remain steadfast in our position that Canadians are hired first,” said a spokesperson of the department.
The internal list of 2014’s provincial nominee program included the following “priority” occupations: farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers, machine operators and laborers in food and beverage processing, industrial meat cutters, pipefitters, transport truck drivers, welders, plasterers and drywallers, steamfitters, sprinkler system installers, technicians and drafting technologists.
In addition, the list also included academic occupations like university professors and lecturers along with several civil, mechanical, petroleum and chemical engineering jobs. Nurse aides, orderlies, licensed practical nurses, and patient service associates made it under the health care category. Other occupations on the list were machine tool operators, construction estimators, sawmill machine operators, material handlers, and electrical power line and cable workers, along with automotive service technicians, light duty cleaners and hotel front desk clerks.
The current heated debate about Canadian values and religious freedom centers on Zunera Ishaq, a former school teacher from Pakistan now living in Ontario.
Ishaq is fully eligible for Canadian citizenship, and wants to wear her niqab with pride as she becomes a citizen of Canada.
Her religious convictions led her to postpone attending her citizenship ceremony last year and challenge the Harper government over its policy of not allowing facial coverings while being sworn-in at the citizenship ceremony.
Now that a Ontario judge has ruled that this policy is unlawful, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has vowed to appeal the ruling, saying that “it is not how we do things here”.
“I believe, and I think most Canadians believe that it is — it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family,” he said.
“This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal, and that is just, I think we find that offensive; that is not acceptable to Canadians and we will proceed with action on that.”
However, critics argue that Harper’s comments run contrary to the government’s much-publicized stance on religious freedom and religious diversity, pointing out that it was this government that started the Office of Religious Freedom, an organization whose sole purpose is to protect the right to the freedom of religion or belief of minorities around the world.
The current furor around the issue stems from the feeling that the government’s official position of backing religious freedom doesn’t extend to the personal decisions of devout Muslim women. As Ishaq clearly pointed out, her decision to wear the niqab is her own, and it is not because of family pressure. Moreover, Ishaq is willing to remove her niqab prior to the citizenship ceremony to allow verification of her identity.
The government would be hard pressed to prove any conflict between Ishaq’s beliefs and the aim of the citizenship ceremony. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states, “Everyone has… freedom of conscience and religion.” Even though these freedoms are subject to “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”, the government would find it next to impossible to prove that its policy of forbidding religious face coverings in citizenship ceremonies is reasonable or justifiable in a free and democratic society.
The lack of a sound legal footing was emphasized by Justice Keith Boswell in his ruling overturning the ban, with Justice Boswell pointing out that the government’s own regulations require the oath be administered with “dignity and solemnity, allowing the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation thereof.”
The Prime Minister’s insistence on sticking to his guns on this issue is seen by many as regressive, with the policy not only being unfair and undemocratic, but also putting the government on shaky legal footing while lowering Canada’s moral standing.
Thousands of petitioners will be protesting on Parliament Hill on March 1, urging the government for an audit of Citizenship and Immigration Canada which has a backlog of about 10,000 spousal immigration applications.
Petitioners say the long delays are putting their lives on hold, as they have to wait while being unemployed and with no access to health care.
Under the spousal sponsorship program, an application for permanent residency has to go through two phases. In the first phase, the average waiting time can be up to 17 months, while the second phase where medical and background checks are done can take another eight months. CIC has also been criticized for increasing the processing times, which used to be better earlier, and not making an effort to clearly communicate the procedures to the candidates. “CIC change their procedures so frequently that backlogs can appear and disappear out no where. It makes it very difficult to advise people,” says an immigration practitioner.
Last month, CIC launched a pilot project, providing work permits to certain applicants so they could work temporarily during the waiting period. Eduardo has applied for this but has not yet heard back from the immigration department.
The Express Entry program offers another option to spouses in waiting, who can use it to apply for permanent residency, especially if they have an existing job offer. The processing time under Express Entry is under six months and may prove to be a more viable option for certain applicants. However, not all petitioners find this a suitable alternative, with one saying that spouses must not change their immigration status as “most inland families have waited for so long, it makes no sense to scrap spousal sponsorship and try to legalize status as skilled workers.”
Montreal is now home to 4 million people. The latest population estimates from Statistics Canada upgraded the region’s population to 4,027,100 as of July 1, 2014. Greater Toronto’s population increased by a million to 6 million between 2013 and 2014.
Foreign immigrants have been the main driver of growth in cities as was seen in the recent past.
According to a release from the stats bureau, “International migration was responsible for just over two-thirds of the population growth of census metropolitan areas (CMAs) in 2013-2014. All CMAs with over 1 million inhabitants reported growth rates from international migration of 1 per cent or higher, accounting for most of their population growth (71 per cent).”
The metro areas that gained the most people continue to be in the Prairies and Western Canada, with Calgary, Edmonton, and Saskatoon seeing the most growth. Over one year, their populations grew by 3.6, 3.3, and 3.2 per cent, respectively. These metropolitan regions also boast the highest economic growth in the country.
The metro area with the largest loss of people was Saint John, N.B, which saw a decrease of 0.5 per cent. Montreal continues to see people moving to other provinces (interprovincial migration) and other areas of Quebec (intra-provincial migration). Between 2013 and 2014, the metro area had a net loss of 10,000 to other provinces, and 7,000 people to other municipalities within the province.
Losses in other large CMAs such as Toronto and Vancouver were the gains of smaller CMAs like Barrie, Ont. and Kelowna B.C. In Quebec, larger CMAs like Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Trois Rivières also had net gains.
However, Montreal gained 42,800 immigrants or 18 per cent of all immigrants to Canada. This is a decrease from past years which also saw a steady decline. Between 2012 and 2013, Montreal received 46,400 and 44,800 immigrants respectively.
Universities have persuaded the federal government to relax new rules on how they hire temporary foreign workers An agreement was struck earlier this week between postsecondary institutions and the federal government which will give schools flexibility with regards to meeting the new rules that were imposed on employers looking to hire high-wage workers in June 2014.
Schools will no longer have to submit a plan on how they will transition jobs filled by highly paid foreign workers to Canadian citizens. Instead, universities and colleges will report to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), their national organization.
Universities are the only sector that will be allowed to be self-governing in meeting some of the requirements of the temporary foreign worker program. In most cases, universities receiving TFW permits to hire foreign academics are actually planning to employ them in permanent jobs, with the TFW program simply being a faster way to bring professors or researchers to Canada.
According to Christine Tausig Ford, vice-president and COO of the AUCC, “Academic specialties can be very specific and the flexibility of being able to hire from around the world is important, as are the global connections that academics make.”
The changes to the temporary foreign worker program introduced in June primarily affected low-wage labour, but the government also added regulations for those jobs that pay the same as or higher than the median provincial wage.
Employers offering those positions must now have a transition plan in place if they hope to receive a positive labour market impact assessment. The agreement between the AUCC and the government means that universities and colleges can choose not to file that transition plan with the federal government but will still be required to submit information about any Canadians who applied for the positions.
According to several experts, Canada’s new permanent residence application system will discourage top-level professionals and other highly skilled workers from coming to this country unless changes are made soon.
The new Express Entry program, which came into effect on January 1, combines together workers wishing to apply for permanent residency in Canada. They submit an application and are awarded points based on various criteria, and those with the top scores are then invited to apply for permanent residency.
The problem with the new system, experts say, is that it fails to take into consideration foreign workers who are already in this country on temporary work permits and visas. And one of the criteria worth the most points in the system makes it difficult, if not impossible, for top executives and other high-skilled workers to fulfill.
Under the program, a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) is worth 600 of 1,200 available points. An employer must apply for an LMIA before hiring a foreign worker, to show that the foreign worker is needed to fill a job opening because a Canadian can’t be found to fill the post.
The other 600 points in the system are awarded based on an applicant’s personal characteristics, including age, language skills, education, work experience and marital status. This means that anyone who has an LMIA starts at 600 points, and collects more based on their personal characteristics. An applicant without an LMIA can only get a maximum of 600 points based on education, language, work and personal information.
Others who are affected by the policy are workers who came to Canada under LMIA-exempt categories, including those with a NAFTA permit, a clergy visa, or others who are considered a significant benefit for Canada. While some work permits are renewable, others are only in effect for a specific period of time.
A recent online petition calls on Citizenship and Immigration Canada to allow workers to extend their post-graduate work permits and award points for the work experience accrued by applicants in that category. It also calls on the department to eliminate the LMIA requirement for those on post-graduate work permits, or at least make it easier for employers to apply for them.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada counters that, in fact, Express Entry does take into account the education and work experience that international students have acquired while in Canada, particularly from open work permits.
The main problem with the new system is that top-tier workers, who have been in this country for a few years, are making good money and paying taxes, are being put into the same pool as someone who just graduated from university or who is still abroad hoping to come to Canada to work at a trade.
Some say that CIC should relax its rules for highly skilled workers, and make it more difficult for workers outside of Canada who do not have Canadian experience. The process by which an employer obtains an LMIA should also be overhauled,
The department, however, says that at the moment, the Express Entry program identifies and invites only the top-ranked candidates from the pool. This means that the Express Entry system ensures that only the candidates who are most likely to succeed, and not simply the quickest in submitting their application, are able to apply to immigrate to Canada.
Due to one-time bridging measures quietly rolled out this week, only a small fraction of temporary foreign workers in Alberta will qualify for an extended stay in Canada, the federal government says.
A lack of clarity is causing heightened anxiety among the thousands of vulnerable workers that want to find a solution before the looming April 1 deadline to leave the country. The new measures are the result of an agreement between the federal government and the province of Alberta. They are meant to help temporary foreign workers who are trying to transition to permanent residency but risk having their work permits expire before their applications are processed.
Under the terms of the agreement, temporary foreign workers who have a work permit set to expire in 2015 but are currently caught up in the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program’s queue applications may be eligible for a one-time, one-year bridging work permit.
The federal government will also provide a one-time exemption to these workers that will keep them from being counted under rules imposed last June requiring employers to ensure no more than 10 per cent of their workforce is made up of low-wage TFWs. However, even though the new measures have been praised by business groups, others are calling for more information about the number of permits that will be offered and what type of workers will receive them.
Neither the provincial government nor the federal government has made any kind of public announcement about the new measures,
More than 86,000 temporary foreign workers are working in Alberta and according to estimates “several thousand” will see their permits expire on April 1. This is when a four-year work duration limit put in place by the federal government in 2011 comes into effect.
Making matters worse is the fact the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program, a popular option for temporary foreign workers looking to transition to permanent residency, has seen a glut of applicants in recent months. Current processing times for applications now range between 1 to 2 years, meaning many workers could find themselves still in the queue by the time their permits expire.
The government estimates approximately 1,000 foreign workers could be eligible for a bridging permit under the terms of the new agreement, but that doesn’t mean 1,000 permits will be awarded.
A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada said the federal government expects “only a small fraction” of the TFWs in Alberta will ultimately receive a bridging permit.
A worrying possibility is that the government may award the bulk of the permits to engineers, doctors, and other highly skilled individuals in the queue, leaving out lower-skilled food service and hotel industry workers.
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said he believes the new measures are meant to placate business owners who have been complaining since June 2014, when the federal government imposed restrictions on the use of the temporary foreign worker program.