A hundred Iranian immigrant investors have appealed to the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister to approve their applications which have been held up for up to two years due to the economic sanctions imposed against Iran.
The Iranian applicants have been nominated by provincial immigrant investor programs run by British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec, and are required to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in those provinces. But because of the economic sanctions on Iran imposed under the Special Economic Measures Act, the applicants cannot transfer money from Iran without a special permit from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Canada halted all financial transactions with Iran since 2011, and suspended diplomatic relations between the countries in 2012.
The applicants now say they will take legal action if their applications are not processed within 30 days.
“Some of these applications date back 24 months, without any word or decision being taken on [the part of the minister],” the applicants said in letters sent to the ministry. “It is hard to understand why no decision has been reached regarding these … demands which represent a substantial investment in the Canadian economy.”
Depending on the program’s requirements in different provinces, the applicants are required to invest anywhere between $200,000 to $800,000.
The latest appeal comes following a similar one in January, when 41 of 54 applicants to Quebec successfully obtained their permits after threats of legal action. Lawyers representing Iranian nationals who want to immigrate say the sanctions have been applied in ways that hurt law-abiding Iranian nationals rather than the government of Iran.
The spokesman for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, François Lasalle, has defended the ministry saying, “The issuance of such a permit is not automatic; it is an exceptional action at the discretion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Canada has held a clear position on Iran’s support for terrorism, its nuclear ambitions, and its abysmal record on human rights.”
Speaking recently on the occasion of the Iranian new year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada is open to “those who seek refuge from the Iranian regime.”
The NDP has criticized the recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program that will force many people waiting for permanent residency to leave the country, and has called on the Canadian government to grant them an extension of stay.
The changes require all temporary foreign workers who have been working in Canada for four years to leave starting from April 1.
The NDP has sent a letter to Ministers Pierre Poilievre and Chris Alexander, calling for a reprieve for TFWs who have pending permanent residency applications. The NDP argues that this would also benefit employers who have invested time and money to train these workers.
“These workers had the courage to come to Canada, and they worked hard, followed the rules and contributed to our economy because they were told they could eventually apply for Canadian citizenship. This Conservative government has broken that promise,” says NDP citizenship and immigration critic Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe.
“It seems unjust and cruel treatment to them to say now you’re leaving because the government has chosen an arbitrary date of April 1st,” says NDP employment and social development critic Jinny Sims. “The Conservatives have systematically taken away pathways to citizenship for lower-skilled temporary foreign workers. And now, with this completely arbitrary deadline, they are forcing individuals who have already applied for permanent residency to leave the country,” she added.
Thousands of foreign students were unable to apply for permanent residence under the Canada Experience Class (CEC) last year after the 2014 limit on the program was exceeded. The students had tried to file their applications prior to the introduction of the Express Entry system which makes it more difficult for them to get permanent residency.
Foreign students made up to 40% of eligible candidates under the CEC, a program which was also used by highly skilled temporary foreign workers. The CEC was hugely popular among international students as it almost guaranteed permanent residence to them if they had relevant Canadian work experience.
Figures show that about 8,000 applications filed under CEC last year were not accepted. These applicants will now have to apply under the new Express Entry system, which is not a favorable option for students.
“Students now have to engage in this kind of lottery. When someone is coming here and paying international tuition fees and getting work experience, why should they be judged like someone applying from abroad,” says immigration expert Lev Abramovich.
Until recently, candidates who possessed a positive LMIA (labor market impact assessment) were more likely to receive invitations to apply for permanent residence under the Express Entry system. However, the latest group of Express Entry invitees included many applicants without an LMIA, increasing the chance for foreign students to receive invitations.
But most international students still feel that the new system makes it tougher for them to get jobs in Canada. “Under the old system, you could tell your manager legitimately that you are applying for permanent residency. It created more of a trusting relationship. Under the new system, you are waiting to be invited. … there’s now a risk that is involved,” says a recent foreign graduate.
The federal government insists that Express Entry will benefit foreign students even more once it is fully implemented by 2017, as the students then would not have to get their credentials assessed for Canadian equivalency.
But immigration experts have warned that countries that have implemented work restrictions on international students have seen a huge decline in their numbers, and that the same could happen in Canada as well. For instance, the UK saw an alarming 50% decline in students from India and Pakistan after it imposed restrictions on their right to work there after graduation. With foreign students paying more than double the tuition fees compared to local students, their declining numbers would mean losses in revenues that Canadian universities want to avoid.
In 2014, Canadian universities had about 133,000 undergraduate and graduate foreign students in attendance, with a total of 120,000 study permits granted to international students at colleges and universities. Surveys show that more than half of these students intend to stay on in Canada after graduation.
The percentage of immigrants who obtain Canadian citizenship has fallen sharply from 79% to 26%, according to a study of immigrants who arrived between 2000 and 2008.
The fall is due to new rules and fees that have made it more difficult for people to become Canadian, says former citizenship director general Andrew Griffith.
Griffith’s report, which analyzes the effect of citizenship reforms, is based on official government data and shows that the proportion of Canada’s permanent residents who eventually acquire citizenship has been declining since 2000, with sharp drops recorded in the past few years. Figures for 2008 show that only 26% of permanent residents who settled in Canada that year have become Canadian citizens, compared to 44% in 2007 and 79% in 2000.
Griffith’s study also shows that the number of citizenship applications from visible minorities had been adversely affected since the launch of the new version of Canadian citizenship test. “In the past, citizenship was viewed as a stepping stone to immigrant integration, and it should be done earlier on,” says Griffith. “These changes have made it harder and prohibitive for some to acquire citizenship, turning Canada into a country where an increasing percentage of immigrants are likely to remain non-citizens, without the ability to engage in the Canadian political process.”
According to Griffith, government data shows that it takes immigrants an average of six years to obtain Canadian citizenship. And the numbers of 2008 show only the first wave of effects caused by the citizenship reforms, meaning further declines are to be expected.
“The permanent-resident-to-citizen conversion rate does generally rise the longer immigrants have been in Canada. But an 18% decrease between the 2008 and 2007 cohorts is alarming,” says Griffith.
However, Citizenship and Immigration Canada does not agree with Griffith’s analysis. Johanne Nadeau, spokesperson for CIC, says that Griffith might have misinterpreted the data as “he is not taking into account those (permanent residents) who are not yet eligible to become citizens because they haven’t met all of the requirements needed to begin the citizenship process.”
Nadeau says that Canada has one of the highest naturalization rates globally and “86% of eligible permanent residents for Canadian citizenship decide to acquire it”, mainly because of the benefits of Canadian citizenship over permanent residency, which includes the right to vote, and possession of Canadian passports.
The citizenship reforms introduced since 2010 include a new tougher citizenship test designed to evaluate an applicant’s knowledge of Canada’s culture, history, and values. The passing score for this test has also been increased from 60% to 75%.
Additionally, the increase in citizenship fees has added a further obstacle for those seeking citizenship. Last year the fee was increased from $100 per adult to $300 in February, and again to $530 in December.
Griffith says he understands the rationale behind these government changes but believes that steps should be taken to promote inclusion rather than exclusion. “We need to make sure those who apply for citizenship take it seriously, but we don’t want to inadvertently create excessive barriers and shift the relationship of some of the communities with the country.”
Further controversial changes are set to come into force later this year that will make it harder to obtain citizenship. One such change is the requirement for citizenship applicants to have been present in Canada for four out of the previous six years, rather than the current requirement of three out of the previous four years.
Ottawa’s share of new immigrants continues to decline as newcomers increasingly opt for the economic opportunities of Western Canada or the cultural diversity of Montreal.
A Statistics Canada study released last week reveals that the percentage of immigrants who cited Ottawa as their intended destination has dropped to 2.4 per cent in 2012 from 3.4 per cent in 2000.
This means that despite Canada welcoming more newcomers, the actual number of immigrants settling in Ottawa has gone down. Annual immigration to Canada rose to 280,700 in 2012 from 227,500 in 2000.
“The recession hit Ontario pretty hard and it’s normal that immigrants don’t want to go to someplace where economic conditions are not as good,” said Gilles Grenier, a University of Ottawa economics professor who specializes in labour market and immigration issues.
The Statistics Canada research paper, Changes in the Regional Distribution of New Immigrants to Canada, examines the country’s evolving settlement pattern.
It shows that new immigrants have started to look at destinations such as Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, where economies have been booming. Montreal has also seen its share of newcomers increase to 18.1 per cent in 2012.
Meanwhile, Toronto, which attracted 48.4 per cent of all new immigrants in 2000, saw its share of newcomers fall to 30 per cent in 2012. However, the city remains the country’s biggest magnet for immigrants.
According to Statistics Canada analysts, the new settlement pattern reflects changes in regional economic activity and employment. “In short, labour market conditions were better in Western Canada than they were in the rest of the country,” the report concluded.
That more newcomers were settling outside of Toronto and Vancouver was also a reflection of Canada’s revised immigration system. Provincial nominee programs (PNPs) allow provinces to select and nominate immigrants to meet their own economic goals and growth targets.
Statistics Canada analysts said the distribution of newcomers within Canada has also been affected by shifts in the country’s immigration sources. In the late 1990s, most of Canada’s immigrants came from China and India, and they tended to settle in Toronto and Vancouver. By 2010, however, the Philippines was the biggest source of Canadian immigrants, and they have settled in cities across the country, the report said.
Montreal’s growth as a destination city was driven by increased immigration from Africa, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
By the numbers
48.4: Percentage of new immigrants who wanted to settle in Toronto in 2000
30: Percentage of new immigrants who wanted to settle in Toronto in 2012
5.5: Average unemployment rate in Toronto in 2000
9.2: Average unemployment rate in Toronto in 2010
21.3: Percentage of Canadian immigrants that came from China in 2000
12.8: Percentage of Canadian immigrants that came from China in 2010
14: Percentage of Canadian immigrants that arrived from the Philippines in 2010
Saskatchewan is streamlining rules for entrepreneurs who want to immigrate to the province.
According to Jeremy Harrison, the minister for immigration, jobs, skills and training, changes to the entrepreneur and farm category under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program will speed up applications.
The five streams included in the category are to be collapsed into two, which will have new eligibility requirements. Applications will be made online and the point system will give more weight to certain qualities, including proven entrepreneurial experience and net worth.
The government is also removing the need for a $75,000 good-faith deposit, allowing funds to go towards settlement and startup costs instead.
More immigrants chose to make Nova Scotia their home last year than at any time in the last 10 years, the provincial government said Monday. According to a statement issues by Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab 2,661 immigrants settled in the province in 2014.
Since 2004, when 1,771 immigrants arrived in Nova Scotia, the number rose almost every year and peaked at 2,651 in 2008 before dropping off to 2,138 in 2011 and increasing steadily in the past three years.
Among last year’s immigrants, 717 people came through the Nova Scotia Nominee Program — the highest figure to date for the program. According to the government, a total of 1,050 individuals are expected to gain permanent residency through the program in 2015.
According to Diab an increasing number of immigrants are choosing to stay in the province. The latest figures from Statistics Canada indicate 71 per cent of immigrants who arrived in Nova Scotia between 2007-2011 stayed in the province. Between 2003 and 2007 the retention rate for immigrants who arrived in Nova Scotia between was 69 per cent.
Diab said the province has streamlined the application process for skilled and educated immigrants, strengthened ties between government and settlement service providers and changed the nominee program to allow international students to stay in Nova Scotia.
“Nova Scotia is a welcoming community and we want to ensure our province is seen by immigrants as an excellent choice,” Diab said in a statement.
In 2014, the government accepted a major economic development report that said the province is facing a prolonged economic decline unless population and economic trends are reversed and suspicious attitudes about business are changed. The report was co-authored by Acadia University president Ray Ivany and stated that Nova Scotia’s population was expected to decline over the next 20 years due to young people continuing to leave the province in search of work.
The report says that by 2036, the province expects to have 100,000 fewer working-age people than it did in 2010.
Ivany said the number of people admitted annually to the province should be tripled.
Canada Issues 1637 Permanent Residence Invitations (ITA’s) including many without Job Offer or PNP Nomination
(Second draw with Comprehensive Ranking Score Under 600)
Canadian Immigration authorities invited 1637 applicants for permanent residence with the lowest Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS) of 453. It was the second draw under the new Express Entry System where the lowest CRS score was less than 600 points.
Under the previous five draws conducted under Express Entry in 2015, the lowest CRS score has been steadily declining. The initial draws required applicants to have either an approved job offer or nomination by a province under a Provincial Nomination Program (PNP).
It is expected that the majority of applicants to be issued (ITA’s) under Canada’s Express Entry Immigration system in 2015, will require a CRS score of less than 600 points, enabling applicants admission to Canada without a job offer or nomination under a provincial immigration program.
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According to the parliamentary budget office reported last week, the number of temporary foreign workers (TFW) in Canada tripled between 2002 and 2012, but they still made up less than two per cent of the overall labour force. The report said an increasing number of foreign workers are filling skilled positions today as the percentage of low-skilled jobs has declined.
The PBO study looked at the role foreign workers played in the economy between 2002 and 2012.
Foreign workers can enter the labour market through either the international mobility program or the temporary foreign worker program, which came under fire last year after allegations surfaced about some employers, especially restaurants, abusing the program.
Employers who want to hire temporary foreign workers must get government approval under what is called a local market impact assessment. The assessment means the government generally knows the skill levels of the workers. However, almost 70 per cent of foreign workers are exempt from these assessments under the mobility program.
The report said 85 per cent of the foreign workers in low-skilled positions were in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario and were concentrated in smaller communities.
“Alberta’s share has increased significantly since 2002, while Ontario’s has declined by almost 15 percentage points,” the report said. “Interestingly, the relative importance of foreign workers in the labour force appears to be higher in small centres than in large census metropolitan areas.”
The study said a significant number of foreigners work on farms, in restaurants or as babysitters or nannies, jobs on the low end of the pay scale. Employers don’t seem willing to raise wages in these areas, so they are forced to rely on either unemployed domestic workers with few skills or foreign workers, the report said.
The characteristics of the foreign work force have changed since the 2009 recession. Before then, most of the growth was in low-skilled jobs.
“Since then, the number of workers in low-skilled positions has declined by 20 per cent, while the number in skilled positions has increased 20 per cent. As a result, by 2012, the majority of foreign workers were in skilled positions.”
The Conservative government introduced new rules in June to limit the number of foreign workers that large- and medium-sized companies are permitted to hire in a bid to ensure Canadians are first in line for jobs.
Liberal critic John McCallum said the report confirms that the program has driven down middle class wages and displaced Canadian workers.
“We must restore the program back to its original purpose: to fill acute job shortages when qualified Canadian workers absolutely cannot be found,” McCallum said in a statement.
From 1 April 2015, a change to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program could see some migrant workers refused work permits. The change should be scrapped because it would force an exodus of foreign workers from B.C., says an advocate.
On April 1, 2011, the federal government introduced legislation known as the “four in and four out” rule, limiting how long some temporary foreign workers could work in Canada to four years. The first temporary foreign workers to whom the rule applies could reach their four-year limit on April 1, 2015.
After that, they must wait another four years, either outside Canada or in Canada as a visitor or student, before they can be granted a fresh work permit. Previously, temporary foreign workers who came to Canada under the low-skilled stream could reapply to continue working for their Canadian employer.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has made an exception for TFWs approaching their four-year limit in Alberta, offering a bridging permit if they applied for permanent residency under the Provincial Nominee Program by July 1, 2014. Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney has said Ottawa is willing to extend similar measures to other provinces.
CIC lists several situations in which workers may be exempt from the four year rule including:
- Management and professional workers, including spouses and dependants
- Workers exempt due to international agreements, Canadian interests, self-support, humanitarian reasons
- Workers doing jobs which do not require a work permit
- Permanent resident applicants who have received a positive selection decision or approval in principle
- Provincial nominees applying for an employer-specific work permit
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
The effect of this policy will substantially add to the numbers of undocumented immigrants in Canada. There are currently approximately 150,000-200,000 undocumented illegal immigrants in Canada.