This month the government began its travelling consultations with local resettlement workers and businesses in an attempt to fix the immigrant investor and skilled worker programs.
The consultations, hosted by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration’s parliamentary secretary Chungsen Leung, recently stopped to visit the Windsor area to hear locals’ concerns over labour and immigration policy.
Leung said that Windsor’s unique agriculture- and manufacturing-based economies, as well as its proximity to the U.S. border, makes it a point of particular interest to Canada’s policy-makers.
During the Windsor meetings, local business advocates encouraged the government to bring more investor and entrepreneur class immigrants to the region, arguing that the supporting infrastructure is already in place to help them succeed.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said the Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Gordon Moore, regarding investor immigrants. “The chamber would work with them on a business plan to make them successful.”
Kathleen Thomas, who works with the Multicultural Council of Windsor-Essex and was also at the meeting, said that they offered several ideas in terms of foreign credential recognition, which she hopes the government will take into consideration as they plan ahead.
The government plans to continue their meetings on the issue.
Sources: Windsor Star
This summer the department of Citizenship and Immigration quietly shut down 19 of their regional offices across the country, leaving many small communities with little resources left to help newcomers.
One of Canada’s longest-standing welcoming traditions – the new citizenship ceremony – will likely be affected by the closures, as immigrants will now have to travel farther to attend one.
“It’s a concern if they’ve closed those offices, if you have to go to Vancouver, if you’re a new immigrant you don’t necessarily have a lot of money,” says British Columbia MLA Claire Trevena. “It’s going to make it more difficult or people. It doesn’t really encourage openness. I think it’s a sad day. It really is.”
The sadness was reflected in a recent citizenship ceremony held in Campbell River, the last one to be held before the office closed for good. Staff members shed tears as they anticipated their own uncertain futures now that their jobs have been cut.
It is not only ceremonies and staff that will be affected. Hundreds of files will need to be transferred to other regional offices, which could delay the already arduous process of obtaining citizenship.
Many of those applicants whose files are being transferred have not received any communication from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and are becoming increasingly concerned about possible delays. Furthermore, many of them do not know where they may have to travel to attend interviews if requested.
For years the department has been reportedly overworked and understaffed, so many are questioning the move to close so many offices. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says they are considering increasing application fees so that more resources may be allocated.
Starting in January of 2013, the point system for Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker Immigration Program will use a new schema to award points to applicants.
The retooling, announced by the federal government this week, is the first major change to the points system in a decade. Applicants will still need to obtain a minimum 67 points in order to qualify, but the points will be weighted differently to place more emphasis on language and credentials.
The changes would also favour youth, narrowing the age range applicable for the maximum number of points. Now only applicants 18-35 would receive the maximum 12 points. Applicants over the age of 46 would get zero points.
Furthermore, the most points are now allocated to language (maximum 28) and less points awarded for work experience abroad, as Canadian employers rarely consider it to be the equivalent of having experience within the country.
“These changes will reflect the relative value Canadian employers place on foreign work experience, and redirect points to language and age factors, which are better indicators of success,” argues the government.
Applicants whose occupations are regulated, such as doctors and accountants, would have to include foreign credential assessments with their applications.
Sources: Toronto Star
In a continued effort to fight human smuggling and trafficking, the Canadian government is now taking aim at the student visa program.
Despite a lack of data showing any correlation between student visas and human smuggling, the government has quietly announced its intention to tighten the program rules to ensure that international students entering the country are actually attending school rather than working.
“This is a loophole being allegedly used by some criminal operations to bring potentially vulnerable young women to Canada to face exploitation,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.”We don’t have much in the way of hard data on this. It’s a concern that’s been raised and I think it’s a legitimate one, and we think this underscores the need for us to better police the program.”
The proposed crackdown would require provinces to send the federal government a list of certain post-secondary institutions that “should benefit from the student visa program” Kenney said. He also indicated that there would be more monitoring to ensure that students are actually attending the institutions bringing them into the country.
The list of credible schools will be compiled through consultations among the various levels of government as well as “stakeholder institutions.”
Students will no longer be able to enter Canada to attend programs with duration of less than six months. Their work permits will also be tightened to ensure that the jobs are school-related.
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist
Immigrants are among the best when it comes to delving into new business ventures, and a Toronto business development organization is helping them do just that.
“When your family made sacrifices to be here, you’re going to be extremely motivated to be successful,” says 29 year-old self-made millionaire Haroon Mirza, who immigrated to Canada as a teenager. “When I was young, I didn’t know what I wanted or how I would achieve it, but I knew that I would pursue whatever vision with an extreme intensity.”
Sacrifice, hard work and adaptability are common traits in both immigrants and entrepreneurs, and TiE’s local Toronto chapter is working to bridge both worlds through a new mentoring program.
TiE was founded in Silicon Valley in the early 1990s, as many South Asian immigrants poured into the area ready to build their own companies. The organization, whose acronym stands for Talent, Ideas, Enterprise, now has over 50 different chapters internationally.
“We are fully devoted to entrepreneurs and helping people start a business,” says Toronto chapter of TiE president Suresh Madan. “We believe immigrants have the advantage … the impetus that causes someone to immigrate provides a certain risk-taking ability that is required in starting a new venture.”
TiE was responsible for mentoring Mirza and his two colleagues, allowing them the opportunity to build their venture and succeed.
“The mentor really helped and forced us to articulate our thoughts better,” says Mirza, who sold his business to CognoVision in 2012 for an undisclosed amount.
Source: Toronto Star
A new report is encouraging Canadian policymakers to double the number of international students over the next ten years to address looming labour shortages.
The report, commissioned by the Conservative government, recommends raising the number of international students in the country to 450,000 over the next decade if Canada wants to remain competitive in the global arena. Currently, there are approximately 240,000 international students entering Canada each year.
“Our larger institutions may not have as much capacity to take on [additional] international students … because they already have been recruiting aggressively” says Dr. AmitChakma, president of Western University and head of the task force that produced the report. “[B]ut there is a lot of potential room in our northern institutions and Western provinces.”
International students brought over $8 billion into Canada in 2010. They are also prime candidates for immigration, with Canadian education credentials boosting their employment prospects. Those who choose not to stay in Canada still have a tie to the country, and may act on those ties, either economically or politically, at some point in the future.
Despite these advantages, some experts are warning against the dangers of depending too much on international students.
“It’s dangerous to rely on international students to bring in income for Canadian universities, especially since India and China are expanding rapidly,” said the University of Calgary’s Dru Marshall. “We might not always have access to those students.”
Furthermore, the cost of marketing and accommodating international students can easily offset the income they bring with them into the country.
However, most still agree that there is an advantage to exposing Canadian students to cultures abroad, either by bringing those cultures here to them, or increasing funding for exchange programs that allow them to travel and study abroad themselves.
Source: Globe and Mail
Several rejected Chinese applicants for P.E.I.’s immigrant nominee program are coming forward to express their dissatisfaction with the government’s delay in refunding their investments.
The applicants were rejected over two years ago when the province of Prince Edward Island halted its nominee program because it was not in line with federal regulations on Provincial Nominee Programs. Over 2,000 files had built up into a backlog at that time.
“P.E.I’s mismanagement of the provincial nominee program affected the integrity of Canada’s immigration system,” said CIC spokesperson Alexis Pavlich. “But hopefully it hasn’t caused irreparable damage to Canada’s reputation overseas for prospective immigrants.”
Under the old PNP, immigrants applying to P.E.I. often paid upwards of $150,000 dollars to provincially-approved intermediary firms who advised them on where to invest the funds. Despite being rejected at the federal end, many of these applicants have not had their funds returned yet and are expressing increasing frustration.
A spokesperson for the P.E.I. immigration department says that they do plan on issuing the refunds, but must first ensure that they have ample funds in place to do so. They will not be able to determine this until the remainder of the backlogged applications are processed.
In the meantime, Chinese citizens will have no choice but to wait, which has many people questioning Canada’s handling of newcomers.
“I think the way that Canada does things is cumbersome, demanding whatever they like,” said QiuChuanbo, who says he is still owed approximately $90,000 in fees. “They seem not to care about … Chinese immigrants.”
Source: Globe and Mail
The province of Saskatchewan is hoping that the federal government is open to negotiation when it comes to the new rules for the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).
The PNPs allow provinces to select and nominate certain workers whose skills are in high demand in the region for fast-tracking of their federal immigration application. After winning a majority government this spring, the Conservatives set out new regulations to the Saskatchewan Program to ensure more success for immigrants arriving as provincial nominees.
However, several of the changes have sparked concern among immigrant communities and their advocates, including the limitation on how many family members can be sponsored by the nominee, as well as the stipulation that applicants provide proof of a high-skilled job offer.
Saskatchewan, one of Canada’s fastest growing provinces today in terms of both population and economy, is hoping that the federal government is open to other ideas. The province’s Immigration Minister Bill Boyd has been conducting meetings with stakeholder groups all summer long, and assures them that he will fight for the cause.
Already, though, some immigrants are giving up, heading off to different provinces in hopes of more lenient regulations.
“Anytime that we see people that are looking to leave Saskatchewan, yes, it’s a concern,” said Boyd, noting that in the end the decision is in the hands of the federal government, as immigration is still under their jurisdiction.
Source: Regina Leader-Post
Three Canadian cities rank amongst the top five in the world in terms of livability, according to the latest report from the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary each placed third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the rankings, which was based upon such factors as infrastructure, education, healthcare, culture and stability.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says that his city’s unexpectedly high ranking proves that the “boom” of the mid-2000s is not waning anytime soon.
“[Calgary has a] thriving business community, and a vibrant cultural scene that is attracting people from around the world,” said Mayor Nenshi upon hearing about the rankings.
Montreal also made the list, ranked 16th overall. Melbourne and Vienna topped the list.
Though many reports of this kind are released each year, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s findings are held in special regard by the business community, which could likely benefit Canada economically, say experts. Investors and entrepreneurs are more likely to want to come to Canada if they learn about the strong healthcare and education systems in place.
“It’s certainly circulated to an audience of potential investors and investors that may be interested in relocating to our city,” said City of Toronto strategy director Randy McLean. “Certainly it’s encouraging.”
Source: National Post
A new report from the OECD is suggesting that immigration could harm rather than help a nation’s productivity levels, with Canada emerging as a prime example of this disconcerting situation.
The report, compiled and released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, found that despite common ideals held in many developed nations like Canada, immigration does not have an effect on economic productivity.
Benjamin Tal, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s deputy chief economist, says that such news is not surprising, considering the vast challenges and underemployment facing Canada’s immigrants today.
“I estimate that the current employment and wage gaps between new immigrants and native-born Canadians, cost the economy slightly more than $20-billion in forgone earnings,” writes Tal in a recent piece for the Financial Post. “And more than 20% of working-age male immigrants leave the country within a year of arrival.”
This is not good news for a country facing massive labour shortages as population growth stagnates and waves of baby-boomers are set to retire.
Tal argues that the recent changes to Canadian immigration policy, which have shifted focus from long-term skilled workers to temporary low-skilled workers, will do little to address the country’s coming needs as well as the disparities between immigrant successes versus their Canadian-born counterparts.
He suggests that the government instead focus their efforts on developing more flexible tools to recognize and address future labour market needs, as well as streamlined foreign credential recognition and higher language requirements.
Source: Financial Post