Statistics confirm that Canada’s current net labour market growth is predominantly dependent on immigration. It appears almost certain that by 2030 Canada will be entirely reliant on immigration for population growth.
However, the latest policy pronouncements of Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, suggests new obstacles blocking Canada’s future economic successes are in the works. Despite some notable improvements in the system under Mr. Kenney, the most recent initiatives are guaranteed to permanently harm our country’s international reputation. Here is why.
First, he claims to be repairing the current dysfunctional immigration system, including clearing up the most controversial problem, namely the existing backlog of 300,000 applicants under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. The Minister’s stated goal is to implement a new system that, by 2018, would feature a “made in Canada” international database of pre-screened, employment credentialled candidates suitable to apply for admission to Canada. Since 2008, the department’s policy objective has been to shift from admitting applicants to Canada without a sponsoring employer and toward an employer-driven immigration program. The direction was right. But now the government is backpedalling on its promises. The plan, announced in the recent federal budget, is to vaporize the existing backlog of skilled worker applicants by refusing the majority of applications filed prior to February 2008.
Forcing applicants to wait close to 10 years and then implementing retroactive legislation refusing the pending backlog of applicants is the greatest sham in the history of Canadian immigration policy. Close to 300,000 applicants who were all promised that their credentials would be evaluated under previous criteria will now be refused. It will occur even though the Federal Court blocked a similar attempt in 2003, when department officials were found to be misleading the standing committee on citizenship and immigration in its attempt to pass legislation that would retroactively wipe out a much smaller inventory.
This initiative severely contrasts with the image of an immigration department that vigorously pursues efforts to warn the public against dealing with crooked immigration consultants. Canadians should be demanding answers to the following questions: Who is regulating the Harper government? How could the Immigration department claim with credibility that it can build a new skilled worker program with promises to attract the best and brightest to fuel our labour market growth? The government’s history is to blatantly repudiate similar promises.
Another issue is the government’s plan for a new system modelled on the programs of Australia and New Zealand, two countries which are not comparable to Canada. New Zealand has a population equal to British Columbia and Australia has a constitutional framework and demographics that are inapplicable to Canada.
Australia has immigration levels on par with Canada and a similar points-based immigration system. It also imposes a restrictive English-language requirement and a pre-screening of employment credentials. The new skilled-worker program in Canada will likely feature both these elements. But a study by University of Waterloo professor Mikal Skuterud and his Australian co-author, Andrew Clarke, concludes that immigrants to Australia enjoy higher earnings than Canada because there has been a clear shift in source country distribution in Australia toward English-speaking countries.
Australia has a national credential recognition program. But in Canada professional credential recognition is an exclusive provincial jurisdiction. In New Zealand, the government implemented a national job bank of potential foreign workers where employers can cherry pick the best pre-screened candidates. Embracing an international recruitment model used by a marginal low-population player such as New Zealand makes no sense for Canada‹unless Mr. Kenney intends to become the world’s largest international recruiter of human capital.
Since Confederation, immigration in Canada has been a matter of joint responsibility between the federal government and the provinces. Every province and the Yukon Territory has implemented its own immigration programs, in order to promote immigration policies best suited to a province’s particular needs. Mr. Kenney would be well advised to direct department policies toward Canada’s short-term immigration programs and delegate the bulk of its long-term immigration intake and employment credential-related pre-screening programs entirely to the provinces. They, in turn, can implement binding contractual promises and a myriad of financial incentives to ensure settlement. There is ample precedent that such measures succeed in this area.
As Canada enters a period of economic expansion, Canadian employers are now dependent, more than ever, on the influx of foreign workers in many industries to develop a knowledge-based economy and to maintain their international competitive edge. Immigration is essential in most OECD countries, but especially in Canada, in part to offset demographic developments, including low fertility rates, an aging population, a growing elderly dependency ratio, a shrinking labour force and high out-migration rates.
Developing nations that were once primarily sources of skilled labour for Canada are now experiencing a boom in their own right that is beginning to increase their attractiveness for highly educated migrants.
The current federal immigration system needs fixing. But refusing the current backlog of skilled-worker applicants, the largest in Canada’s history, reneging on the most basic previous contractual promises, and adopting policies largely based on a patchwork of measures from other much less relevant models, is ethically dubious, short sighted and will likely create a program that once again replicates the defects prevalent under previous ministers. Only this time, it will cement our reputation as an unreliable, untrustworthy player in the global migration industry, which neither Canadian employers, nor the provinces, can afford.
New measures are coming into effect from 21 February that will impose additional fees and restrictions on Canadian employers looking to employ certain types of foreign workers. The Canadian federal government announced the move after reviewing several scandals the sector has seen in recent months.
The new rules will apply to intra-company transfers, employees entering Canada under NAFTA, employers hiring through the International Mobility Program, and employees hired through reciprocal agreements with other countries, like working holiday schemes.
Under the new rules, Citizenship and Immigration Canada requires employers to pay an “employer compliance” fee of $230, and provide details about their company or organization as well as the original offer of employment, in order to be allowed to hire a foreign worker without a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). An extra $100 fee will apply to employees in possession of work permits.
In a statement, CIC has said, “The fees collected will offset the cost of introducing robust employer compliance activities featuring inspections of thousands of employers.”
Experts warn that the new rules may go against NAFTA conventions, and could also significantly hamper business operations throughout Canada, while critics argue that the system has not been explained properly and lacks transparency.
However the federal government has defended the changes by highlighting some of the abuses of the previous programs carried out by employers over the past few months. In one case, employers brought skilled Irish workers using work-holiday visas in order to get around the LMIA precondition. In another case, the Royal Bank was found to have used the intra-company transfer system to apply for visas for Indian workers to replace their Canadian employees in 2013.
According to the CIC, employers could now face substantial penalties if they are found to bring in foreign workers using false declarations.
The new rules are an attempt to apply the same level of scrutiny to foreign workers exempt from the labor market assessment as temporary foreign workers are subjected to. Statistics show that foreign workers entering Canada without a labor market assessment under the International Mobility Program have outnumbered temporary foreign workers, with almost 140,000 workers coming to Canada through the International Mobility Program as opposed to less than 85,000 temporary foreign workers.
Elaborating on the changes, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said, “Our government is committed to reforming its work permit programs to encourage the hiring and training of Canadians, limit the use of foreign workers in Canada to those situations where it is a benefit to Canada, and ensure that abuses of the program or of foreign workers by employers will be detected and dealt with.”
Despite criticism that the changes have been announced without sufficient stakeholder consultation, union organizers who helped expose abuses of the International Mobility Program have welcomed the changes as an attempt by the government to rectify the problems with the current system.
The Canadian Government launched its new Express Entry Immigration System on January 1, 2015. Immigration Lawyer Colin Singer, Managing Partner of Immigration.ca and Global Recruiters of Montreal (www.grnmontreal.com), shares insight into what potential immigrants and Canadian employers can expect.
How do you anticipate Express Entry will operate?
The Federal Skilled Worker Program, FSWP the largest component of Canada’s Economic Class previously functioned under a first in/first out, point based system that attempted to measure the potential “human capital” contribution of an immigrant to Canada.
Under the new Express Entry system, Canada’s Immigration Minister will promote an Employer Driven selection model by taking on a matching, facilitator approach to recruitment. Canada’s immigration department will become an online electronic interface between foreign national applicants and potential hiring employers in Canada.
Under Express Entry, qualified applicants across many occupations will be 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 applicable economic class programs, including the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Skilled Trades Program the Canada Experience Class and other programs.
The 10 provinces and territories will retain autonomy to continue selecting immigrants under their immigration programs.
How long will this process take?
Applicants who are invited to apply for permanent residence will have 60-days to submit a full application. The government promises a selection decision in 6-months or less in most cases.
Applicants who receive a selection decision will then undergo medical and security formalities which could take another 6 months to conclude after a positive decision. Overall processing time will likely range 6-12 months for the majority of applicants.
Under Express Entry, will applicants be dependent on a job offer from a “sponsor” Canadian employer?
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 170,000 will comprise Economic Class immigrants and their dependants. A qualified job offer from an employer in Canada is a significant benefit but 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.
Will the Federal Skilled Worker Program continue under Express Entry?
The FSWP will continue to comprise the largest number of admissions to Canada.
Will Express Entry succeed?
As immigration lawyers and professionally licensed recruiters on behalf of Canadian employers, we believe that most small and mid-sized employers will be reluctant to take on the task of direct recruitment. Many employers will continue to rely on the services of skilled recruiters.
Employers with pressing hiring needs will unlikely wait a period of 6 months or longer for a candidate to begin employment.
The Canada Job Bank under the new Express Entry system may become a marginal or secondary source of potential candidates for recruiters. At best, this could account for a modest number of applicants selected by employers under the new system.
However for the remaining candidates without a job offer from a Canadian employer, immigration authorities will invite the highest ranked candidates to apply for permanent residence under the Federal Skilled Worker Program and other federal programs.
The Federal Skilled Worker Program will continue to represent the largest number of Economic Class immigrants to Canada with most being selected under the human capital contribution assessment approach.
Express Entry will succeed to the extent that the inventory of potential candidates and the processing of applications for permanent residence by the Canadian government will be easier to manage than previously.
How is immigration.ca positioned for Canada’s new Express Entry Immigration System?
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.
In recent months, several serious abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker program throughout Canada have come to light and now the government has imposed restrictions on the program, especially for restaurants. Many businesses have had to do without temporary foreign workers.
Some businesses that had used the TFWP now have their eye on a new system introduced by the federal government January 1: Express Entry. Express Entry will be used for four existing immigration streams: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canadian Experience Class and the Provincial Nominee Program. Applicants will be able to fill out their information electronically. They’ll then be put into a pool with other applicants, and the government will be able to draw from the pool “at will” to choose which applications to process.
According to stakeholders, the program is “being touted as one of the ways to solve skills shortages and [as] the future of immigration.”
It’s a further refining of Canada’s point system, which gives applicants a higher score for work experience, education and language skills. One of the ways to get more Express Entry points is to have a job offer from a Canadian employer.
The employer must also get a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which shows the need for a foreign worker and that the employer has been unable to find qualified Canadians for the same position. Express Entry is still geared toward skilled professional and trades workers, which in recent years have been a focus of the Canadian government for permanent immigration.