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.