Canada plans to roll out a new “express entry” program starting from January 2015 in an effort to improve the process of selecting economic immigrants who want to come to Canada.
The Canadian government has promised several benefits under the new program, however, there is little information on how this new program will actually work.
The express-entry program aims to encourage foreign nationals to apply for permanent residence in Canada, under a new scheme that will match their skills with those required by Canadian employers. The interested foreign nationals can make an online application, through which they can promote their qualifications to prospective employers. This process will help recruiters gain access to information from the foreign nationals’ resumes and skills. The recruiter can then select an appropriate candidate and support that candidate’s application for permanent residence in Canada.
Once an applicant is selected, his/her ranking will rise, thus increasing his/her chances of receiving an “invitation to apply” for permanent residence. Upon receiving such an invitation, the applicant has 60 days to apply for permanent residence.
There is a key difference between the express-entry program and the current program. The latter follows more of a first-in-line approach, whereas under the new scheme, foreign nationals will be invited to apply for permanent residency only when they have proved that they have a ranking high enough to have a smooth economic integration into Canada. The process of self-promotion is vital under the new program to enable the applicant to achieve a high ranking. However this program makes many assumptions including that employers would be willing to use this new system as a recruiting tool.
According to the Canadian government, under the new program, applications for Canadian permanent residence will be processed within six months thus allowing for a faster entry of skilled foreign nationals into Canada. But there is a lack of information on how much time the application stage might take.
The program therefore could therefore significantly limit the number of temporary foreign workers entering Canada by increasing the number of permanent residents to Canada through a process that is geared towards targeted recruitment. It therefore can address critical labour shortages by putting the recruiters directly in touch with potential workers abroad.
However, the program presumes two factors – first that employers will embrace this process and invest money and six months’ time to employ someone they don’t know, and secondly that foreign nationals who want to work in Canada also want to become permanent residents of Canada.
While there may be certain employers with long-term needs that justifies waiting for six months to fill a vacancy, however the processing time of six months may not be practical as the job market could change significantly during this period. For instance, the selected foreign national may receive another job offer, or the employer could come up with a new project requiring different skillsets.
Moreover supporting an applicant’s permanent residence to Canada might be something most recruiters would not be comfortable with. Most global companies have to hire fast and do not have six months’ time in hand, and so they might not use this program when they could hire temporary foreign workers with lesser effort.
The benefits of the new express-entry program therefore seem to be limited and could prove meaningless to big employers with changing work requirements.
In addition the new program presumes that all foreign nationals want permanent residency in Canada, which may not be true for everybody. Today, many employees want flexibility in terms of ability to travel and work in new places and would prefer to use a temporary work permit to avoid the expense of permanent residency.
Most recruiters have been using the Internet and recruitment agencies to fill vacancies and have depended on the flexibility offered by the temporary foreign worker program to hire workers in a short span of time. It is therefore difficult to say how successful the express-entry program might be even though it aims to make the process easier for immigration of skilled labour into Canada.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
The complexities of Canada’s recruitment industry are far removed from policy makers in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (CIC). It is evident that civil servants in this department under estimate the dynamics of Canada’s recruitment industry. Yet bureaucrats are being given overly wide latitude to copy existing programs in New Zealand which has a labour market the size of Alberta on a landmass of less than half. It is time that Canada recruits the necessary expertise to devise its own unique programs that are designed for our own needs. Until then our skilled worker policies and programs will continue to under-perform.