In today’s global economy, immigration is vitally important to every nation looking to improve its competitive standing. The challenge is to ensure that the right programs are in place to attract the brightest and the best.
British Columbia expects more than a million new job openings between now and 2022, including 985,000 from economic activity already confirmed or planned in addition to another 100,000 jobs from the expected LNG activity. Over one third of those workers will be migrants, and 78 per cent of jobs will require a college degree or higher.
While this anticipated job growth presents a huge opportunity for Canada to attract and retain high skilled labour, it will likely be wasted thanks to the overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in 2014 and the significant restrictions of the new Express Entry system. These changes are already creating havoc and uncertainty for thousands of highly skilled workers and executives employed by some of Canada’s top employers seeking permanent residency.
While the federal government is promoting Canada to the world, aggressively negotiating free trade agreements, which include contemporary rules to facilitate greater mobility of workers, at the same time its invoking immigration reforms that make it ever more difficult for highly skilled workers admitted under these programs to remain in Canada.
The Express Entry system is intended to provide expedited permanent residency to highly skilled workers, but there are significant concerns emerging as program details become clearer.
One key concern is that before an employer can provide an applicant with a qualifying job offer, a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) must be secured, which requires the employer to post the position (for which they have already hired a foreign national under one of Canada’s free trade agreements) on the government’s job board and prove no Canadians are available to perform the work.
In many cases, these individuals have held the positions for several years, and so there are no negative consequences to the domestic labour market. The same goes for foreign graduate students looking to make a permanent life in Canada, the very people that create employment opportunities for Canadians.
These new requirements may lead to some multinational companies re-evaluating the viability of Canadian operations. This could lead to potential job losses as key positions are moved outside of Canada.
Thousands of international students that graduate from Canadian universities, hoping to make Canada their home will also be affected. In the absence of a provincial nomination or qualifying job offer there is no bridge to permanent residency for these individuals.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program needs to be immediately revised to provide a separate stream that is not wrapped in red tape to evaluate and process employer applications for high skill foreign workers.
High skilled workers with valid work permits who have been working in Canada for over a year, should be deemed to have a qualifying job offer for Express Entry, without the employer having to re-post the job.
International students with Canadian degrees in science, engineering, management studies etc. should be given a clear and rapid path to permanent residency. Work permits for students on postgraduate work should be extended to allow them to qualify under Express entry.
Today, Canada has companies successfully attracting or moving high skilled talent. We should be grateful when those individuals choose to make a permanent contribution to our economic success and therefore seriously question the merits of any new application processing system that puts up roadblocks and impedes our global competitiveness.