Canada Fast-Tracks Skilled Workers
Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, announced on November 28, 2008, that retroactive to February 27, 2008, the “Action Plan for Faster Immigration” includes issuing instructions to visa officers reviewing new federal skilled worker applications to process those from candidates who:
- include an offer of arranged employment; or
- are from a foreign national living legally in Canada for one year as a temporary foreign worker or international student; or
- are from a skilled worker who has at least one year of experience under one or more of the 38 occupations listed at http://www.cic.gc.ca/eligible.
The list of 38 occupations was developed after consultations with the provinces and territories, business, labor, and other stakeholders. New federal skilled worker applications that do not meet the eligibility criteria outlined above will not be processed, and the application fee will be refunded. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) said in a statement that this effort, along with funds set aside in the 2008 budget to improve the immigration system, “will stop the backlog from growing and will start to draw it down.”
“The eligibility criteria apply only to new federal skilled worker applicants and will not affect Canada’s family reunification or refugee protection goals,” Minister Kenney said. He noted that applicants who are not eligible for the federal skilled worker category may qualify under another category, such as the Provincial Nominee Program, or as temporary foreign workers, which could then put them on a path to permanent residence through the new Canadian Experience Class.
“We expect new federal skilled worker applicants, including those with arranged employment, to receive a decision within six to 12 months compared with up to six years under the old system,” said Minister Kenney. “All other economic class applications—including applicants chosen by Quebec, provincial nominees, the Canadian Experience Class, and live-in caregivers—will continue to be given priority.”
All applications made before February 27, 2008, will be processed according to the rules that were in effect at that time.
CIC said that these changes “bring Canada in line with two of its main competitors for highly skilled labor: Australia and New Zealand. Both of these countries have eliminated their backlogs and have systems that deliver final decisions for economic applicants within a year.”
Canada plans to admit between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents in 2009, Minister Kenney said, noting that the planned numbers are on par with last year and are among the highest for Canada during the past 15 years. The 2009 plan includes up to 156,600 immigrants in the economic category; 71,000 in the family category; and 37,400 in the humanitarian category.
Minister Kenney noted that “[t]he recent steps this Government has taken to improve our immigration system will help ensure that Canada remains competitive internationally and responsive to labour market needs domestically.” Critics, however, expressed concerns that the new emphasis on skilled workers would create two classes of immigrants and that less-skilled workers would be at a disadvantage, and that doubling the number of temporary workers would depress wages. “It’s bad for the Canadian economy and it’s bad for [the temporary workers], because they cannot bring in their families and often are open to exploitation and abuse,” said New Democrat Olivia Chow.
The ministerial instructions
The notice announcing the instructions
For more information on the new initiatives