Top 10 Canadian Immigration Stories of 2012

2012 was an exceptionally busy year in the Canadian immigration system. Below are 2 out of the top 10 immigration stories of 2012 that focus on immigrant employment issues. (This article was originally published in its entirety on February 27, 2013 in Maytree Conversations.)

By Maytree

2012 was an exceptionally busy year in the Canadian immigration system. Building on last year’s “Top 10 Canadian Immigration Stories of 2011,” a group of writers including Z Sonia Worotynec, Gregory Johannson, and Bonnie Mah present a similar top 10 list for 2012. For each story, we’ve provided a brief introduction, some background and related links and resources.

This year’s overarching theme: while 2011 was the year of consultations, 2012 was a year of change. It brought an explosive number of changes and proposed changes to the ways that Canada selects and treats immigrants, refugees and citizens as well as how we talk about immigrants and refugees. Multiple announcements and re-announcements from the Minister’s office made it challenging to figure out what changes had been made, what had been proposed only, and when changes or proposed changes would take effect.

Selection of Economic Class Immigrants

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), often considered the backbone of Canada’s economic immigration, was the target of many of the proposed changes. The points system is being re-configured to:

  • Increase the number of points for the first official language spoken;
  • Increase points for younger applicants;
  • Decrease points for work experience gained outside of Canada;
  • Require a credential assessment by a third party at the time of application.

While it re-tooled this program, the government stopped accepting applications to the FSWP on July 1, 2012. This program is expected to re-open on May 4, 2013.

Alongside these changes, the government also announced a new stream for skilled tradespersons, who traditionally have had a difficult time qualifying under the FSWP criteria. Like the FSWP, the trades stream will accept applications from individuals with occupations on a predetermined occupations list. The stream will be capped at 3,000 applications for 2013. It opened on January 2, 2013, and has been well-received, despite its small size.

In addition, the Canadian Experience Class, Provincial Nominee Programs, Investor Class and Entrepreneur Class all saw changes or proposed changes this year.

To deal with the long-standing backlog of applicants to the FSWP, the government proposed to return FSWP applications and fees submitted before February 27, 2008. The decision cut off 280,000 applicants, and is currently being challenged in Federal Court.

To prevent the development of future backlogs, the government proposed moving to a selection system similar to New Zealand’s Expression of Interest system. Under this system, applicants are selected from a pool – rather than from a queue – allowing unsuccessful applicants to be removed quickly. Canada’s new system is expected to be implemented in 2014.

Related Resources

Facilitating Temporary Residence and Two-Step Immigration

The trend towards temporary resident growth continued in 2012. In particular, a number of changes made it easier for employers to bring temporary foreign workers (TFWs) to Canada.

In April, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) introduced a ten-day Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (A-LMO) process to approve employers seeking to hire a TFW. At the same time, HRSDC changed the rules on pay for foreign workers. Employers can now pay TFWs in high skilled positions 15% less than the prevailing wage, and TFWs in lower skilled positions 5% less than the prevailing wage.

In July, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) expanded a pilot project that allows employers in Alberta to hire TFWs in some trades, and allows these workers to move between employers without going through the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process.

Just as the year was about to close, the government announced it would table new rules for international students. The rules would designate educational institutions permitted to host international students and remove the requirement for international students who wish to work part-time to get an off-campus work permit. These changes are intended to be part of Canada’s efforts in attracting international students – who are “a great source of potential permanent immigrants.”

In 2012, the government again signaled the growing preference for two-step immigration – that is, permanent residence after temporary residence – by easing requirements of the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). This change means that TFWs in high-skilled jobs will require only 12 months of in-Canada work experience (down from 24 months) to apply for permanent residence through the CEC.

Read the the full list of top 10 Canadian Immigration Stories of 2012