Changes to Canadian Experience Class Aim to Reduce Backlogs and Processing Times

Start-Up VisaIn an effort to attract a greater number of skilled immigrants and increase efficiency, the Canadian government is making changes to its Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration program.

Between November 9, 2013 and October 31, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will accept a maximum of 12,000 new applications under the CEC going forward. However, despite the annual cap on applications, CIC says it will admit approximately 15,000 individuals under the CEC in 2014. As a result of an overrepresentation of several skilled occupations, CIC is also introducing limits to the number of new immigrants permitted for certain occupations.

Immigrants in six occupations will no longer be considered eligible to apply under the new CEC rules. These six occupations include:

  • Cooks
  • Food Service Supervisors
  • Administrative Officers
  • Administrative Assistants
  • Accounting Technicians and Bookkeepers
  • Retail Sales Supervisors

In addition to those limitations, the CEC program is also establishing “sub-caps” of 200 applications each for its National Occupational Classification (NOC) ‘B’ occupations that include mostly administrative, technical or skilled trades. A detailed list of the ‘B’ occupations affected by the sub-caps is available at the government’s National Occupational Classification website.

One additional change to the CEC will be to the program’s language requirements. While the CIC will continue to use the same language criteria, the verification process will now be done upfront. CIC hopes this change will help ensure that CEC applicants not meeting the language requirements will be screened out earlier, thereby increasing the program’s efficiency.

These recent changes come on the heels of another significant change to the CEC made earlier in 2013. To streamline the program, CIC reduced the work experience requirement for CEC from 24 months to 12 months, and standardized the eligibility requirements for international student graduates and temporary foreign workers.

Canada Lifts Freeze on Parent, Grandparent Visa

GrandparentCitizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has reopened its Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) as of January 2, 2014, and over the coming year will accept immigration sponsorship applications of 5,000 parents and grandparents of Canadian immigrants.

The acceptance of new PGP immigration sponsorships is a policy change from the recent freeze of new PGP sponsorships that had been in effect since 2011. The CIC believes that by accepting only 5,000 new PGP sponsorships in 2014 it will be able to lessen the current backlog of prior applications.

When the freeze on new PGP sponsorships was introduced in 2011, the backlog of sponsorships was estimated to be over 165,000 applications.

In defending its policy, the CIC points out that several Western countries—including the United States, Australia and New Zealand—do not allow immigrants to sponsor grandparents at all, unless under exceptional circumstances.

Despite the freeze on the number of parents and grandparents of new immigrants in recent years, the CIC points out that in 2012/2013 Canada admitted an estimated 50,000 parents and grandparents as permanent residents. However, the CIC also tightened the criteria for immigrants wishing to sponsor parents and grandparents. These recent changes include:

  • An increase of 30 percent in the Minimum Necessary Income (MNI) for sponsoring an immigrant’s parents or grandparents
  • Lengthening the period for demonstrating the MNI for PGP sponsorship from one to three consecutive tax years, using only Canada Revenue Agency documents as proof of income
  • Extending the mandatory sponsorship period to 20 years instead of the previous 10.

Although it remains to be seen what long term effects the recent changes to the PGP sponsorship program may have, the CIC claims that the recent freezes–and revisions–have already reduced by half the backlog of applications and wait times.

Ontario Chamber of Commerce Urges Canadian Government to Consider Employers’ Immigration Needs

Citizenship JudgesThe Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), the province’s largest employers’ organization, has issued a new report strongly urging the Canadian government to ensure that Canada’s immigration policies reflect employer’s needs.

The OCC immigration report, “Think Fast: Ontario Employer Perspectives on Immigration Reform and the Expression of Interest System,” is the Chamber of Commerce’s response to the federal government’s Expression of Interest (EOI) immigration system scheduled for introduction in 2015. EOI is expected to be the process for selecting the majority of new immigrants to Canada, and employers will play a large role by deciding which immigrants receive offers of employment.

In their report, the OCC offers several key recommendations on what the Canadian government should do to ensure a successful immigration policy. The recommendations include:

  • Ensuring that Canada has a fast and efficient immigration system; the OCC report says that speed is “the single most important factor in determining whether employers will participate in the EOI system.”
  • The need for a “client-focused” system that views both immigrants and Canadian employers as valued ‘clients’; the OCC report argues in favor of minimal paperwork, an easily accessible online system, and offering a 24-hour hotline for both immigrants and employers.
  • The report also urges that the new immigration system be promoted internationally in an effort to attract skilled and talented immigrants to Canada.

Other key recommendations in the OCC report include calling on the government to “provide a clear pathway for newcomers seeking the recognition of their foreign (professional) credentials” and ensuring that “newcomers be connected to professional regulatory bodies prior to arriving in Canada.”

While the EOI system is scheduled to begin next year, it’s also worth noting that 2015 is slated to be a federal election year in Canada, and it’s uncertain if either of the opposition parties would move forward with the same immigration policy if the Conservative government is not re-elected.

Canada Speeds Up Immigration of Philippine Typhoon Victims, Donates $20 Million

In response to the loss of life and property in the Philippines in the wake of the recent Typhoon Haiyan, Canada’s government and charities partnered in a matching donation program resulting in more than $20 million in government donations.

From November 9 to December 23, 2013, the Canadian government established a mechanism to match the donations made by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities responding to the impact of Typhoon Haiyan. During that time, the government set aside one dollar for the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund for every eligible dollar donated by individuals.

As of early January, registered Canadian charities and other organizations had raised in excess of $35 million for Typhoon Haiyan disaster relief.

In addition to the financial help, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced plans to prioritize the processing of applications of Philippine residents affected by the typhoon. Those affected by the typhoon wanting their cases to be considered a ‘priority’ were directed to contact the Canadian embassy in Manila. Applicants from directly affected areas are being given top priority.

The CIC said these relief funds are being used to provide emergency relief activities that include the provision of emergency shelter, food, water, livelihood support, and other essential services.

Canada has a long history of immigration from the Philippines. In recognition of that fact–in the wake of the typhoon–the CIC announced it was undertaking several specific measures to help ensure expedited Filipino immigration of those directly affected. These ongoing steps include:

  • A pledge to assess requests “with compassion and flexibility” from Filipino citizens already in Canada wishing to extend their stay
  • Establishing specific contact emails and phone lines (situation-philippines@cic.gc.ca and the CIC’s Call Centre at 1-888-242-2100) to respond to requests from applicants and their families
  • Additional efforts in the Philippines, designed to address and expedite Canadian immigration issues; these ongoing efforts are centered at the Canadian embassy in Manila, as well as the CIC Visa Application Centers in Manila and Cebu.


Canadian Government Introduces Changes To Canadian Experience Class (CEC) Aimed At Reducing Backlog And Processing Times

File OnlineIn an effort to attract a greater number of skilled immigrants and increase efficiency, the Canadian government is making changes to its Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration program.

Between November 9, 2013 and October 31, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will accept a maximum of 12,000 new applications under the CEC going forward. However, despite the annual cap on applications, CIC says it will admit approximately 15,000 individuals under the CEC in 2014. As a result of an overrepresentation of several skilled occupations, CIC is also introducing limits to the number of new immigrants permitted for certain occupations.

Immigrants in six occupations will no longer be considered eligible to apply under the new CEC rules. These six occupations include:

  • Cooks
  • Food Service Supervisors
  • Administrative Officers
  • Administrative Assistants
  • Accounting Technicians and Bookkeepers
  • Retail Sales Supervisors

In addition to those limitations, the CEC program is also establishing “sub-caps” of 200 applications each for its National Occupational Classification (NOC) ‘B’ occupations that include mostly administrative, technical or skilled trades. A detailed list of the ‘B’ occupations affected by the sub-caps is available at the government’s National Occupational Classification website.

One additional change to the CEC will be to the program’s language requirements. While the CIC will continue to use the same language criteria, the verification process will now be done upfront. CIC hopes this change will help ensure that CEC applicants not meeting the language requirements will be screened out earlier, thereby increasing the program’s efficiency.

These recent changes come on the heels of another significant change to the CEC made earlier in 2013. To streamline the program, CIC reduced the work experience requirement for CEC from 24 months to 12 months, and standardized the eligibility requirements for international student graduates and temporary foreign workers.

Indians Traveling In Large Numbers to Canada

Canada Remains A Popular Destination For Travelers and Visitors from IndiaVisitor to Canada

Canada continues to be a popular annual destination for tens of thousands of visitors, students and business travelers from India. Between January and December 2013, Canada’s missions in New Delhi and Chandigarh issued almost 85,000 Canadian visitor visas, and an additional 13,613 study permits to Indians.

Canada’s Ministry of Multiculturalism cites the Canadian Business Express Program (BEP) as one key reason for the thriving demand for visitor, study and business travel visas from India. Created in 2008, the BEP was designed to provide qualified businesses and employees with various service advantages including less paperwork, priority processing of visa applications and targeted service with the goal of expediting travel between the two nations.

Trends certainly seem to suggest that Indians are putting Canada’s immigration programs to good use. For example:

  • 73% more visitor visas were issued in 2013 than in 2008
  • 321% more study permits have been issued to Indians in 2013 than in 2008
  • Approximately 2,800 BEP-related visas were issued to Indians in 2013.

In recent years, the Canadian government has also put in place additional measures that it says are assisting and expediting travel between India and Canada.

For example, in 2011 the duration of multiple-entry visas was extended from five to ten years. Multiple-entry visas allow Indian visitors to enter and exit Canada for up to six months at a time over a ten-year period.

The Canadian government now also offers the “Parent and Grandparent Super Visa”—available to parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents—which is valid for up to 10 years. The Super Visa allows eligible parents and grandparents to remain in Canada for up to 24 months at a time.

Tighter Requirements Expected For Canadian Citizenship, Foreign Workers

Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander

Canada’s Minister of Immigration is signaling that his government will introduce new legislation to tighten the requirements of attaining Canadian citizenship.

Alexander also said the Canadian government was concerned with “birth tourists who come to Canada solely for the purpose of citizenship for newborns and without any intention of immigrating and living here permanently.”

In year-end media interviews, Minister Chris Alexander said that he is leaning towards “a longer requirement” for residency in Canada in order to achieve full citizenship. Currently, permanent residents in Canada must reside in the country for three of the previous four years in order to qualify for citizenship.

The new year also brings with it new regulations, passed in June, giving the federal government greater powers to crack down on employers who take advantage of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Effective January 1st, federal authorities will be able to enter workplaces unannounced, interview foreign workers and request to see the required documents. The inspections will be allowed within six years of the approval of the foreign workers’ permits. Inspections will only require warrants if they take place within private dwellings. Under the new regulations, employers who are found to have not made reasonable efforts to hire and train Canadian workers, or found to be abusing employees, can have their permission to hire foreign workers revoked.

Several provinces and territories have an agreement with Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) regarding temporary foreign workers. These agreements are designed to attract certain temporary foreign workers and their spouses, domestic partners or working-age dependents.

Details on which province and territories participate in the Temporary Foreign Workers Program—and who is eligible to apply—are available on the CIC website at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/work/occupations.asp.

Growing Number of New Immigrants Choose to Settle in Western Canada

canadabaggageAlthough historically most immigrants to Canada have settled in one of the country’s three biggest cities—Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver—the past few years have seen a growing shift in immigration towards the less populated cities of Western Canada.

Spurred on by the region’s energy boom, a growing number of immigrants have chosen Canada’s prairie provinces—particularly Saskatchewan and Alberta—as their new home. Under Canadian immigration law, almost all of the provinces and territories can nominate people to immigrate to Canada. Provincial “nominees” are expected to have the skills, education and work experience required to contribute to the economy of that particular province or territory.

To apply under the Provincial Nominee Program, you must:

  • Be nominated by a specific Canadian province or territory, then
  • Apply to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to become a permanent resident of Canada. Each participating province and territory has its own nomination guidelines.

While Alberta’s share of new immigrants to Canada rose 25 percent between 2006 and 2011, Ontario’s percentage of new Canadians decreased nine percent during that same time.

Still, despite the increase, Alberta failed to fill its allocated quota of immigrants last year, and nominated only 80 percent of the number of new immigrants it was allowed under federal law. These immigrants bypass the federal immigration process, but to qualify, they must have a job offer from an employer.

For its part, Saskatchewan is making some changes to its immigrant nominee program. Effective January 2, 2014, nine categories will be consolidated into three, with new eligibility requirements. Changes to the program include:

  • The “family referral” category will be combined with the “skilled worker” category to create a new “international skilled workers” category, which will focus on attracting workers with high-skilled employment offers. The Saskatchewan government hopes the new category will provide increased flexibility by accepting several applications from workers with skills in high demand, without the requirement of pre-arranged employment.
  • Additional eligibility points will also be given to applicants who have family connections in the province.

As of January 2nd, the provincial government will also only consider electronically submitted applications.

Saskatchewan is also looking to attract more skilled immigrants, and its nominee allocation will increase by more than six percent in the coming year.

As 2014 begins, federal policy states that Canada will welcome between 240,000-260,000 new permanent residents over the coming year, and there appears little doubt that Canada’s prairie provinces will serve as home to an ever-growing number of those new Canadians.