In keeping with its recent efforts to overhaul the country’s immigration system, the Canadian government may be considering stricter language requirements for immigrants’ spouses.
While a final decision has yet to be reached, Canada’s Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has raised the idea of stricter language requirements for immigrant spouses at consultation meetings with representatives of the immigrant communities. The stated goal of the changes, according to those in attendance, was to better ensure the integration and protection of immigrant spouses in Canada.
However, some critics of the idea are voicing concern that stricter language requirements may result in making it harder for immigrant spouses from developing countries—who speak limited English or French—to immigrate to Canada and rejoin their families. Raising additional concerns, there are also reports the government is considering requiring Canadian sponsors have a minimum income in order to be able to bring a spouse, or children, from abroad.
Alexander has held meetings with immigrant representatives from across Canada, seeking their input on how the government should move forward with reforming its immigration system, including the immigration spousal sponsorship program.
Other changes said to be under consideration by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) include new measures to deny entry to Canada to polygamists; raising the minimum age of sponsored spouses from 16 to 18; and creating incentives for self-employment for immigrant women.
Still, a spokesperson from Alexander’s office denied that any final decision on the changes had been reached, and that so far all that’s occurred is the “issue had been raised by stakeholders.”
The question of better protecting immigrant spouses has been in the forefront lately after a Canadian immigrant woman from Afghanistan was found murdered by her husband—in the same riding represented in parliament by the immigration minister.
The Ontario government has introduced legislation aimed at attracting a greater number of skilled immigrant workers, and the new law may also represent a new opportunity for wealthy immigrants in the wake of the recent cancellation of the federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP).
The proposed Ontario Immigration Act is supposed to work in sync with Canada’s federal immigration strategy, with the ultimate goals of maximizing the social and economic benefits of future immigration. The Ontario government believes these goals will be accomplished by three primary methods:
- Passing legislation that allows the provincial government to set its own immigration targets designed to meet future labor needs
- Greater efforts at fraud prevention by improving compliance and enforcement measures in selecting immigrant candidates, and stricter penalties for fraudulent applicants
- Ensuring the provincial government aligns its immigration plans with the efforts of the Canadian federal government
Ontario also has plans to reform its Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) to better accommodate expected increases in the number of immigrants allocated to the province by the federal government. Ontario has requested increasing the number of provincial-nominees from 1,300 to 5,000 highly skilled immigrant tradespeople.
For wealthy immigrant investors, many of whom were Chinese nationals affected by the recent cancellation of the IIP program, Ontario’s immigration reform may also present another method to invest—and immigrate—to Canada. In fact, Ontario’s immigration minister recently told Chinese media that his province sees investor immigrants as a “key part” of that province’s immigration plans.
Ontario Immigration Minister Michael Coteau said his government “wants people to invest in Ontario…to make sure we can maintain the quality of life we have here.” To qualify as an investor under the PNP, an investment has to meet a minimum of $3 million, with an average processing time of about 90 days.
Immigration decisions made by the Ontario provincial government have considerable impact, as the province remains the top destination for all immigrants to Canada. New immigrants also make up about 30 percent of Ontario’s overall labor force.
Immigration also plays an integral role in planning Ontario’s economic future. The provincial government predicts that over the next 25 years, immigration to the province will account for virtually all of the increases in the province’s working age population, as well as a major source for future labor force growth.
Key ministers responsible for shaping Canada’s immigration system recently met to align their goals, and discuss how to design an immigration program to meet the country’s future economic needs.
Federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) immigration ministers met in Ottawa, agreeing that economic immigration was a top priority for Canada. All the immigration ministers in attendance are working together to build a new Canadian immigration recruitment model, known as the Expression of Interest (EOI) system. The ministers’ ultimate goal is to ensure the EOI system can respond to Canada’s changing labor market.
The immigration ministers agreed that the EOI system, which is set to launch in January 2015, will complement the existing Provincial Nominee Program—an immigration program that allows each province to nominate individuals to immigrate to Canada if they meet their regional labor needs.
There was also an agreement among the FPT immigration ministers to support a plan that assists new immigrants to settle into Canada. Key elements of assistance to new immigrants will be in the areas of pre-arrival services, language learning for immigrants not in the workforce, and methods for encouraging immigrants to become active in their new communities.
Unlike the English-speaking provinces, Quebec operates its immigration program independently and assumes full responsibility for its immigration levels, as well as for the selection and integration of immigrants to that province. As a result, Quebec was only an observer at the meeting.
The federal government believes that the Provincial Nominee Program has also helped meet its goal of diverting immigration to areas outside of Canada’s largest three cities—Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
In 2012, 42 percent of Canada’s economic immigrants settled outside of those three cities, compared to only 20 percent in 2000. That same year, 62 percent of Canada’s immigrants were deemed “economic,” with the government now hoping to reach 70 percent economic immigration in the coming years.
To help ensure new immigrants to Canada integrate successfully in their communities, the federal government will invest $600 million in 2014-2015 to assist with immigrants’ integration to Canada in all provinces except Quebec.
To help ensure that Canada’s foreign workers meet the country’s labor needs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is co-sponsoring a study designed to help British and Irish workers assess their skills against the criteria required to work in Canada.
CIC is partnering with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) and the United Kingdom’s National Recognition Information Center (NRIC) to conduct a study to identify how British and Irish trade qualifications compare with Canadian requirements in nine skilled fields in high demand across Canada.
The skilled trades in demand within Canada highlighted in the study include:
- Heavy duty equipment technician
- Construction electrician
- Industrial mechanic
- Powerline technician
The ACCC will conduct the study—with support from CIC—with the UK organization acting as the study’s sub-contractor.
The labor study is part of the CIC’s Canadian Immigrant Integration Program, which is designed to provide newcomers to Canada with labor market information meeting their specific skills and experience.
The project also calls for the UK’s NARIC to consult with the provinces and territories, and develop an electronic guide assessing how well the British and Irish workers’ training aligns with regional needs within Canada. CIC believes this effort will help applicants in its Federal Skilled Trades Program to better understand the requirements of Canada’s evolving labor market.
Designed to address Canada’s serious labor shortages, the Federal Skilled Trades Program accepts a maximum of 3,000 applications each year.
In a classic example of supply and demand, young Irish workers recently scooped up almost 4,000 Canadian work visas—in less than 10 minutes.
While thousands of their fellow Irish citizens seeking International Experience Canada (IEC) permits were left empty-handed, those Irish workers who moved fastest were able to claim all 3,850 allotted Canadian work permits in record time.
The IEC visas will allow the Irish workers—under 35 years of age—along with their spouses and children to live and work in Canada for up to two years. A total of 10,700 IEC visas were recently allocated to Irish workers under an agreement worked out between the Irish and Canadian governments.
Would-be Irish immigrants to Canada who were unsuccessful in their efforts to attain an IEC visa were quick to make their disappointment heard on social media. Many unsuccessful IEC applicants complained on social media about the visa application system, explaining that they were actually applying for the permits at the time the quota was reached.
This year marks the second consecutive year of enormous demand for the IEC permits from Irish immigrants. Last year’s quota of 6,350 permits was reached in just four days, and was one of the driving forces behind the increase of almost 70 percent in the number of IEC permits to be issued this year. Despite the dramatic increase in Irish IEC visas, as well as the decision to hold two separate rounds of visa issuance this year, demand far outpaced supply when the visas were made available this month.
Unsuccessful applicants in the recent first round of IEC visa issuances will be able to reapply for the second round of 3,850 IEC permits at a date to be announced later by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
In a reversal of previous trends, a majority of foreign workers arriving in British Columbia (BC) are seeking employment in smaller, more remote towns rather than in the province’s biggest cities, raising concerns about Canadians losing employment opportunities to foreign workers.
While greater Vancouver has historically been a magnet for foreign workers, the booming natural resource sector in more remote areas is now attracting the majority of immigrants to BC. While the number of foreign workers in BC’s urban-based manufacturing sector declined between 2005 and 2012, the number of immigrant workers receiving permits in the more remote agricultural/forestry and accommodation/food services sectors rose almost tenfold during that same period.
After reviewing claims that some remote BC employers were paying foreign workers well below market rates, the Canadian government passed a law that would end the practice of paying foreign workers 15 percent less than Canadian workers. In addition, the government passed a law banning employers who abuse the program from using it again for two years.
The trend of foreign workers seeking employment in more remote regions throughout Western Canada has been growing in recent years, as the country’s booming natural resource sector seeks to attract workers to under-populated areas.
The issue came to the forefront recently when there was a legal challenge mounted by two BC-based unions to block a move by HD Mining, a China-based mining firm that sought to bring in foreign workers to its BC-based operations under the Temporary Foreign Worker program.
The unions claimed that HD Mining overlooked applications from Canadian applicants and sought to hire foreign workers at a lower rate. The company argued it required foreign workers familiar with the type of mining they would be performing, which was unlike mining normally conducted in Canada.
Ultimately, a federal judge found in favor of the mining firm and allowed it to hire the required foreign workers for its BC-based mining operations.
Canada welcomed 35,000 new citizens in the first two months of 2014 —twice as many as in the same period last year.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), more than 19,200 new Canadian citizens were sworn in this February, almost double the amount of new citizens welcomed one year earlier. In January, over 16,000 new Canadians were awarded citizenship, also nearly double the amount of one year earlier.
Over 200 swearing-in ceremonies—conducted in gymnasiums, government offices and hotel conference rooms—were held across the country in February to welcome the new Canadian citizens.
CIC cites increased efficiency and a decrease in the overall backlog of citizenship applications as two of the reasons for the dramatic jump in the number of new citizens sworn in. The government is also predicting that its recently introduced immigration reform—the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act—will further reduce processing time for citizenship applications by as much as one year.
CIC is predicting the new immigration law will help to reduce the backlog of citizenship applications by more than 80 percent by 2015-2016.
Last year, nearly 130,000 individuals were granted Canadian citizenship.
The brisk pace for welcoming new Canadian citizens so far this year is in keeping with the recent years’ trends. Since 2006, Canada has sustained its highest ever levels of naturalization, with an average of 257,000 newcomers each calendar year. 2013 was a record-breaking year for Canadian immigration, with CIC receiving 330,860 applications for Canadian citizenship.
Canada will welcome 70 percent more young Irish workers under a new agreement between the Canadian and Irish governments.
Under the agreement, Canada will issue 10,700 International Experience Canada (IEC) permits to Irish citizens under the age of 35 in 2014, a significant increase over the 6,350 IEC permits issued to Irish individuals last year. The IEC visas will allow Irish citizens, along with their children, to live and work in Canada for up to two years.
The IEC permit began in 2003 as part of a cultural exchange program between Canada and Ireland, and has been dramatically expanded since its inception, including allowing skilled Irish workers to help fill labor shortages in Canada.
As the program’s opportunities have expanded, so too has the interest in it from Irish workers. Only half of the available 2,500 IEC permits were used in 2009. Four years later, the entire allocation of permits were gone within 48 hours.
Under the terms of the new IEC agreement between Canada and Ireland, 2,500 visas will be set aside for young Irish professionals who have secured job offers in Canada, and 500 IEC permits will be allocated for full-time Irish students who wish to take part in Canadian internships.
An additional 7,700 permits will be made available for Irish individuals under 35 years old who wish to have a working holiday in Canada.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said the IEC program offers young Irish professionals an opportunity to work in an array of professions in Canada, including Information Technology, manufacturing, health care and the booming natural resources sector.
Alexander specifically cited major mining projects in northern Canada as excellent opportunities for young Irish professionals to take on greater responsibilities and “discover an absolutely new way of life.”
The elimination of Canada’s long-standing Immigrant Investor Program (IIP)—and the fast track to citizenship it offered—means thousands of predominantly Asian wealthy investors may have to examine their immigration alternatives.
The cancellation of the IIP program means an estimated 46,000 wealthy Chinese investors in Canada will receive a refund of their immigration investment and as have their applications denied. And those wealthy investors are expected to seek out immigration investment alternatives in other Western countries.
Prior to its cancellation, applications for Canada’s IIP program had been frozen for almost two years, and during that time wealthy investors—primarily from China—had already begun to seek out other immigration alternatives. The official end of the IIP program is seen as a substantial change to Canada’s immigration policy, as the 46,000 wealthy IIP applicants represented about six times the number of total applicants for similar programs run by the United States, Britain and Australia.
The termination of Canada’s IIP program is expected to have the greatest impact in Vancouver, where about 80 percent of the country’s Chinese investor immigrants live. Since IIP began, tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants—many of them investor immigrants from Hong Kong—moved to Greater Vancouver. In fact, the City of Richmond, a Vancouver suburb, now has the largest Chinese population in the Western Hemisphere.
The IIP program has also had a significant impact on Vancouver’s real estate market. Demand for housing, in part as a result of the immigration program, has pushed Vancouver’s home prices to the highest in North America. With the cancellation of the immigrant investor program, real estate experts foresee a possible steep decline in demand for Vancouver housing, especially in the high-end market.
In announcing the end of the IIP program, the government cited several determining factors including:
- Undervaluing Canadian residency; while Canada required a “loan” of $800,000 from wealthy immigrants under the IIP, similar programs in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom require between $5-$10 million and offer no promise of permanent residency
- An insufficient contribution to Canada by IIP individuals; the CIC says that over a 20-year period, an investor immigrant paid about $200,000 less in income taxes than a skilled federal employee and almost $100,000 less than a live-in caregiver
CIC believes the end of the IIP will benefit Canada by increasing the overall efficiency of the country’s immigration system. According to the government, there was a backlog of more than 60,000 IIP applications—larger than any other Canadian economic immigration program. It’s estimated that it would have taken more than six years to process just the existing IIP applications.
For their part, many Chinese investors in Canada—particularly in Vancouver’s Asian community—have expressed displeasure with both the government’s decision to end the IIP, as well as the way the decision was reached.
At a recent press conference in Vancouver, several wealthy Chinese investor immigrants complained that the government’s decision was unfair and “demeaning” to IIP investors. They also complained that the investor immigrant community was not consulted prior to the government’s decision to terminate the IIP program.
Still, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says Canada continues to welcome Chinese investors. In recent interviews with Chinese media, Alexander said he didn’t want Chinese immigrant investors to feel “unwelcome,” and that there were several other alternative Canadian immigration investment programs they may wish to consider.
Service in Canada’s armed forces could mean a fast track to citizenship for Permanent Residents thanks to Canada’s new immigration law.
In its recently introduced Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, the Canadian government announced that in order to “recognize the important contributions of those who have served Canada in uniform” it was planning to introduce a fast-track path to citizenship for Permanent Residents with Canadian military experience.
Although it has yet to outline all details for the proposal, the Canadian government says the new fast track to citizenship for past and current military personnel with Permanent Resident status will bring Canada in line with similar programs in other Western nations. The changes will include reducing the qualifying period for citizenship for armed services personnel by one year.
Both the United States and Australia have similar immigration programs providing armed forces personnel an abbreviated path towards citizenship in each respective country.
In addition, the new immigration law states that children born to parents who are in service to the Canadian government abroad will be able to inherit their parents’ Canadian citizenship. That law will also apply to adopted children of Canadians serving their country overseas.
However, along with the fast track to Canadian citizenship offered to armed services personnel, the new immigration bill also provides greater leverage for the government to revoke the Canadian citizenship of “dual nationals”—those with dual citizenship—who are convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying offenses or take arms against Canada.
The new revocation powers would also allow the government to deny citizenship to individuals charged and convicted of those serious crimes outside of Canada, as well as convicted criminals serving their sentences abroad.