Defying Critics, Canadian Government Touts New Immigration Program

citizenship canadaIn the wake of ongoing criticism, the Canadian government is pointing to the early results of its new Express Entry immigration program and touting the initiative as a major success story.

While critics of the new immigration program – which began on January 1st of this year – have accused the government of shifting the focus of Canada’s immigration from people to profits, the Harper government is pointing to the early results as proof the program is meeting both the needs of immigrants and Canadian businesses.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander recently traveled to Vancouver to personally greet two of the first foreign applicants accepted under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), respectively.

Alexander pointed to the fact that Thanikachalam Ananthakrishnan, a native of India, was accepted as a Front End Engineer under the FSWP, and Irish native Zoe Cremin has been hired under the PNP as a software engineer; Alexander said the two skilled immigrants’ permanent residency in Canada had been expedited as a result of the Express Entry program.

British Columbia (BC) is the first of Canada’s provinces to welcome an immigration applicant under the PNP, through the federal government’s Express Entry program.

The Express Entry program has long been touted by the federal government as the best way for Canada to address its immigration needs; the goal of the program is to match immigrant applicants with the evolving economic needs of the various regions in Canada. Under Express Entry, applicants submit an online application expressing their interest in permanent residency within Canada. Candidates meeting the minimum requirements are then submitted into a pool of names based upon their point score (points are awarded for various qualifications ranging from work experience to educational history and age).

The government has promised that most applicants processed under the Express Entry system will see their application completed within six months or less.

Critics of Express Entry say the plan focuses too heavily on economic factors, and overlooks Canada’s historical immigration policies that leaned heavily towards reuniting families and humanitarian concerns.

As of mid-April, the federal government reported that 6,851 Express Entry candidates had received an invitation to apply for permanent residency within Canada.

The federal government is also promoting the idea that foreign students studying within Canada are “well placed” for success under the Express Entry program due to their level of higher education, Canadian work experience, language skills and youth.

Under Express Entry, foreign students can transition to permanent residence within Canada under one of several existing immigration programs, including Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program or the Provincial Nominees Program.

According to the Conservative government, there are more than 22,000 individuals currently in the Express Entry “pool” of names, with candidates being considered from around the globe.

Almost Half Of Express Entry Immigration Applicants Already Reside In Canada

105490073About half of the first applicants applying for permanent resident status in Canada under Express Entry, the country’s new immigration system, were already residing within the country.

That was the finding of a recent report based on information gathered as a result of a request by Canadian immigration attorney Richard Kurland. The report examined the first 775 immigrants who made it to the top echelon of the new “Express Entry” pool of applicants. Express Entry is the Canadian government’s highly touted new immigration system that is designed to attract the most qualified immigrants and match them to the country’s labor needs. The program began accepting applicants on January 1st of this year.

The data that Kurland requested indicates that about half of the first round of Express Entry accepted applicants were not recruited from offshore, but rather already residents in Canada. About 45 percent—or 346 of the accepted 775 top-tier Express Entry applicants—already resided in Canada. This would appear to undermine at least part of the government’s stated intention of replacing the previous system with Express Entry—that is, to recruit from other countries the ‘best and brightest’ skilled workers to fill job openings Canadians could not fill.

Of the remaining first round of applicants accepted under the new Express Entry program, approximately 13 percent were living in India, as well as 4.5 percent in the United Arab Emirates. The remaining percentages were from several additional countries; the Philippines and Pakistan were two of the other largest source countries for applicants. Some observers were surprised that China—which had been one of the largest sources for Canadian immigration—was not in the top tier of countries.

The Canadian government held its first Express Entry draw on January 31st of this year, and offered permanent residency to 779 applicants.

Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander pointed out that “everyone who was invited to apply for permanent residence in this round of invitations already has a valid job offer, or provincial nomination, and this shows that Express Entry is working to fill Canada’s existing labour market gaps.”

The Express Entry system is a significant departure from Canada’s previous immigration system, and the government promised it would both expedite applications, as well as ensure that immigrants granted permanent residency would match the employment needs of the country. Express Entry is designed as a “point system”, wherein applicants can receive up to 1,200 points based on several factors, including elements such as employment experience, and level of education. These factors help determine whether an applicant is placed into the “pool” of applicants to be considered for permanent residence in Canada.

Among those selected, a “draw” is then held by the government to determine which applicants will be invited to apply for actual permanent residence in Canada. If an invitation or permanent residence is offered, the immigrant has 60 days to either accept or decline If the applicant doesn’t receive an invitation after a 12 month period, he or she is required to start the application process all over again.

Critics have raised many questions about what impact the new immigration system would have on Canada’s traditional focus on reuniting families and other non-economic factors when deciding who would be allowed to immigrate to the country.

Some observers, such as Kurland, believe that the Express Entry system may end up favoring temporary foreign workers—given the government’s recent tightening of rules governing temporary foreign workers, and the Canadian business community’s demand for those workers.

As of April 10th, the Canadian government had offered permanent residence to 7,776 applicants under the Express Entry program.

Filipino Immigrants Targeted In Major Canadian Immigration Scam

citizenship canadaToronto police allege that hundreds of Filipinos hoping to immigrate to Canada were targeted in what’s being called a massive immigration fraud that promised applicants a chance at reuniting with their families in Canada and securing permanent residency.

It’s alleged that Imelda Fronda Saluma charged hopeful immigrants as much as $5,000—including $1500 for being matched with a job, as well as $2,000 for an employment contract and successful labor market opinion and $1,500 more once the work visa was attained. The fraudulent ‘opportunity’ to immigrate to Canada became well known through word-of-mouth in the close knit Filipino community.

However, police allege that hundreds of individuals who paid the required fees ended up stranded around the world, without either their Canadian immigration papers or funds. Under Canadian immigration rules, as a result of their false applications, they are now also prohibited from reapplying to immigrate to Canada for another two years.

According to police, through her company GoWest Jobs, Saluma bilked the hundreds of Filipino hopeful immigrants out of approximately $2.3 million; she now faces 73 charges for allegedly selling forged documents to foreigners to assist them in their efforts to immigrate to Canada. Police also allege that she saw clients in a Toronto-based office, and used social media such as Facebook to help promote her fraudulent products and services.

Toronto police were first alerted of the alleged fraud last fall, when several job recruiters began to suspect the size and scope of the scam.

The alleged scope of the fraud included potential immigrants from several countries around the world; in addition to the Philippines, fraud victims affected were also from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the United Kingdom.

Toronto police had been investigating GoWest Jobs as far back as 2012. And while a large number of those hopeful immigrants to Canada lived offshore, many were actually already residing in Canada and promised visa extensions or permanent residency by GoWest. Police allege that, despite the number of people drawn into the fraud, they are not aware of a single immigrant who actually received any legal status or document.

In addition to the international immigrants, police allege that many Canadian employment recruiters also found themselves drawn into the fraud through a check cashing scheme that was also run by Saluma.

The GoWest fraud charges are just the latest in a number of high profile cases targeting fraudulent Canadian immigration consultants.

Last month, Nageshwar Rao Yendamuri, who resides in Toronto and worked as a regulated immigration consultant, faced 88 charges in connection with immigration fraud. Yendamuri’s case was seen as quite troubling, considering that he was actually employed by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), which is a national regulatory authority designated by the Government of Canada.

The ICCRC’s mission is supposed to be to protect the interests of potential immigrants to Canada who are seeking representation and advice.

Yendamuri is now facing 44 charges under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and an additional 44 charges under the Criminal Code of Canada for forgery and use of forged documents.

Number Of Non-Permanent Residents Continues To Grow In Canada

canadian work visa

Broadway bridge and Saskatoon skyline at night, Saskatchewan. / Jay Van Doornum

A new study by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) reveals that the number of non-permanent residents living in Canada has more than doubled within the last decade.

The CIBC study found that the number of non-permanent individuals living in Canada under the age of 45 grew to 770,000 over the last decade, greatly impacting the areas in which they reside. In a country whose entire population numbers only about 35 million, the considerable growth in the number of younger non-permanent residents is notable; the impact of these non-permanent residents is felt the most in two provinces—British Columbia and Ontario—where the majority of them reside.

The CIBC study also revealed that almost half of the non-permanent residents were temporary foreign workers or workers employed on contract; the survey indicated that the number of those individuals had increased by about 10 percent over the last decade.

Other facts revealed by the study include the fact that 38 percent of non-permanent residents in Canada were students—an increase of five percent over the last 10 years—while the number of refugees awaiting word on their permanent status had decreased to 12.2 percent.

Of the more than 384,000 non-permanent residents who were temporary foreign workers, many were employed in mid-level positions and had ‘expectations’ of eventually gaining permanent residency within Canada.

An important finding of the survey was that more than 95 percent of the total number of non-permanent Canadian residents were under age 45, in direct contrast to the aging of the overall Canadian population.

However, one somewhat surprising finding of the survey was that the impact of the non-permanent resident group was felt more in BC and Ontario than in the provinces with the greater labor shortages—Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.  According to the survey, the number of non-permanent residents tripled in Ontario over the last decade; without the addition of those people to Ontario’s population, the province would have seen a decline of about 120,000 during that same period.

Meanwhile, in BC, the number of people aged 25-44 would have remained stagnant if the non-permanent resident population hadn’t doubled over the last decade.

The survey also clearly illustrated the economic impact made by the non-permanent residents in the two provinces within which the majority reside—Ontario and British Columbia.

The report’s author, Benjamin Tal, pointed out that the two provinces that experienced the strongest housing markets were also the ones with the most non-permanent residents..

“”It is not a coincidence that those two provinces are also the ones to experience long-lasting strong housing market activity,” Tal explained in the survey.  That fact will likely be taken into consideration as the federal government moves forward with revamping its temporary foreign worker program.

Tal also pointed out that the numbers used in the survey—from 2013–may well underestimate the current numbers of non-permanent residents, given that there had been a 14 percent growth in the number of permits for temporary foreign workers in the ensuing years.