In 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.
About 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.
Toronto 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.
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.
A petition calling for the end of immigration controls between the four leading Commonwealth countries has gained considerable support, with over 70,000 signatures supporting the proposed measure.
Calling itself the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organization (CFMO.org), the group’s online petition has attracted a wide array of support since it began in March. Started by James Skinner, a 27-year old paralegal originally from Britain but currently residing in Vancouver, the group initially consisted of just Skinner and several of his friends—with at least one member in each of the targeted Commonwealth nations.
“Commonwealth Nations” are usually defined as being the countries that comprise the United Kingdom and other nations that were at one time British colonies. In addition to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, other Commonwealth countries include India and several West African nations.
The idea for ending the immigration controls between the four Commonwealth countries evolved from Skinner’s experience working in Australia in 2011. After beginning to put down roots in Melbourne, Skinner’s temporary work visa expired and he encountered a very difficult, complex immigration system in Australia. Skinner said he encountered several other visitors from Canada and Britain who had similar difficulties remaining in Australia.
After leaving Australia, Skinner moved to Vancouver, where he again had to go through the litany of immigration procedures in order to live and work in Canada. As he awaits a decision on whether he will be granted permanent residency in Canada, he acknowledged that if he isn’t granted residency he may have to leave—again—when his two-year visa expires.
Those experiences, and similar foreign work experience of his friends, prompted them to start the petition to permanently eliminate immigration controls among Commonwealth countries.
Since the online petition began on the website Change.org, hundreds of signatories have shared similar stories of frustration with immigrating between Commonwealth nations. According to Skinner, he and many of his fellow petitioners have already approached some of the Commonwealth country governments regarding the possibility of easing immigration restrictions between the nations.
There has been some initial interest in the idea among New Zealand legislators, as well as some in Australia, although Skinner and his colleagues realize that it will be a difficult task to convince all four Commonwealth governments to ease immigration laws.
Some immigration experts, including the University of British Columbia (UBC)’s Catherine Dauvergne point out that temporary immigration between Commonwealth countries is already relatively simple. “These (Commonwealth nations) are countries where it’s pretty easy to get temporary foreign work permission or to travel as students,” she explained.
However, Skinner and his petitioners believe that removing the existing immigration controls between the four primary Commonwealth countries would be economically desirable and ease travel between all the nations involved.
A new study by the Bank of Montreal reveals that the average immigrant to Canada arrives with approximately $47,000 in total savings, but spends as much as half of that amount in order to resettle in their new homeland.
According to the study, after paying for all the costs of relocating to Canada, the average new immigrant is left with about $20,000 in total savings.
Additionally, the same study found that about one out of every five new Canadian immigrants arrives with no savings at all.
The study marks the first of several similar studies by the Bank of Montreal that will be examining an array of financial challenges faced by new immigrants to Canada.
The initial study found that, for those immigrants who do have money remaining after they resettle in Canada, the largest uses for those funds are investments in their future: saving for retirement (53 percent of immigrants ) and paying for their children’s education (49 percent), as well as purchasing either a house or a car (44 percent) were the main uses of immigrant savings.
In addition, according to the study about two-thirds of new immigrants to Canada send some of their funds back to families in their native homelands; the average amount sent back to immigrant families was about $2.300.
A large majority, about 67 percent, of new Canadian immigrants said that their quality of life had improved after moving to Canada from their homeland, with 27 percent of new immigrants saying that their quality of life had “improved greatly” after resettling in Canada.
The president of the Bank of Montreal’s ‘InvestorLine, Julie Barker-Merz, said the results of the study seemed to reflect very well on Canada as a destination for immigrants from around the world.
Barker-Merz said compared to the other ‘G8’ countries—those industrialized nations with the world’s largest economies—Canada has the highest proportion of foreign-born residents. She added that the high percentage of foreign-born Canadian residents was “not a coincidence”, in that Canada offered one of the best places for immigrants to raise their families due to “the opportunities available to newcomers.”
According to the study, the location within Canada selected by immigrants also reflected the difference in net savings that they bring with them when resettling.
The study found that immigrants who chose to relocate to British Columbia (BC) had the highest level of savings ($86,270); by comparison, new immigrants who relocated to BC’s neighboring province Alberta had the lowest level of savings upon arrival ($28,784). This is not entirely surprising, as in recent years many immigrants to BC have been wealthy citizens from both Hong Kong and Mainland China, while Alberta has attracted a large number of skilled and unskilled labor to service its booming energy sector.
According to the study, new immigrants to Quebec were left with the lowest amount of savings after resettling, only an average of $7,388, after initially arriving in the province with an average of $36,527 in savings.
The survey was conducted in February, and was based on an online sampling of 507 immigrants who had arrived in Canada within the last decade.
Commencing this month, tens of thousands of Canadian temporary foreign workers could face deportation due to changes to the country’s immigration laws made in 2014.
Although Employment Minister Jason Kenney recently granted a one-year amnesty to about 1,000 temporary foreign workers in Alberta, it’s estimated that as many as an initial 16,000 temporary foreign workers could lose their status commencing April 1st; in reaction to this reality, migrant advocacy groups within Canada are lobbying on behalf of the many thousands of immigrant workers who stand to be affected by the change in immigration laws.1
In Alberta, a new advocacy group has been formed with the express purpose of advocating on behalf of the immigrant workers who may face deportation. The new Temporary Foreign Workers Support Coalition (TFWSC) consists of members from several other advocacy groups, including Migrante-Alberta, UNIFOR and Industrial Workers of The World, among others. In recent weeks, the TFWSC has sponsored rights-awareness workshops for temporary foreign workers to make them aware of the changes to immigration law, how it may affect their status within Canada, and what their rights are under Canadian law.
The TFWSC workshops are open to the general public, and also feature guest speakers—such as immigration lawyers—who are familiar with the subject of Canadian immigration.2
The coalition has also been soliciting the support of Canadian labor unions, in an effort to link the challenges faced by temporary foreign workers with those of unionized Canadian workers. In the past, there has been some reluctance from Canadian workers to support immigrant labor issues for fear that foreign workers could be taking away jobs from native-born Canadians.
Since the new laws affecting temporary foreign workers became effective on April 1st, the Canadian media have highlighted specific examples of how the changes affect individual foreign workers. Most of the stories have focused on how the stricter immigration rules have meant that some foreign workers either face deportation, or are not being allowed back in the country to continue their prior employment.
Among those profiled was Josephine Angott, a Filipino fish plant worker in the province of New Brunswick, who has been stopped from returning to work at the Canadian plant due to changes in the temporary foreign worker law. Angott had been employed at the packing plant since 2011, but the changes in the law mean she would be exceeding her four-year limit if she were allowed to return. Under the current rules, Angott will have to wait an additional four years prior to being allowed back into Canada to work.3
Mirroring the concern expressed by Western Canada’s food service industry, companies in Canada’s agricultural and seafood processing industries have also expressed concern about a possible worker shortage due to the change in immigration laws.
Earlier this year, Bill Stevens, head of Mushrooms Canada, said his $900 million industry relies heavily on foreign workers, and due to the stricter immigration laws, could be facing “major decreases in production” if the changes to the temporary foreign worker rules were not altered.4
A new report reveals that the number of new immigrants to Canada who went on to become citizens declined dramatically in the new millennium.
The new study by Canada’s former citizenship director-general Andrew Griffiths finds that the percentage of Canadian immigrants who became citizens declined from 79 percent to only 26 percent during the period of 2000-2008.
The study arrives at a time when immigration has become a ‘hot button’ topic within the Canadian political discussion, particularly in the wake of recent major reforms to Canada’s immigration laws; in addition, it is widely anticipated that the Conservative government will call a national election before year’s end, and that immigration will be one of the key issues during that election.
According to the study, one of the main reasons for the dramatic decline in the number of new Canadian citizens may be the increasing difficulty for immigrants to obtain their citizenship. The study, entitled Multiculturalism in Canada, is critical of the new immigration laws and states that changes to the laws have “made it harder and prohibitive for some to acquire (Canadian) citizenship, turning Canada into a country where an increasing percentage of immigrants are likely to remain non-citizens.”
Based upon government data, the study found that the rate of new immigrants who became Canadian citizens increasingly declined in the first eight years of the new millennium; in fact, in 2008, only 26 percent of permanent residents within Canada had acquired citizenship, compared to 44 percent just one year earlier and a whopping 79 percent who arrived in 2000.
According to Griffith, the citizenship numbers from 2008 are the most reliable indicators of the impact of the current Conservative government’s immigration policies; the Stephen Harper Conservative government was first elected to office in 2006.
Not surprisingly, the government rejected the view that their immigration policies have negatively impacted the number of immigrants who become citizens. A spokesperson for Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) pointed out that Canada still has “one of the highest naturalization rates in the world”, and that 86 percent of permanent residents go on to receive their Canadian citizenship.
The CIC spokesperson said one explanation for Griffith’s findings of a steep decline in citizenship for immigrants could be that he was not taking into account “permanent residents who are not yet citizens because they have not yet met all the requirements of obtaining citizenship.”
Griffiths, the author of the study, retired from his position with the government in 2013 and said he actually understands “the rationale” behind the changes made to the immigration law by the Conservative government. However, he said he worries that the recent changes to immigration rules “creates excessive barriers” for Canadian immigrants who wish to become citizens.
Griffiths added the decline in obtaining Canadian citizenship varied based on the nationality of new immigrants; for example, immigrants from the Caribbean experienced a 20 percent decrease in obtaining citizenship, compared to South Asia and Southern and Eastern Africa immigrants whose rate of citizenship dropped by 15 percent.
Among the recent changes made to obtaining Canadian citizenship were increases in processing fees for individuals from $100 to $530, with an additional $100 “Right To Citizenship” fee also required to complete the citizenship process.
A proposed new Canadian law would give the country’s immigration officials access to personal information of permanent residents and citizens that is garnered from other government agencies. The law, which would allow officials from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to share information from other government agencies, is intended to help CIC enforce Canada’s immigration laws.
The agencies that would be permitted to share personal information include border enforcement officials, Employment and Social Development Canada, Revenue Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and other provincial and federal agencies.
One of the key aspects of the plan would be to allow immigration authorities access to information from Revenue Canada—the nation’s federal tax agency. According to the government, this access would be granted in order to identify “possible false representation…and fraudulent information” that was presented by citizenship applicants to immigration officials.
The Canadian government believes that this new law is vitally important to its efforts to crackdown on immigration fraud, validate citizenship for those applying for government services and authenticate the identity of immigrants and others who take part in Canada’s immigration process.
Most observers believe that immigration will play a large role in Canada’s next federal election campaign, which is widely expected to take place before the end of the calendar year.
Last year, the Conservative government passed sweeping new immigration legislation, that tightened the laws for foreign workers seeking both work visas and/or permanent residency or Canadian citizenship. Critics of the law—and the government—say that, much like this new proposal, last year’s new regulations represent a fundamental shift away from Canada’s traditional view of immigration; critics charge that the government now approaches immigration almost solely as an economic, rather than a humane, issue. As a result, they say, it is much more difficult for many foreign applicants to meet the new requirements to obtain either work visas or permanent residency.
However, despite tightening the rules regarding the admission of immigrants under ‘refugee status’, recent statistics appear to indicate that Canada continues to admit a growing number of immigrants as refugees. Almost half of the 19,960 refugee claimants to Canada processed in 2014 were approved, a considerable jump from the 38 percent of refugee claims that were approved the previous year.
One reason for the increase in the acceptance of refugee claims could be that Canada’s Immigration & Refugee Board is actually running two parallel review systems, one dealing with backlog files under the earlier, more lenient rules, and the second under the more recent, restrictive law. Even government critics acknowledge that the new system—which was designed to be more restrictive in accepting refugees—has yet to actually make that type of impact on the number of refugees accepted.
Not surprisingly, the Canadian government is touting these results as an example of their new laws being both fair and firm. A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said the minister was “pleased with the results of the (refugee law) reforms, so far.”
A major shift in immigration patterns has been occurring in Canada in recent years, with a growing number of immigrants choosing to live in less populated areas of Western Canada.
A recently released study of immigration by Statistics Canada confirms that the booming energy sector in Western Canada has attracted a growing percentage of Canada’s new immigrants. The study was conducted prior to the recent steep decline in the oil industry, which has dramatically reduced profits and hiring within that energy sector.
Another surprising finding in the study is that Montreal—which had long seen a declining percentage of new Canadian immigrants—is undergoing a revitalization as an attractive destination for immigrants. The study found that in 2012—the most recent year studied—Montreal singularly attracted over 18 percent of the new immigrants to Canada.
Conversely, Toronto—which in 2000 had attracted almost half of all the new immigrants to Canada—saw its share of new immigrants drop to only 30 percent as of 2012.
Toronto, along with other major population centers in Ontario, has historically been the strongest magnet for new immigrants to Canada. However, during the Great Recession that commenced in 2008, Ontario—the manufacturing center of Canada—was the hardest hit province and sustained the most job losses. Statistics appear to confirm that, post-recession, immigrants are now looking elsewhere at other geographical options within Canada as their first choice for migration.
Even Ottawa, Canada’s capital city and historically a city that has been economically sheltered due to the preponderance of government jobs, has attracted less immigrants in recent years. According to the report, in 2012 only 2.4 percent of immigrants to Canada said Ottawa was their first choice—a full percentage drop from the year 2000.
As Ontario’s share of new immigrants to Canada declines, other Western Canadian cities have seen a rise in the number of new arrivals. The new report from Statistics Canada appears to indicate that major cities in Canada’s energy rich prairie provinces—Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta—have seen substantial gains in immigrant populations.
Until the recent steep decline in oil prices, Canada’s western provinces had been undergoing an energy-based economic boom, resulting in a shortage of both skilled and unskilled workers in the region. To help fill that void, many Canadian companies began recruiting foreign workers.
According to the Statistics Canada report, another factor determining where immigrants choose to live within Canada has been a shift in the ‘feeder’ countries—the nations from which recent Canadian immigrants arrived. As recently as 15 years ago, China and India were the two top source countries for Canadian immigrants—and immigrants from those countries tended to migrate to Toronto and Vancouver.
However, more recently the Philippines has surpassed China and India as Canada’s top source for new immigrants; the report also states that, unlike past immigrants to Canada, Filipino immigrants are settling in a wide array of cities across the country.
Immigration experts caution that the recent steep decline in oil prices—and the resulting economic downturn—may impact where new immigrants choose to locate within Canada over the next few years.