Some Canadian Refugees Pay More Taxes Than Wealthy Investor Immigrants

immigrate to ontarioRefugees living in Canada who have arrived in the country over the last three decades have paid more in Canadian taxes than millionaire immigrant investors admitted under an immigration program that was cancelled last year.

Additionally, under the now defunct Immigrant Investor Program, few rich immigrant investors actually resided in Canada; those wealthy immigrants who did stay in Canada—the majority of whom were from Mainland China—declared very low incomes during their stay in the country. According to a report in the South China Morning Post, based on data provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the average Canadian income declared by wealthy immigrant investors during the life of that program ranged between $18,000-$25,000.

In addition, only about 39 percent of the wealthy immigrant investors admitted to Canada under the old program actually declared any income at all. The primary purpose of the now-disgraced program—which even the Conservative government said was a failure—was to generate both income and employment within Canada. As these statistics prove, in actuality it did neither.

In stark contrast to that, statistics also reveal that 66 percent of refugees admitted to Canada during that same period —who often arrived with little or no wealth—were paying income tax in less than 10 years after their arrival. And while refugees’ annual income started out at only $17,500 per year, their earnings eventually reached $30,000 per year—close to the national Canadian average income.

There had been considerable criticism of the immigrant investor program over the course of the entire initiative. It was first introduced back in 1980, and continued to operate straight through 2014, until its cancellation last year by the Conservative government.

During its operation, the program was responsible for admitting more than 180,000 wealthy immigrant investors into Canada, the vast majority of who arrived from either Hong Kong or Mainland China. In its early years, the program required an investment in Canada of at least $400,000—that figure was later raised to $800,000.

However, critics pointed out that the program did little to ensure that wealthy immigrants made any long-term connection or commitment to Canada. And statistics indicating that the majority of those admitted under the program did not even establish a permanent residency appear to prove that criticism as valid.

Last year, the Conservative government also announced the introduction of the new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital pilot program, as a means of replacing the previously canceled program. Under the new initiative, wealthy immigrants to Canada will be required to have a minimum net worth of at least $10 million and must be prepared to invest a minimum of $2 million, with no guarantee of any return on that investment.

The Canadian government began accepting applications for the new program back in January, but it has not as yet announced how many total applications it has received. Some immigration observers believe that the more stringent financial requirements will discourage wealthy investors from immigrating—and investing—in Canada.

Critics Call For Changes To New Canadian Immigration Law

Canadian Citizenship

Only a few weeks after its initial implementation, a growing number of critics are calling for changes to the new Canadian immigration law known as Express Entry.

In the first round of the Express Entry system, a total of 779 candidates were selected at the end of January to participate in the program; that number represented about 26 percent of the 3,000 applications the government accepted for the initial Express Entry draw.

Under the Express Entry program, candidates are assigned points based upon their age, education, professional qualifications and successful completion of a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). A full half of the required 1,200 points in Express Entry are assigned based on attaining an LMIA. Under the LMIA system, employers are required to show that foreign applicants for Canadian work visas can prove that they possess skills in demand, and are filling a position that no Canadian is available to fill.

Although the January selection of candidates marked the first draw from the ‘pool’ of Express Entry applicants, the percentage of those accepted was seen by many as being rather low, and could be indicative of problems with the LMIA program. Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas explained that LMIAs are “incredibly difficult to get…laborious and time insensitive and complicated” for Canadian employers to obtain.

The Express Entry program requires employers to successfully complete a two-step application process in which foreign applicants’ names are entered into a “pool”, and then ranked against other candidates under consideration for permanent residency based on the number of points assigned to them.

Over 10,000 foreign workers applied for the first round of Express Entry, with only 3,000 candidates being selected for the initial pool of names.

While critics of the Express Entry program expressed concern about its initial implementation, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said he was pleased with the program’s first round of applications. Alexander cited the fact that all Express Entry candidates had “valid job offers” and were “highly skilled”, and he believed that meant that they were more likely to successfully integrate into Canadian society.

Among the criticisms of the Express Entry system is also its alleged lack of transparency. Mario Bellissimo, past president of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration section, said the fact that the number of Express Entry applicants is not fixed but is instead a “moving target” means the program lacks transparency, and will likely call into question “the integrity of the (whole) system.”

A second Express Entry draw of applicants’ names was conducted in early February, and an additional 779 candidates were selected at that time. Under the rules of Express Entry, successful candidates must respond within 60 days of notice; those candidates not selected will remain in the pool for an additional six months, and will be entered into future draws.

The federal government is expected to conduct between 15 and 25 Express Entry draws during the current calendar year.

Canadian Government Considers Express Entry For Live-In Caregivers

In a move to address long-standing immigration concerns of Canada’s growing number of live-in caregivers, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander may allow foreign caregivers to apply for permanent residency under the government’s new Express Entry visa program.

Canada’s live-in caregivers were excluded when the government introduced its new Express Entry program earlier this year, but at the time it was made clear that reforms to the foreign caregiver program were forthcoming in the fall.

Canada visaManuela Gruber Hersch, president of the Association of Caregiver & Nanny Agencies Canada, a national organization representing live-in caregivers, has been a vocal critic of the existing caregiver program; one of Hersch’s biggest complaints was a recently-introduced $1,000 fee imposed by the government on employers looking to hire foreign caregivers, as well as Canadian families seeking foreign nannies or caregivers.

With the aging of the Canadian population, the demand for caregivers—especially foreign-born caregivers—has rapidly grown in recent years. However, both the caregivers’ association and many Canadian employers and families have complained that the immigration rules governing caregivers has not kept pace and continues to overburden those looking to hire foreign caregivers.

Under current law, foreign caregivers come to Canada as “temporary foreign workers”; after two years of work in Canada, they may apply for permanent residency however the current wait time for 80 percent of permanent resident applications is about 39 months.

According to Gruber Hersch, the immigration minister and his government are considering easing some restrictions to better facilitate the hiring of foreign caregivers. Those potential changes may include:

  • Easing the requirement that caregivers live with the Canadian families that hire them, thereby allowing that choice to be optional
  • Extending the time allowed for caregivers to study in Canada; under current rules, foreign caregivers are allowed to study for up to six months without obtaining a study permit

Under the government’s Express Entry program, which officially begins in the new year, applicants will be ranked based upon their professional skills, education and work experience; the government will then select only the most qualified candidates for permanent residency. Some caregiver groups have expressed concern that the tougher standards of the Express Entry program may make it more difficult for foreign caregivers to obtain Canadian permanent residency.

For his part, Immigration Minister Alexander has stated his government’s support for foreign caregivers, but hasn’t specified changes to immigration law that may affect the group. Alexander told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that in 2014 “more live-in caregivers and nannies will see their permanent residency approved”, with approval expected for more than 17,500 applications.

However, Alexander cautioned that the approval of permanent residency applications should reflect the diversity of market demand for caregivers. “Canada needs (foreign) caregivers, but we need them in a broader ranger of occupations than ever before,” Alexander said.

First Legal Challenge Launched Against Canada’s New Foreign Worker Law

bigstock-Canada-1803083After weeks of vocal complaints from both businesses and the leaders of Canada’s Western provinces about recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, the first lawsuit has been filed against the federal government’s tightening of the TFW rules.

A husband and wife partnership, who own two restaurants in Labrador, Newfoundland, have filed a lawsuit against the government’s new TFW restrictions.  Jeff and Miriam Staples allege that the federal government’s recent restrictions on their ability to select who they hire—as well as the publishing of their company name as a TFW employer—are unconstitutional.

Under the recent changes to the TFW program, the federal government is restricting the number of foreign workers that it will allow to be hired in areas with low unemployment, and is also now publishing the names of companies that have hired foreign workers.

In 2013, the Labrador couple submitted the required Labor Market Opinions (LMO) in order to hire 20 foreign workers for their restaurants. However, three of those applications–that had been previously approved last fall–were rejected by federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s office; the Staples were informed of the rejection of those TFW applications, but were not told about the publishing of their names.

In their legal briefs filed as part of the lawsuit, the restaurant owners stated that “Canadian employers need certainty…and that their LMOs may be suspended on what may be an ever-changing version of public policy is unfair. The presumption in law is that the new legislation does not apply retroactively.”

In the wake of revelations of foreign worker abuse by some McDonald’s franchise owners earlier this year, the Staples’ offices were searched by federal officials. Jeff Staples was handcuffed, and detained for several hours in a police station but no charges were filed against him.

The Staples allege that, with the changes to the TFW rules, the Canadian government violated the couple’s right to “due process”, and the government’s own rules regarding rejection of TFW applications.

The lawsuit is likely only the first of several legal challenges expected to the new TFW rules, given their impact on employers’ ability to fill positions with foreign workers.

More than 25,000 Canadian employers currently hire foreign workers, usually in multiples. In fact, in more than 1,100 Canadian workplaces, foreign workers make up more than half of the total employees.

Canada Launches Can+ Expedited Visa Processing For Indian Visitors

Business Visitor to CanadaDuring a visit to India, Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander officially launched the new “Can+” visa program, which is designed to provide expedited visa processing to Indian nationals who frequently visit Canada.

The Can+ visa will be available to Indian nationals who have traveled to either Canada or the United States during the last 10 years. The Canadian government is hoping the new visa will add to the already close business and economic ties between India and Canada. India is already among the top ten source countries for international visitors to Canada, with more than 130,000 Canadian visitor visas issued to Indian nationals in 2013.

The Canadian government is hoping that a recent Can+ pilot program that was launched in India will be indicative of the future success of the overall program. In the pilot program, visas were successfully issued within five days of application, with a visa approval rate of 95 percent. One key reason for this expedited visa approval is that the Can+ program requires less documentation during the application process.

The Can+ visa arrives at a time when there are growing ties between India and Canada; so much so that between January and June this year, almost 95 percent of all visas issued to Indians were multiple-entry visas, allowing Indian visitors to visit Canada as many times as they wish over the course of a 10 year period.

In addition to the new Can+ visa, there are three “express” visa programs designed to assist Indian businesspeople, students and tourists seeking to visit Canada. These visas include:

  • Business Express—expediting business travel from India, with visas usually issued within three days of application
  • The Tourist Partner Program—an expedited, simplified program for Indian visitors using travel agents registered with the Canadian embassy
  • Student Partners Program—a method for fast tracking visas (within 13 days) for Indian students seeking to study at Canadian universities.

In addition to promoting the Can+ program during his visit to India, Immigration Minister Alexander also took the opportunity to promote the Canadian government’s new “Express Entry” program to Indian business and government leaders.

Alexander told the Indian audiences that the new Express Entry immigration program will expedite the immigration process for “talented newcomers” to Canada, to the benefit of the Canadian economy.

Slated to commence in 2015, the new Express Entry program will allow the Canadian government to select the immigrants that it deems to be best suited for available openings, rather than simply those who were the first in the application line.

Canada Ponders Major Overhaul To Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Will Canada’s foreign workers soon have a higher minimum wage than some native-born Canadians?

That’s just one of several proposals under consideration as Canada’s Conservative government reacts to the enormous public and political fallout from the country’s Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program.

Over the last several weeks, the TFW program has rocketed to the top of national debate both in Canada’s parliament, as well as in public forums. Spurring the controversy has been a rash of high profile stories of alleged employer abuse of foreign workers, which resulted in the government freezing the hiring of foreign workers within the food service sector.

With an eye on the federal election expected in 2015, the Conservative government is now considering several proposals that would result in a major revamping of the TFW program. During a recent closed-door meeting with Canadian employer groups, Employment Minister Jason Kenney put forth a number of major reforms of the TFW, including:

  • Imposing a minimum wage for TFW employees that would be higher than the one for Canadian workers; the industry most affected would likely be the food service sector, the same industry recently accused of abuse of foreign workers
  • Restructuring the TFW program to make it easier for Canadian employers to hire foreign workers in regions with lower unemployment, while making it more difficult to hire foreign workers in areas with higher unemployment
  • Perhaps the most dramatic change to the TFW program under consideration is an enormous increase in the employer user fee, from the current $275 to a potential high of $2325, the amount charged by the United States for a similar program

According to media reports, after meeting with the employer groups to discuss the possible TFW changes, both Employment Minister Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander subsequently met with four of Canada’s largest labor organizations.

It’s expected that the federal government could run into several challenges should it decide to implement the proposed TFW program changes. For example, the proposal to establish a federal minimum wage for foreign workers would run counter to the established principal of allowing provinces to set their own minimum wages.

In addition, the Canadian restaurant sector is expressing deep concern about placing further restrictions on the TFW program, given the significant role that foreign workers play in that industry.

“The idea that wages could be elevated to the degree that the minister seemed to be indicating is just not going to be workable for our industry,” explained Joyce Reynolds, executive vice-president of Restaurants Canada. “It would (also) impact a lot of industries other than ours as well.”


Canadian Migrant Workers Oppose Conservative, Liberal Policy

Canada’s largest migrant worker coalition is lashing out against the Conservative government’s handling of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, as well as recent Liberal Party proposals to fix the program.

The Migrant Workers Alliance For Change (MWAC) has called for “immediate changes” to the recently instituted moratorium on hiring TFW employees within the food service sector.

Rather than freezing the hiring of TFW workers, the MWAC is calling for the Canadian government to provide a permanent immigration pathway for ‘low-skilled industries’ and make it easier for migrant workers to gain permanent status within Canada; a spokesperson the MWAC added that “the media is full of stories of migrant worker exploitation, but this moratorium won’t end the abuse, it will just make workers more precarious.”

Representatives from the MWAC also voiced concern that the Canadian government’s moratorium on TFW workers in the food service sector could have the opposite of the desired effect, actually hurting the very workers it was designed to help.

“Recent reports expose how provincial and federal laws exclude migrants from basic workplace protections,” explained MWAC spokesperson Syed Hussan. “The solution is to change those two-tiered laws that create conditions of lowered wages and working conditions, and that pit migrant workers against unemployed or under-employed citizens.”

However, the MWAC took an equally critical view of the changes proposed to the TFW program by the opposition Liberal Party.

Rather than scaling back and tightening the requirements under the TFW program—as recently proposed by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau–the MWAC calls on both the government and opposition parties to include migrant workers under all labor protection laws.

The real solution to abuse of the TFW program, according to the MWAC, is to “remove those exclusions from labor protections for all workers” thus making migrant workers ‘allies’—rather than competitors—with Canadian workers.

The other key element to solving the problem of foreign worker abuse, according to the MWAC, is to recognize that foreign workers are an integral part of the Canadian workforce.

“To treat them (foreign workers) as a separate entity, as the Liberals do, makes no economic sense, and continues the divisiveness drummed up over the last month,” says the MWAC’s Hussan. “Migrants are our friends and family, not just a market-input brought in when needed.”

Tim Hortons Criticized Over Treatment of Foreign Workers

canada foreign worker

Tim Hortons Donuts is the latest high-profile Canadian retailer to face criticism of its alleged treatment of foreign workers.

In the wake of the recent media reports involving the alleged foreign worker abuse by a McDonald’s franchisee in British Columbia (BC), that province’s Employment Standards Branch launched an investigation after a former employee from the Philippines went public with accusations that the BC-based Tim Horton’s franchisee paid him overtime by check, but then required him to repay the money in cash.

A spokesperson for the donut chain told the Vancouver Sun that the company has since terminated its relationship with the franchisee for “failing to comply with the Employment Standards requirements.”  As a result, Tim Horton’s has taken over corporate responsibility for the franchises involved in the allegations.

The former employee from the Philippines told the media he was not alone in having to repay overtime funds to the franchisee, and that the practice had been going on “for years”; he added that if any employee complained, they were told they would lose their immigration status and be sent back to their country of origin.

An additional twist to the story is the involvement of the United Steelworkers Union in Western Canada, who has filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal against both the franchisee and the Tim Horton’s corporation. The union claims it made the filing after it was approached by some of the foreign workers involved in the alleged abuse.

A spokesperson for the union explained that the union believes there are many other, similar examples of foreign worker abuse by Canadian employers; he cited the fact that the Tim Horton’s abuse charges come in the wake of reports of similar alleged foreign worker abuse by a BC-based franchisee of fast food giant McDonald’s.

For its part, McDonald’s has put on hold its hiring of temporary foreign workers in Canada, and is conducting a third-party audit of the hiring and treatment of foreign workers by all of its Canadian retail outlets.

Canadian government gives go ahead to hiring foreign hockey coaches

Canada Hockey Visa

Is it possible that there’s a shortage of qualified Canadians available to coach Canada’s national sport?

That’s the question that has emerged in the wake of a recent revelation that Canada’s government had approved six Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) visas for the position of coaching hockey.

Given that temporary foreign workers are only supposed to be hired if no qualified Canadian can be found—and that hockey is a beloved national sport played by millions of Canadians—the story is seen by some as an illustration that TFW visa approval may be too lenient for Canadian employers; the report also comes in the wake of recent high profile media stories about alleged employer abuse of the TFW program at McDonald’s in British Columbia (BC).

The media report revealed that since 2010, the Canadian government has approved six Labour Market Opinion (LMO) applications to bring in foreign workers to serve as hockey coaches. In order for LMO approval to be granted, the government effectively was conceding that no qualified Canadian hockey coaches could be found.

The hockey coach story is just the latest in a series of high profile examples of alleged abuse of the TFW program, leading to a pledge by Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney to crack down on employers abusing the program.

In response to media queries about the alleged lack of qualified Canadians for hockey coaching, a government spokesperson said that even the National Hockey League (NHL) would be included among those organizations considered for LMO approval.

The spokesperson for Minister Kenney’s office confirmed that there are cases of NHL teams requiring “coaches and training staff with very specialized skills and experience”, although she was quick to add that these cases are “extremely rare.”

Although Canadian immigration law usually exempts professional athletes from requiring work visas, coaches usually are required to receive work visa approval unless they are from countries that have reciprocal programs that allow for hiring Canadians in return.

Still, the revelation that coaching jobs in Canada’s national sport required foreign workers due to the lack of aptly skilled Canadians, is expected to add to the growing national debate over the continued use—and oversight—of the TFW program.

A Record Number of Canadian Visas Issued To Filipinos In 2013

Canada Visa

Despite the geographic distance between the two countries, Canadian ties to the Philippines remain strong, with more than 47,000 Canadian visitor visas issued to Filipinos last year.

Further strengthening the ties between the two nations is the fact that nearly 30,000 Philippine citizens gained Canadian permanent residency in 2013.

Filipino interest in both visiting, and immigrating, to Canada is thriving, as last year the Philippines ranked third among the top sources of countries for immigration to Canada. In addition, the record-setting 47,000 visitor visas issued to Filipinos last year represent a dramatic 57 percent increase since 2006.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), changes and improvements to the country’s immigration system are making it simpler for Filipinos to both visit, and immigrate, to Canada. CIC believes that the Multiple Entry Visa (MEV)—allowing visitors to enter and reenter Canada for six months at a time for 10 years—is also making it more convenient for visitors from Philippines and other nations to come to Canada.

Since its introduction in 2011, the MEV has grown to become one of the more popular Canadian visitor visas, with more than 1 million MEV visas issued to visitors from around the globe.

The strong number of Filipino visitors and migrants to Canada in 2013 is also in keeping with the long history of close ties between the two nations. In fact, more than 650,000 Canadian residents can trace their family history to the Philippines—not an insignificant number in a country with only 35 million people.

No surprise, then, that a growing number of Filipinos choose to visit their friends and family in Canada every year, with no signs of a slowdown; the number of Canadian visitor visas issued to Filipinos continues to grow steadily, expanding by over six percent just since 2012.