Immigration is vitally important to every nation looking to improve its competitive standing in today’s global economy. The challenge is making sure the right programs are in place to attract the brightest and the best.
Yet in Canada, the overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in 2014, coupled with the significant restrictions of the new Express Entry system are creating havoc and uncertainty for thousands of highly skilled workers and executives employed by some of Canada’s top employers seeking permanent residency.
While the federal government is promoting Canada to the world, aggressively negotiating free trade agreements, which include contemporary rules to facilitate greater mobility of workers, at the same time its invoking immigration reforms that make it ever more difficult for highly skilled workers admitted under these programs to remain in Canada
The Express Entry system is intended to provide expedited permanent residency to highly skilled workers. While we applaud the general direction, there are significant concerns emerging as program details become clearer.
To qualify under the new scheme applicants are awarded up to 1,200 points. No candidates with less than 800 points have been selected in the initial selection draws. Of the total points available, 600 points are awarded for a qualifying job offer.
One key concern is that before an employer can provide an applicant with a qualifying job offer, a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) must be secured, which requires the employer to post the position (for which they have already hired a foreign national under one of Canada’s free trade agreements) on the government’s job board and prove no Canadians are available to perform the work.
In many cases these individuals have held the positions for several years, and so there are no negative consequences to the domestic labour market. The same goes for foreign graduate students looking to make a permanent life in Canada. These are the very people that create employment opportunities for Canadians.
In today’s competitive business climate it is highly unlikely that companies want to re-post jobs and send any signals to investors or competitors that there may be upheaval in their leadership ranks.
We are fearful these new requirements may lead some multinational companies to re-evaluate the viability of Canadian operations leading to potential job losses as key positions are moved outside of Canada.
The new system is also doing a disservice to the thousands of international students that graduate from Canadian universities and would like to make Canada home. In the absence of a provincial nomination or qualifying job offer there is no bridge to permanent residency for these individuals. In the case of one of our member firms in the IT industry the new rules mean that over 100 international graduate and post graduate students who were LMIA exempt, will now have to leave Canada as their work permits expire.
What needs to be done?
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program must be revised to provide a separate stream that is not wrapped in red tape to expeditiously evaluate and process employer applications for high skill foreign workers.
High skilled workers with valid work permits who have been working in Canada for over a year, should be deemed to have a qualifying job offer for Express Entry, without the employer having to re-post the job.
International students with Canadian degrees in science, engineering, management studies etc. should be given a clear and rapid path to permanent residency. Work permits for students on post-graduate work should be extended to allow them to qualify under Express entry.
For decades Canada has been fearful of the Brain Drain Syndrome – home grown talent moving abroad in search of better opportunity. Today, we now have companies successfully attracting or moving high skilled talent to this country. We should be grateful when those individuals choose to make a permanent contribution to our economic success and therefore seriously question the merits of any new application processing system that puts up roadblocks and impedes our global competitiveness.