Changes Made to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program

HRSDC Minister Diane Finley speaking in the House of Commons last September. New rules and increased fees for work permit applications were announced by Finley and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on Monday (Government of Canada)

Amid controversy and criticism over a series of incidents involving temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in recent months, including a story that emerged last month of Canadian workers losing their jobs to foreign workers at the Royal Canadian Bank, the federal government has announced several immediate and upcoming changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

These changes are:

  • An employer is required to guarantee to pay a TFW prevailing wages for that foreign worker to be eligible for a work permit, effective immediately. The rule allowing companies to pay TFWs 15 percent less than prevailing wages for high-skilled positions, and 5 percent less for low skilled ones has been repealed.

  • The Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO) has been suspended, effective immediately.

  • The federal government is seeking the authority to suspend a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) if new information emerges showing that it negatively affects the Canadian economy and Canadian workers, and revoke work permits that were authorized by that LMO.

  • Fees employers pay for work permit and LMO applications will increase so that a portion of the cost of processing them will no longer have to be paid out of general taxes.

  • Job requirements for positions that use TFWs can only have English or French as required languages, unless an employer receives a special exemption after having shown Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) why the foreign language is necessary for the position.

The new rules attempt to close some of the major loopholes that critics have identified in the program that they say allow Canadian companies to use foreign workers instead of available Canadian workers.

The changes were jointly announced by HRSDC Minister Diane Finley and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on Monday.

Ontario to Increase Spending on Settlement Programs

The Ontario legislature, pictured above. Ontario’s provincial government has announced increased funding for immigrant-serving organizations in the province in an effort to help new immigrants find employment and adjust to life in Canada

The government of Ontario, Canada’s largest province, announced more funding for settlement services for immigrants on Friday.

The funds will be provided to the Newcomer Settlement Program, which supports 98 organizations that the provincial government says help 80,000 newcomers settle and find jobs in the province.

The Ontario government has been seeking to find ways to help immigrants improve their employment situation and income after findings showed Ontario has one of the largest income and unemployment gaps between new immigrants and the general population in Canada.

Increasing access to settlement services was one of the targets included in the province’s recently published immigration strategy.

Since 2003, the Ontario government has increased funding to settlement programs by nearly 80 percent. Nearly 40 percent of Canada’s immigrants settle in Ontario.

Saskatchewan Proposes Stricter Immigration Laws

Saskatchewan Immigration Minister Rob Norris proposed new legislation that would tighten SINP rules for family sponsorship

Saskatchewan’s Immigration Minister Rob Norris announced that the province will be tightening rules for the family sponsorship category of its Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program. Saskatchewan’s family nominee program is considered to be easier for immigrants than those of other provinces, but it has also had problems with abuse.

The new rules include a cap of one application for the family nominee program per household. Mr. Norris described the current situation as one where “we’ve even heard stories of up to 20 applications” per household.

The Saskatchewan government is also requesting that the federal government increase the number of immigrants the province can nominate every year through its Immigrant Nominee Program from 4,000 to 6,000. Government officials say the province needs immigrants to fill its jobs.

Norris’ proposed legislation also includes a requirement for recruiters and immigration consultants to be in good standing in Saskatchewan to represent SINP applicants.

Quebec Skilled Worker and the Damascus Office

For the safety of its clients and staff as well as for maintaining the proper treatment of its immigration cases in the current context in some parts of the Middle East, the Department of Immigration and Cultural Communities chose to close the Quebec Immigration Office in Damascus as of May 31, 2011. Immigration activities held there will now be conducted from the department offices in Montreal.

This news involves no changes to the business category clients, whose treatment has already been based in Montreal in recent years.

Selection interviews conducted by the Ministry with the candidates from Middle East will be held on neighboring territories easily accessible for clients. This practice, common to the Department, is already used in different territories.

The Department is looking forward to continue its activities from the Middle East with the same diligence as quickly as possible.

Federal Skilled Worker – Proposed changes

The proposed changes which are expected to occur in conjunction with the release of the new occupation list will most likely begin early July of 2011. The changes don’t alter the selection criteria established in 2002 – the proposals would affect the number of points assigned to the criteria and the way they are assessed. Please see below for details on this.

Proposed changes to Language

A 2005 Statistics Canada study found that employment rates of immigrants increased with their ability to speak an official language. It also found that language proficiency had the biggest impact on the immigrant’s ability to work in either a high-skilled profession or their intended field.

  • However, the current selection system only awards a maximum of 16 points for high proficiency in the first official language
  • Applicants can meet the pass mark with only basic, or even no proficiency, in an official language

Therefore, CIC is proposing to:

  • Increase maximum points for the first official language from 16 to 20 points
  • Introduce minimum language requirements based on occupation

Proposed changes to Age

Research has shown that age at immigration is a significant factor in immigrant outcomes. Immigrants who arrive between the age of 20 and 30 have been found to have the greatest economic impact on the receiving country. Younger immigrants have higher rates of employment and earnings than older immigrants. By contrast, immigrants aged 45 years and older experience unemployment rates almost double those aged 25-34 years.

  • Younger immigrants are more likely to acquire Canadian work and study experience, adapt more quickly to their new environments and make a greater contribution to the economy

Therefore, CIC is proposing to:

  • Award maximum points until age 35, with a sequential levelling off to 49 – no age points awarded after age 50
    • Encourages younger immigrants to apply early to get maximum points – older applicants can still qualify, but will need high points in other factors
  • Increase weight of age on the grid from 10 to 12 points

Proposed changes to Education

Education points are currently awarded based on the credential (such as a post-secondary diploma) and the number of associated years of education. The years of education requirements is intended to help ensure the quality of the credential. However, the years of education required reflect Canadian educational systems and do not take into account country-to-country variants in school system.

  • Skilled tradespersons and technicians who have a credential in their selected trade, but not the required years of education are disadvantaged and lose points

Therefore, CIC is proposing to:

  • Reduce the number of years of education required to claim points for a trade or non-university post-secondary credential

This change would improve access for skilled tradespersons, technicians and apprentices who have valid post-secondary qualifications, but not the required number of years of study

Proposed changes to Work Experience

The Federal Skilled Worker program places more weight on work experience than other countries. The overall value of work experience points in the selection grid represents too large a share. Currently, with as little as four years of foreign work experience, an applicant has already earned 21 of the points required to meet the pass mark of 67.

  • However, foreign work experience is a weak predictor of success in the Canadian labour market

Therefore, CIC is proposing to:

  • Decrease the points allotted to work experience from 21 to 15 points
    • Allows points to be redirected to language proficiency and age
  • Increase the range within which points are allotted
    • Ensures that applicants have more experience in order to earn maximum points

Proposed changes to the Arranged Employment Offer

Arranged employment has several advantages for immigration purposes. It allows applicants to earn an immediate 15 points on the grid, and waives the requirement to have a certain amount of money set aside to prove that they are able to be self-sufficient in Canada.

  • However, these advantages have made this part of the program susceptible to exploitation by people attempting to immigrate with a fraudulent job offer

Therefore, CIC is proposing to:

  • Strengthen regulatory provisions and definitions to support a more rigorous up-front assessment of the employer and job offer
  • Enhance the authority for visa officers to assess the validity of the job offer and the applicant’s ability and likelihood to perform that employment

Overview: Federal Skilled Worker Points Grid

Selection based on objective factors: Current System Maximum points: Proposed System Maximum points:
Education1 25 25
Language 24 28
Work Experience 21 15
Age2 10 12
Arranged Employment 10 10
Adaptability 10 10
Total: 100 100

The political unrest in Syria, the Damascus Visa Office and what it means to you

As most of you know, the situation in Syria has gotten worse. This has resulted in the Canadian visa officers moving to other offices in nearby countries like Greece, Turkey, Poland, France and others. This means that many of the applications have also been forwarded to other visa offices. There are still people working in the Damascus visa offices, but they are assistants and junior members. The Quebec province immigration office has totally shut down and is now working in other visa offices in nearby regions as well.

So what does mean to you if you have an application there?

This will most likely increase the processing times for applications. We are also noticing an increase in errors committed by Immigration Canada. We continue to try to keep ourselves up to date and make sure that we protect our clients the best we can by seeking updates and making sure that the visa office follows the proper procedures.

If you have any questions or concerns about this topic, please either email us or leave your question in the comment section of this post.