Program that speeds up visas for Mexicans traveling to Canada becomes permanent

Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced on May 12, 2014 that there will be policy changes coming that will make it easier for Mexican citizens to travel and visit Canada. The Minister was quoted in saying:

“Our government is opening the door to economic growth while protecting the integrity of Canada’s immigration system. By making the CAN+ program permanent, our government is making it easier and faster for Mexican travelers to come to Canada to do business, visit family or friends, or bolster Canada’s tourism industry. This will further strengthen relations with our valued NAFTA partner and will help foster economic growth in both our countries.”

Chris Alexander, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister

Under the CAN+ program, Mexican nationals who have travelled to Canada or the United States within the last 10 years will be eligible for expedited visa processing. By fast-tracking a large number of applications, CAN+ is freeing up visa officers to work on other more complex cases. The program intends to improve overall processing times for all Mexican travellers who will see their visas processed in 10 days or less.

The Minister of CIC highlighted how the government wishes to increase legitimate trade and travel to Canada from the region. The success of the Canada’s Multiple-Entry Visa (MEV) program is another example of ways the government is providing fast and convenient options for travellers wishing to visit Canada. In April 2014 alone, more than 95,000 MEVs, which allow visitors to come and go from Canada for six months at a time for up to 10 years, were issued to individuals coming to Canada on vacation or to spend time with family.

Canada seeks to strengthen ties with Mexico, its NAFTA partner:

More than 2 million Canadians visit Mexico each year. Whereas, historically, the number of Mexicans traveling to Canada has been significantly lower. However, that has been changing and Canada’s close tourism ties with Mexico continue to grow with more than 34,000 visitor visas, study and work permits issued to Mexican visitors, students and workers between January and April 2014; a 20 percent increase from the same period in 2013.

The CAN+ program will speed visa processing for an expected 50 percent or more Mexican travellers to Canada.

A six-month pilot of the CAN+ program delivered excellent results: visas were issued in seven days or less with an approval rate of over 95 percent.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada also offers three “Express” programs that help Mexican business people, tourist groups and students come to Canada faster:

1. Business Express expedites business travel from Mexico with visas issued within days with a near-perfect approval rate for those registered in the program.

2. Travel Express offers a fast, simplified visa application process for tourists who use travel agencies registered with the Canadian Embassy.

3. Mexican Student Pilot fast-tracks the processing of study permits with a near-perfect approval rate for those who study at participating Canadian educational institutions.

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Alberta Temporary Foreign Worker Pilot Extended

Pipe and steamfitters are one of the occupations eligible for the Alberta pilot program for temporary foreign workers

The provincial government of Alberta has announced that the Alberta Occupation-Specific Pilot for temporary foreign workers will be extended for another year, to July 31 2014.

The pilot started in June 2011 and allows qualifying foreign nationals to receive special one or two-year work permits that allow them to work for an employer without the employer being required to have a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from Services Canada.

This allows the temporary foreign worker to move freely between employers as long as they are working in the approved occupation.

The list of qualifying occupations for the pilot was expanded in July 2012 to include welders, heavy duty equipment mechanics, ironworkers, millwright and industrial mechanics, carpenters and estimators.

The skilled trades added were those deemed to be in high demand in Alberta’s economy, particularly in its bustling energy sector which has faced a shortage of skilled labour in recent years.

Men Outnumber Women 2-1 Among Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada

Many temporary foreign workers are employed by immigrant-run businesses like the above, and data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada shows that the majority are men (CICS News)

The gender makeup of Canada’s foreign worker population is like that of foreign workers around the world, with men outnumbering women by a large margin.

The data, collected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), shows that over 143,000 men entered the country in 2012 as temporary foreign workers (TFWs), over double the approximately 70,000 TFWs who were women.

Men, who are the primary breadwinner in most households around the world, are often driven to work abroad by pressure to provide for their families, when wages in their own country are inadequate.

A recent MacLean’s story on outgoing foreign remittance from individuals in Canada reports that the country has the highest foreign remittance rate in the world, at $667.57 per capita, suggesting that many of these TFWs are in fact sending the money they earn in Canada to family living in their country of origin.

Differences between genders in temporary foreign worker occupations

The CIC data also points to male and female TFWs tending to work in different types of occupations. While 75 percent of male TFWs worked in occupations that have well defined skill levels (e.g. managerial, professional, skilled and technical), only 40 percent of female TFWs did the same.

Six out of ten female TFWs were categorized as working in occupations where the skill level was not stated, which usually either means an individual is a family member of a foreign worker, or they are working in an unskilled occupation.

More women becoming permanent residents than men

Despite men outnumbering women in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), slightly more women become permanent residents in Canada than men every year.

TFWs with skilled work experience in Canada can qualify for permanent residence through economic class immigration programs like the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC), however the number of men who become permanent residents through economic class programs is only slightly higher than the number of women.

This could suggest that more women apply for permanent residency from outside the country than men, making up for the larger number of men whose path to permanent residency was through the TFWP.

What puts women over the top in the total permanent residency numbers is the family class immigration programs, which grant 37 percent more women permanent residency than men, mostly as a result of more foreign women being sponsored for immigration by their Canadian spouse than foreign men.

New ePassport Now Available to All Canadians

The new Canadian ePassport contains a digital signature that can be verified by the ICAO Public Key Directory (PKD). In addition to Canada, 29 other countries participate in the PKD, including Australia, China, the Czech Republic, the United States, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, and France (Government of Canada)

Canada’s new 10-year ePassport is now available to all Canadians, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced the new electronic passport on Tuesday in Calgary:

“The new, 10-year ePassport provides more convenience for Canadians, and facilitates safe, secure travel which, in turn, helps create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians. The Canadian passport is not only a privilege of citizenship, but a reflection of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”

The ePassport format is becoming the norm in international travel documents, as its embedded electronic chip makes fraud more difficult and stores the passport holder’s personal information as well as a digital signature authenticating the document as being issued by the Government of Canada.

The digital signature is unique to the personal information contained in the electronic chip, making it impossible to modify the digitally stored personal information without invalidating the signature.

Artistically, the new Canadian ePassport features images iconic to Canadian history and culture, including Robert Harris’s 1885 painting, The Fathers of Confederation, a depiction of the 1885 Last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and a picture of Pier 21 in Halifax, an important port for the entry of Canadian immigrants between 1928 and 1971, similar to the role Ellis Island played in late 19th century in the United States.

The new passport will cost $160, which year for year, is cheaper than the current 5 year, $120 passports.

Kenney also announced that the transition of responsibility over Canadian passports from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to CIC had become effective on Tuesday, which the federal government says will improve operational efficiency by grouping departmental duties according to their relation between each other.

In addition to announcing new information regarding the Canadian passport, Kenney took the opportunity to announce a new special measure by CIC for temporary and permanent residents affected by the flooding in Southern Alberta.

Fees for temporary and permanent resident applications filed by individuals living in regions affected by the flooding are being waived and the status of the applications will automatically be extended until September 19, 2013.

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

Illegal Immigration in Canada Expected to Surge in 2015

temporary foreign worker

Over 190,000 temporary foreign workers entered Canada last year. Many of those whose work permits are set to expire in April 2015 are expected to remain in Canada illegally (CICS News)

The number of people in Canada illegally is expected to increase substantially in April 2015, when a large contingent of foreign workers see their work permits expire.

Their work permits will expire on April 1st 2015 because of a rule enacted on April 1st, 2011, that created a four year limit on cumulative time a foreign national can spend in Canada as a temporary foreign worker.

The rule change was made to reduce the perceived over-dependence of Canadian employers on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to meet their permanent labour needs.

The number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has increased from approximately 100,000 in 2002, to over 300,000 today, which some have criticized as a subsidy for business at the expense of Canadian workers.

Setting limits on how long a temporary foreign worker can work in Canada was seen as a way to limit the use of the TFWP to its intended role: to temporarily meet labour shortages until a permanent solution could be found.

People familiar with visa and immigration controls expect a significant percentage of those whose permits will expire on April 1st 2015 to over-stay their visa and reside in Canada illegally, leaving Canada with a problem that Americans are more familiar with: a sizeable illegal immigrant population.

The immigrant magnets of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto are expected to host the majority of those illegal migrants, which will likely put pressure on their infrastructure, public transit and policing resources, which are already being strained by rapid population growth.

Costs vs Generosity

Canadians are a generally generous people, who don’t like deporting individuals whose only crime is to stay in a country that affords them a better quality of life, but that generosity has to contend with the reality that unskilled foreign workers represent an economic cost for Canada.

Each additional person living in Canada comes with additional set costs in government spending, that can only be compensated if the person pays taxes that are at the Canadian average – something low-wage unskilled workers do not.

Allowing any of the literally hundreds of millions of people who would choose to immigrate and work in Canada if they could, to do so, would, in real terms, result in skyrocketing government spending levels and lower wages / higher unemployment rates for less skilled Canadians who would have to compete with the entrants in the labour market.

This means that immigration controls, and their integrity, are important for the economic well-being of Canada. Nevertheless, an extensive policing campaign that deports thousands of illegal immigrants, many of them living as families in Canada, would spark public outrage and would also be logistically difficult.

How Canada deals with the surge in the illegal immigrant population in 2015 remains to be seen.

Visitors and Students to Canada From India Booming According to Immigration Department

The Canadian High Commission in Chandigarh. The visa office has seen rapid growth in the number of study permits and visitor visas issued to Indian nationals in the region (GOOGLE MAPS)

The number of visitor visas the Canadian government issues in India’s Punjab region has increased by 300 percent from 2005 levels according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

CIC says that approximately 17,608 visitor visas were issued in 2012 by its Chandigarh office, which serves the Punjab region.

The growth in the number of Indian visitors to Canada has corresponded with the rapid growth of India’s economy and the emergence of an increasingly sizeable Indian middle class with the disposable income to travel abroad.

The number of student visas issued has seen an even more dramatic increase. According to CIC, 5,200 student permits were issued by the Chandigarh office in 2012, a more than 3000 percent increase from the 173 issued by the office in 2004 when it first opened.

At Friday’s press conference, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney lauded his department’s achievements in reducing processing times for visitor visas for Indian visitors, from 12-days for 80 percent of cases in 2011, to 5-days in 2012 for the same portion of cases.

He also celebrated an 80 percent approval rate for applications it received through the office for its new Parent and Grandparent Super Visa, which CIC introduced in December 2011 as a replacement for the parent and grand-parent sponsorship stream of the Family Class permanent residence immigration program.

The Super Visa grants parents and grand-parents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents permission to stay in Canada for up to ten years without the need to apply for extensions to their visa.

Canadian Immigration Department Announces January 2 Launch of Canadian Experience Class

CIC will be launching the revised Canadian Experience Class program on January 2nd 2013. Under new rules, temporary foreign workers only require 12 months of skilled work experience to qualify for permanent residence rather than 24 (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced this month that the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), which is being revised with a shorter Canadian work experience requirement for eligibility, will be re-launched on January 2nd 2013.

CIC is planning on admitting up to 10,000 permanent residents through the CEC program, which first began in 2008 as part of the federal government’s efforts to shift immigration selection to favour those with Canadian work experience.

Under the original CEC rules, a temporary foreign worker with 24 months of skilled Canadian work experience would be eligible to acquire for permanent residence through the program’s temporary foreign worker stream. The new rules reduce the work experience requirement of the temporary foreign worker stream to 12 months.

Applicants under the post-graduate stream of the CEC program are also having their path to permanent residence eased, with an increase in the time-frame in which they can acquire 12 months of Canadian work experience following graduation, from 24 months to 36 months.

Nationals of 29 Countries to Require Biometrics to Enter Canada

A new biometric chip containing a cryptographically signed digital encoding of the applicant’s photo and fingerprints will be embedded in the Canadian visas and work permits of nationals of 29 designated countries (Government of Canada)

Starting in January 2013, the federal government will require individuals from selected countries wishing to visit or immigrate to Canada to have their biometric information registered and checked before entering the country.

The new rules will apply to nationals of 29 countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Yemen.

Subject nationals applying for a visitor visa, study permit or work permit will need to provide their fingerprints and photograph at the time of application. Foreign nationals who are Canadian permanent residents or citizens will be exempt from the new rules.

The biometric identification requirement is similar to United States Homeland Security’s biometric registration which applies to all visitors to the U.S. Other countries that use biometrics for border security or immigration control include the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.

Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on Friday extolled the advantages of the security measure: “Biometrics will strengthen and modernize Canada’s immigration system. Our doors are open to legitimate travellers and, through the use of biometrics, we will also be able to protect the safety and security of Canadians.”

The implementation of the new rules will correspond with the roll-out of the new Canadian ePassport, which will begin being issued on January 1st, 2013, and will include the biometric information of the passport holder.

Federal government officials say that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the federal agencies responsible for administering the new biometric program, will work with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to protect the personal personal information of applicants in accordance with Canada’s Privacy Act.

Canada to Keep Immigration Level at 250,000 in 2013

International students in Vancouver, Canada. CIC is seeking to increase the percentage of immigrants admitted under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), which allows temporary foreign workers and international students in Canada to apply for permanent residence if they have Canadian work experience (CICS News)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced today that it will keep immigration levels at 240,000-265,000 in 2013, for the seventh straight year. The maintenance of immigration numbers from previous years amidst a growing Canadian population means Canada will have a lower immigration rate as a percentage of its population, and rebuff calls by several prominent organizations to increase immigration levels to one percent of Canada’s population.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said earlier this year that Canada would hold off on increasing immigration levels until the country does a better job of bringing immigrant employment and income rates up to the Canadian average, and until public sentiment, which in some recent opinion polls weighs against increases in immigration levels, supports higher levels.

CIC said that it also intends to increase the number of new permanent residents admitted through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program from 6,000 in 2011 to 10,000 in 2013.

The Canadian Experience Class was created in 2008 to allow individuals residing in Canada on temporary resident visas to transition to permanent residence. Foreign temporary workers with at least two years of Canadian work experience, and foreign graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions with at least one year of Canadian work experience are eligible to immigrate under the program, which CIC says admits the kind of immigrants that would be more likely to integrate well into the Canadian labour market.