Canada to Encourage Irish Immigration at Jobs Expo Dublin and Jobs Expo Cork

A street in Dublin, Ireland. Thousands of Irish job seekers are expected at the job expos being held in Dublin and Cork on September 6, 7 and 10 (Jean Housen)

At least seven Canadian companies will have a presence at this year’s Jobs Expo Dublin and Jobs Expo Cork, where they will promote the country as an ideal destination for Ireland’s skilled workers to find work and to settle.

The job expo, which is scheduled for Friday September 6th and Saturday 7th in Dublin, and Tuesday September 10th in Cork, will attract thousands from across Ireland seeking to assess the employment opportunities being offered. Dozens of companies from around the world will be manning booths at the event.

With Ireland now back in recession, immigration to Canada is becoming an increasingly attractive option for the country’s workers, whose skills, including English fluency and many with skilled trades qualifications, are well matched for Canada’s economy.

Among Canadian firms present at the expo will be CICS Immigration Consulting, which will be holding seminars on immigration to Canada in Dublin on Friday September 6th from 3pm – 3.45pm and in Cork on Tuesday September 10th from 5pm – 5.45pm.

Canadian immigration consultant and CICS principal Alex Khadempour will detail the main routes through which Irish workers can obtain work permits and permanent residency in Canada and provide a layout of the Canadian labour market and what immigrants might expect to encounter when they arrive in the country.

The job expo will run from 11am to 4pm in the Croke Park Conference Centre in Dublin and from 12pm to 6pm in the Silver Springs Moran Hotel in Cork.

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.

Canadian Immigration Application Fees to Increase

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced the federal government’s proposed budget on Thursday, which calls for increased fees on citizenship and temporary resident visa applications and increased spending on application processing (Maria Azzurra Mugnai)

Immigration processing fees are going to increase, according to a proposed federal budget released on Thursday.

The cause of the coming fee hikes, according to Alexis Pavlich, a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, is Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) processing costs for citizenship applications that have increased over the last two decades, without any increases in fees over that time.

Fees currently paid by individuals applying for citizenship only cover 20 percent of the processing cost, and the rest is paid out of taxes levied on the general population. CIC plans on doubling the processing fee for citizenship applications to $400, to reduce the portion paid out of general revenues to 60 percent.

As of September 2012, there were 319,517 citizenship applications awaiting processing, and only enough funding for CIC to process 160,000 of them. The proposed budget allocates $44 million in additional funding over two years to speed up the processing of the remaining citizenship applications, and gives CIC the authority to increase fees to pay for the spending.

Fees for temporary resident permits are also likely to increase. Canada has seen the number of visitor visas issued per year increase to over one million in 2012, and the federal government plans to spend $42 million over two years to process them more quickly. To fund the extra spending, the government is planning to allow CIC to raise application fees for visitor visa applications.

Fees for temporary resident visas haven’t increased for 15 years, according to Pavlich.

Another area where federal officials hope to collect more money is in work permit applications. Currently, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) handles the labour market assessments required for work permit applications at no cost to the employer who is seeking to hire the foreign national.

The federal government plans to begin charging companies a fee for the labour market assessments.

Changes to Arranged Employment Stream of Federal Skilled Worker Program

The Services Canada centre in Ottawa Centre. Applicants under the arranged employment stream of the Federal Skilled Worker Program need to include a positive Labour Market Opinion from Services Canada (HRSDC) with their application beginning May 4, 2013 (GOOGLE MAPS)

Changes will be coming to application requirements under the arranged employment stream of the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) on May 4, 2013, according to an announcement by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) this week.

Individuals with arranged employment in Canada and those enrolled in or who have graduated from a PhD program at a Canadian educational institution are the only groups of people who are currently eligible for the FSWP, as the program is suspended in preparation for the launch of new selection rules for the general application stream on May 4th.

In order for applicants outside of Canada to qualify for the FSW arranged employment stream, they are required to submit an Arranged Employment Opinion (AEO) issued by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) for a skilled job (NOC skill level A or B), along with their application.

Applicants that are in Canada with a work permit at the time of their application are not required to submit an AEO.

According to this week’s notice, starting May 4th, CIC will require applicants outside of Canada to submit a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) instead of an AOE along with their application.

A LMO is typically issued by HRSDC to employers seeking a work permit for a foreign national they are interested in employing in Canada, and shows that the employment of the foreign national in Canada would likely not negatively affect Canadian jobs in the opinion of HRSDC.

Changing to requiring LMOs is expected to simplify government processes and save on procedural costs.

Canadian Unions Seeking Roll Back of Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Two major Canadian unions have asked a federal court for an injunction to prevent the federal government from granting work permits for the Murray River project until their case has been heard (Markus Schweiss)

Two trade unions have filed an application in federal court to force the federal government to reverse its decision to grant some 200 work permits to temporary foreign workers from China that a Canadian company wants to hire to run a new mine in British Columbia.

The International Union of Operating Engineers and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union, which together represent the majority of workers employed in Canadian mines, are asking for a judicial review to over-turn the Canadian government’s grant of Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) to HD Mining International, the operator of the Murray River project near Tumbler Ridge, BC, near the Alberta border.

The unions argue that the decision harms Canadian wage-earners and does not meet HRSDC’s own standards for receiving approval to hire temporary foreign workers.

Under Canadian immigration law, a company wishing to hire a temporary foreign worker is required to apply to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) for a LMO, which HRSDC approves if it meets five main conditions:

  • the wages and working conditions offered are consistent with prevailing norms for the occupation in Canada;
  • the foreign worker would fill a pressing labour shortage;
  • there is no labour dispute between a union and the employer in progress;
  • the employer made a significant effort to recruit or train Canadians or permanent residents for the position that the temporary foreign worker will fill;
  • the foreign worker will result in a net benefit to the Canadian economy and workers

According to an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun on Wednesday by Brian Cochrane, a business manager for Local 115 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, the unions have succeeded in forcing the federal government to disclose internal documents relating to HD Mining’s application for the LMOs:

We have been successful in court so far. We have been granted standing by the court to challenge the federal government on these LMOs, and we have succeeded in forcing them to release more than 85 pages of secret documents, despite their strong objections. We are now continuing to seek a full judicial review of the temporary foreign workers program.

HD Mining’s transition plan

Included among the documents disclosed is a transition plan that HD Mining International submitted to HRSDC in its LMO application, which outlines how it said it will replace its temporary foreign workforce with Canadians over a period of 14 years.

The transition plan calls for the first Canadian workers to begin working at the mine in four years, and for 10 percent of the foreign workforce to be replaced by Canadians every year for the next 10 years afterwards, as they are trained.

To demonstrate its intention of following through with its plan and eventually hiring Canadians, HD Mining recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Northern Lights College to develop an underground mining education program that will train Canadians for positions in the mine.

The transition plan is touted by the mining company as evidence that the use of foreign workers will be temporary, while the unions and other critics of the foreign worker decision say that the 14 year length of the transition period shows the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is being mis-used for long term labour needs.

Wider questions about Temporary Foreign Worker Program

The unions’ court challenge of the HRSDC’s LMO decision on HD Mining and the subsequent media attention it received spurred the federal government to announce a review of the entire Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to determine if it was too lenient in granting work permits.

The review comes amid a steadily increasing temporary foreign worker population, from approximately 100,000 in 2002 to over 300,000 today, which has drawn criticism from a diverse coalition that includes labour union advocates and free-market economists.

In one example, SFU economist and senior fellow at the free-market-leaning Fraser Institute Herbert Grubel last month called the TFWP a subsidy for business that comes at the expense of lower Canadian wages, a statement that is virtually indistinguishable from many that are coming from much more left-leaning labour unions.

Much of public opinion is also cool to the foreign worker program, with a CBC/Nanos survey this month showing that 68 percent of respondents said they were against allowing temporary foreign workers into the country if there were Canadians looking for work who are qualified for the same jobs.

Despite the opposition, there is no sign that the demand for temporary foreign workers from Canadian businesses will slow down soon, as companies in the resources sectors find it difficult to meet their labour needs in often inhospitable locations, and various occupations that are undesirable to Canada’s workers for the wages offered face labour shortages.

Alberta Temporary Worker Program to Expand List of Eligible Occupations

The temporary foreign worker pilot is intended to alleviate the acute labour shortages that natural resource industry hubs like the city of Fort McMurray face (Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the provincial government of Alberta jointly announced this week that the Alberta temporary worker pilot program will be expanded to include more occupations.

The pilot project began in June 2011 and issues special work permits to foreign nationals who meet the program’s requirements, including being qualified in an eligible occupation, which allows them to work temporarily in Alberta in a single occupation without the constraints that typically come with work permits for temporary foreign workers, like requiring a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from Services Canada to change employers.

The expansion of the program will add the following occupations to the list of approved occupations:

  • Welder
  • Heavy duty equipment mechanic
  • Ironworker
  • Millwright and industrial mechanic
  • Carpenter
  • Estimator

The pilot previously accepted only a single occupation, pipe/steam-fitter.

Alberta faces some of the most severe labour shortages for skilled trades workers in Canada, as companies are unable to find a sufficient number of Canadian residents that are able and willing to work in often remote resource extraction sites like the oil sands in the province’s north.

New Canadian EI Rules Could Affect Number of Work Permits Issued to Foreign Workers

The Harper government is planning to change the federal Employment Insurance program to encourage the long-time unemployed to take available Canadian jobs, which could reduce the demand for foreign workers in Canada’s resource and service industries.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced changes to the EI program on Thursday (Human Resources and Skill Development Canada)

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had earlier noted the anomaly of regions of Canada with high unemployment rates being forced to bring in foreigners to fill vacant jobs primarily in the resource sector due to too few Canadians being willing to do them.

The new EI rules could remedy this situation by increasing the incentive for unemployed Canadians to take up resource-sector and menial labour jobs. Minister of Human Resources, Diane Finley, in an announcement introducing the proposed changes, said the purpose of the new rules was to “connect Canadians with available jobs in their local area”.

The changes could also mean that foreign workers could see a drop in demand from Canadian firms for their labour and be less likely to be granted a Canadian work permit.

New Rules Explained

Under the new changes, EI recipients will be divided into three tiers:

  • Long-tenured workers – Canadians who have paid into EI for seven of the preceding ten years and over the preceding five years have collected EI for 35 weeks or less
  • Frequent claimants – Canadians who have had three or more claims and received benefits for more than 60 weeks in the preceding five years
  • Occasional claimants – All other claimants

Long-tenured workers will receive benefits for 18 weeks without having to expand their job search to different occupations. In this period, they will lose their EI benefits if any job that pays at least 90 percent of their previous earnings and is the same occupation as their previous job is available to them and they refuse to take it.

After 18 weeks, they would lose their benefits if there is any job that pays at least 80 percent of their previous earnings and is in a similar industry as their previous job is available to them and they refuse to take it.

Occasional claimants will receive benefits for six weeks without having to expand their job search to different occupations. In this period, they will lose their benefits if any job that pays at least 90 percent of their previous earnings and is the same occupation as their previous job is available tot hem and they refuse to take it.

After six weeks, they would lose their benefits if there is any job that pays at least 80 percent of their previous earnings and is in a similar industry as their previous job is available to them and they refuse to take it. After 18 weeks, they would lose  they would lose their benefits if there is any job in any industry that pays at least 70 percent of their previous earnings available to them and they refuse to take it.

Frequent claimants will receive benefits for six weeks without having to expand their job search to different industries. In this period, they will lose their EI benefits if any job that pays at least 80 percent of their previous earnings and is in a similar industry as their previous job is available to them and they refuse to take it.

After six weeks, they would lose their benefits if there is any job in any industry that pays at least 70 percent of their previous earnings available to them and they refuse to take it.

The new rules also require claimants to travel up to an hour to work an eligible job.

Uncertain Economic Impact

How the proposed changes to EI affect the number of work permits issued will largely depend on how effective they are in encouraging Canadians on EI to find jobs.

Amela Karabegovic, an economist for the Fraser Institute, believes that the changes are relatively minor tinkering and don’t fix the fundamental flaws of the current Employment Insurance model.

In an interview with CICS, Ms. Karabegovic said that the major problem with federal Employment Insurance is that the premiums employers and employees pay are a fixed percentage of income, that isn’t adjusted for risk, making it unlike any other type of insurance.

“The incentives are such that some individuals may over-use it. To give you an example, imagine having car insurance where no matter of how many claims you make, you pay the same premium. Regardless how many accidents you get in, regardless of your age, and so on.

Similarly with Employment Insurance, unless the premiums are adjusted to reflect risk, obviously some individuals are going to over-use it,” Ms. Karabegovic said.

“Instead of making marginal changes, there has to be a more fundamental change in order for the system to work properly, to do what it’s supposed to do which is to provide temporary assistance to those who unexpectedly lost their jobs”.

 

Federal Government to speed up Work Permit Application Process

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley talking to workers

In a visit to the Alberta manufacturing facility of Advance Engineered Products on Wednesday, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced the federal government’s update to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that speeds up the process of acquiring work permits.

Before a foreign worker can receive a work permit in Canada, their Canadian employer/sponsor must get a Labor Market Opinion from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (Services Canada) that states that the employer made a significant effort to hire a Canadian and was unable to, and that hiring a foreigner would not have a negative impact on Canadian jobs.

Currently, Labor Market Opinions take months due to red tape. In Wednesday’s announcement, a new Accelerated-Labour Market Opinion (A-LMOs) was introduced, which allows qualifying employers to get a fast-tracked Opinion in 10 days.

Employers who have a record of following the rules on hiring foreigners are eligible to receive A-LMOs for those they sponsor, but if they break the rules, Ms. Finley said they will be suspended from sponsoring foreigners for work permits for two years.

The new A-LMO process includes a simplified, online application process, which became available on Wednesday, and more automation to reduce paperwork.