Canadian Government to Remove Visa Requirement For Mexicans

A Mexican passport. Mexico could soon be added to the Canadian government’s list of visa-exempt countries

The Canadian government is in talks with the government of Mexico to eliminate visa requirements for Mexicans travelling to Canada. Prime Minister Harper said he would only create a visa exemption for Mexicans if it was assured that it would not lead to a flood of asylum claims.

Canada has had problems with large numbers of refugee claimants arriving in the country from countries that it has made visa-exempt, in particular Hungary.

Almost all of these claimants end up being rejected by the Refugee Board or abandoning their claim, but not before receiving thousands of dollars worth of welfare and free health care courtesy of the federal government.

One Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) study estimates each bogus refugee claimant costs Canada $50,000, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars of extra costs for the Canadian economy each year due to fraudulent refugee claims.

One measure that could help reduce the problem of bogus refugee claims from visa-exempt countries is the new ‘mini-visa’ that Canada will soon be introducing, which will require individuals from visa-exempt countries excluding the U.S. to acquire a Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) online before boarding their flight to Canada.

The mini-visa will enable Canadian authorities to screen out failed refugee claimants, ending the problem of a merry go-round of deportees returning to Canada to make new claims that take months to process and reject.

Government Report Recommends Increasing Immigration Levels in 2014

The internal government review finds that Australia’s experience suggests that basing immigration admittance on employment offers does not produce better results

The seven year freeze on increases in immigration levels beyond 253,000 should be lifted in 2014, according to an internal government review obtained by Postmedia News:

The study, dubbed a “Literature review and expert advice to inform Canada’s immigration levels planning,” suggests immigration levels should begin increasing six per cent a year to approximately 337,000 in 2018, after which levels should plateau until 2021, the end of the review period.

The report says that labour needs, based on economic projections, necessitate the increase.

Immigration levels as a percentage of Canada’s population have steadily fallen over the last seven years as the country has experienced population growth without a corresponding increase in the number of immigrants admitted.

Recent public opinion polls have indicated that the majority of Canadians oppose an increase in immigration levels, and this, along with recent studies showing a growing income gap between recent immigrants and native born Canadians, have encouraged the federal government to resist calls to increase immigration levels.

According to the Postmedia News report, the internal review calls for greater research into factors hampering the economic integration of immigrants and into comparisons between the economic performance of immigrants who enter through the federal skilled worker program and that of immigrants who enter through provincial nominee programs (PNPs).

The review also recommends against increasing the proportion of immigrants admitted through the PNPs, which clashes with calls from provincial governments to give them greater control over selecting the immigrants that enter Canada.

Federal Government Backed Volunteer-Led Effort Promotes Canadian Start-Ups

The Startup Canada National Tour at its finale in Vancouver. The tour took Startup Canada to 40 Canadian cities where it consulted with over 20,000 people over six months (Cyprian Szalankiewicz)

Startup Canada, an entrepreneur-led government-backed non-profit organization, announced its action plan for increasing entrepreneurship in the country on Tuesday. The organization unveiled blueprints of a national network to support and connect entrepreneurial communities and a media campaign to create a strong entrepreneurial culture in Canada.

The action plan is the product of the Start-Up Canada National Tour which took the organization across the country from May to September 2012 and solicited input from over 20,000 entrepreneurs in 40 cities on how to create a national entrepreneur brand and foster Canada’s start-ups.

The action plan calls for three initiatives:

  • Startup Canada Connect: a social network to connect entrepreneurs
  • Startup Canada Communities: the creation of local entrepreneur communities, beginning with a pilot in 10 cities, which will organize local events, provide contacts to mentors, and support entrepreneurs as they develop their businesses
  • Startup Canada Campaign: a national media campaign to tell the stories of entrepreneurs in order to raise awareness of the role they play in Canada’s economy and promote them as role models in the country

Startup Canada is looking to launch the initiatives, including the Startup Canada Connect online social network, by May 2013, and is seeking to finance them through corporate sponsorships and crowd-funding.

Its current sponsors, which supported the Startup Canada National Tour, include Gowlings, Microsoft, Ernst & Young, Artik Promotions, PubliAir, and KA Media.

The organization launched its crowd-funding campaign on Tuesday through the Indiegogo platform: http://www.indiegogo.com/startupcanada and is looking to raise $100,000 in 34 days.

The action plan has been promoted by several federal officials, including Minister of State Small Business and Tourism Maxime Bernier, who spoke at an organization event in Montreal, and Industry Minister Tony Clement who was a speaker at an event in Ottawa, in Tuesday’s kick-off for the Startup Canada blue-print.

Canadian Farmers Income Increased by 53% in 2011

Canada's prairie provinces produce the majority of agricultural products in Canada. The province of Saskatchewan is sometimes known as the 'breadbasket' of the country for producing nearly 60 percent of grain grown in the country

Canadian farm income increased by 53 percent in 2011 from 2010 according to Statistics Canada. Realized net income, meaning farm income after operating expenses and depreciation, amounted to $5.7 billion last year, with farmers making gains despite a large increase in costs.

The 2011 gains follow a 19 percent increase in income in 2010 and a 19.6 percent decline in 2009 following the global financial crisis.

Agriculture and agrifoods is an important sector of the Canadian economy, accounting for 8 percent of its GDP, over $40 billion in export revenue, and nearly one in eight jobs in the country.

Canada is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world. Its prairie provinces: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, produce a bulk of the agricultural products in the country. Nearly 60 percent of Canadian grain is grown in Saskatchewan, while nearly 50 percent of Canadian beef is produced in Alberta.

The prairie provinces have outperformed the rest of Canada in economic growth over the last several year and have among the best labour markets in North America.

Provincial Premiers Call For Greater Say in Canadian Immigration

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney at the two day economic forum (Province of Nova Scotia)

The premiers of Canada’s provincial and territorial governments concluded a forum on economic development in Halifax today with a joint-call on the federal government to give them greater control over immigration.

“We want to become masters of our own destiny when it comes to the immigration file. Nobody better understands our needs and our capacity to accommodate and our capacity to develop new Canadians so they can develop to their fullest,” said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty at today’s news conference.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark added: “We want more space to be able to make our decisions about which immigrants will come to our provinces, where they will be settled and how many we’ll get.”

Quebec has had an independent immigration program since the 1970s, but the other provinces only started being delegated immigration selection powers over the last decade, with the signing of several federal-provincial agreements creating Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

While the number of provincial nominees has grown seven fold since 2004, with 42,000 to 45,000 individuals expected to immigrate under a PNP in 2012, the pace of change is not fast enough for the provinces, who want to select a greater share of the approximately 250,000 individuals who are admitted into Canada as permanent residents each year.

The provincial premiers say that being able to select their own immigrants gives them more power to control the direction of their economic development by selecting those individuals that have the skills to meet their regional labour shortages, which they say their governments are best positioned to assess.

The two-day economic forum was hosted by the Council of the Federation, an institution created by the provincial and territorial governments to facilitate collaboration between their respective governments.

The forum saw presentations from Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney and Professor of Economics at George Mason University, Tyler Cowen, author of The Great Stagnation.

Canada and EU Working Toward Free Trade Agreement

Canada could see more energy exports to the EU if it finalizes a free trade agreement with the economic block this week

Canada and the EU are close to finalizing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that would be the EU’s first with a G7 country. Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast is meeting his EU counterpart in Brussels in talks this week to negotiate an agreement on the remaining issues.

Among the areas where differences still exist between the parties are agriculture market access, intellectual property standards relating to the pharmaceutical industry, procurement at the provincial and municipal-government level, and investor protection through arbitration rules.

Canada-EU trade amounts to $67 billion a year, with Canada chiefly exporting natural-resource intensive industrial goods like steel, manufactured goods like machinery and transport equipment, chemical products, and energy products to the EU, and the EU exporting a similar mix, with less energy and more machinery and transport equipment, to Canada.

Both economic blocks stand to gain from an increase in bilateral trade due to returns to scale. A joint-study in 2008 projects a $14.9 billion gain in annual income for the EU and a $10.5 billion annual gain for Canada from a FTA.

Canada currently has FTAs with fourteen countries and has an economy that is heavily reliant on external trade.

Court Forces Canadian Province to Reveal Names of Companies Involved in Immigrant Investor Program

Immigrants invested an estimated $120 million into PEI-based businesses through the PEI PNP Investor Program in 2007 and 2008 before it was shut down in 2009

A Provincial Crown Corporation responsible for managing Prince Edward Island’s (PEI) Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) was ordered by a court this month to release a list of 1,423 businesses that were approved to receive funding from immigrant investors.

The Crown Corporation, Island Investment Development Inc (IIDI), was initially successful in blocking requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA), by applicants that included the CBC, Canada’s largest news broadcaster, for it to release the names of the businesses that it approved to receive investments through a now defunct “Immigrant partner” stream of the PEI PNP.

Under the Immigrant partner component of the PNP, the government of PEI would grant nominations for Canadian permanent residence to immigrants who made a $200,000 investment into a qualified PEI business and who had a net worth of at least $400,000.

PEI’s privacy commissioner ruled that disclosure of the names of the businesses and the number of PNP investment units that each received through the program would violate the FOIPPA by revealing financial information about the companies that they had a reasonable expectation of remaining confidential when they applied for the program.

The CBC subsequently appealed to the PEI Supreme Court to over-turn the privacy commissioner’s decision, and on November 2nd, the court did just that for one portion of the CBC’s request: the release of the names of the businesses.

The privacy commission’s decision to uphold IIDI’s refusal to release the number of investment units it approved for each company was upheld by the presiding judge, Justice Wayne Cheverie, as he argued that the minimum net worth of the concerned companies could be deduced from this information, given it was a criteria for eligibility under the program.

The list of companies was posted online by the CBC, and can be found here.

PEI currently has an active immigrant investor program, but unlike the Immigrant partner program which allowed for an unlimited number of nominations, the current program is capped at 400 applications per year.

Federal, Provincial Governments Reach Agreement on Future Canadian Immigration System

Provincial immigration ministers met over two days in Toronto last week to discuss details of the new Expression of Interest (EOI) immigration system (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) governments concluded two days of meetings on Friday with an agreement on the future of Canada’s immigration system which will give the provinces a central role in immigrant selection.

On the agenda for the FPT immigration ministers were the details of the upcoming Expression of Interest (EOI) model for the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, which Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is planning to implement by the end of 2014.

The EOI model is an immigrant selection process which requires those seeking to immigrate to first file a simplified application, or “Expression of Interest”, with immigration authorities.

From that pool of applicants, the most promising candidates, based on the immigration department’s selection criteria, are then selected, and invited to submit a full application with includes documentation to prove their claimed qualifications.

The EOI model was first adopted by New Zealand and then more recently by Australia. CIC believes it holds the promise of eliminating the application back-logs that have plagued Canada’s immigration department over the last decade while admitting immigrants with the language, education, age and skill profiles needed to be successful in the Canadian labour market.

The FPT meeting, which was attended by all provincial and territorial immigration minister with the exception of the immigration minister of Quebec, gave unanimous approval for an EOI model for Canada in which provinces and employers select the most promising candidates from the list of EOI applicants, who are then selected to be among the limited number of applicants to be invited to submit a full application.

Co-Chairing the FPT Meeting was Alberta Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, Stephen Khan, who voiced the provincial ministers’ support for the plan:

“On behalf of the provinces and territories, we look forward to continuing our work with the Government of Canada to transform the immigration system, making it faster and more responsive to provincial/territorial needs.”

Fast Track Option of Popular BC Immigrant Investor Program Suspended For Review

The BC provincial government announced on Thursday that the Fast Track option in the business component of the BC PNP would be suspended, pending review of its economic contribution to the province's economy

The BC government announced on Thursday that it is suspending the Fast Track nomination option in the business stream of the BC Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP).

Through the business immigration stream of the BC PNP, foreign nationals who invest at least $200,000 to $400,000 to start or purchase and expand a qualifying BC-based business, are nominated for permanent residency by the BC provincial government after two years.

Under the regular BC PNP business program, candidates receive a two year work permit, during which time they are required to meet the business requirements detailed in the PNP performance agreement.

At the conclusion of the two year period, the BC government reviews their business, and if it fulfills the conditions of the program, nominates them for immigration.

The Fast Track option of the BC PNP business program is a special stream that allows candidates who make a $125,000 deposit to the BC government to receive a nomination for permanent residency immediately upon arriving in Canada, instead of being required to wait two years and fulfil their PNP performance agreement first.

Applicants who do not meet the obligations set out in BC PNP performance agreement forfeit their $125,000 deposit but can still keep their permanent residency status.

The BC government said that it would review this Fast Track option to see if it contributes to the province’s economy and that the suspension will not affect the regular business immigration stream of the BC PNP.

Federal Gov of Canada Increases Nova Scotia’s Immigration Nominee Quota

Nova Scotia will be able to nominate 700 applicants and their families for immigration to Canada in 2012 after the cap for its Provincial Nominee Program was increased by 200

Nova Scotia’s provincial government announced yesterday that the federal government has increased the province’s immigrant nominee cap by 200, to 700 nominations in 2012.

“It will help us address existing and expected labour shortages,” said Marilyn More, the provincial minister responsible for Nova Scotia’s Office of Immigration. She said that the province would push for further increases of its Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) quota.

PNPs allow Canadian provinces and territories to nominate individuals who they deem as likely to contribute to their economy for immigration to Canada. The first PNP was created for Manitoba in 1998, and quickly expanded to all other provinces.

The federal government, which has jurisdiction over immigration in Canada, caps the number of individuals each province can nominate for Canadian permanent residence each year, but that number has steadily increased, amid repeated appeals by provincial premiers for expansions of their PNPs, which they say allow them to select the immigrants that best meet their provinces’ unique economic needs.

While the federal government has indicated it would continue to expand the PNPs, it has also expressed concern about the standards some provincial government use when nominating individuals. In July, it instituted minimum language requirements for PNP applicants in low/semi-skilled occupations.

Under the new language rules, applicants in occupations that are classified as NOC Skill Level C or D must prove English or French proficiency of at least Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB)/Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) 4, in all categories: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

The required International English Language Test System (IELTS) test scores to meet CLB 4 are 4.0, 4.5, 3.5, and 4.0 for listening, speaking, reading and writing, respectively.