Immigration Canada Announces That Over 100,000 International Students Entered Country in 2012

UBC campus in downtown Vancouver. The number of international students entering Canada has increased by 60 percent from 2004, to over 100,000 last year (CICS News)

Canada admitted over 100,000 international students in 2012 according to an announcement by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) on Tuesday. The number marks a 60 percent increase over the number of foreign students hosted by Canada 2004, and demonstrates the growing significance of international education to the country.

CIC promoted the milestone by noting that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)’s report on international students in Canada, titled International Education: A Key Driver of Canada’s Future Prosperity, estimates that the annual economic contribution of international students is more than $8 billion.

In another report, commissioned by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and released last summer, the author of the report, University of British Columbia President Stephen Toope, argued that in addition to the direct economic contribution foreign students make to Canada through their spending on tuition, rent and other living expenses, they also benefit the country by creating economic and cultural links between it and other countries.

Toope wrote that those links would enable Canada to conduct more international trade and investment with rapidly growing economies in the future, particularly in Asia where many of the international students originate.

In a statement on Tuesday, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney extolled the trend of an increasing international student population in Canada: “Attracting and retaining the best and brightest immigrants from around the world is part of the government’s commitment to grow Canada’s economy and ensure long-term prosperity.

The steady growth in numbers confirms that Canada remains a destination of choice for international students because of the remarkable educational opportunities that exist in our world class institutions.”

CIC has attempted to make it easier for international students to transition into permanent residence in Canada with new immigration programs like the PhD stream of the Federal Skilled Worker Program, and the Canadian Experience Class, which allows those with one year of work experience in Canada to become permanent residents.

TD Bank Analysis Finds Even Wage Growth Among Canadian Occupation Groups, Skill Levels

A large increase in construction jobs helped buoy the total employment share and the rate of wage growth of medium skilled jobs in Canada since 1999

A report released on Tuesday and put together by TD Bank’s deputy chief economist finds that wages for Canadian workers have grown at roughly the same pace in all major occupational groupings and skill levels, and the number of high skilled jobs has increased at the expense of low-skilled and medium-skilled jobs.

The findings suggest either that the skills mismatch that has resulted in a severe shortage of workers skilled in the trades has existed for longer than a decade, and has not gotten any worse in the intervening time, or that immigration is increasing the number of skilled tradespeople in Canada at the same pace as demand for trades labour is increasing, or a combination of these two factors.

Unlike in the U.S., wages for medium-skilled workers in Canada have grown at nearly the same rate as those of highly skilled workers, a result that the report attributes to expansion of the energy, mining and construction sectors, which increase demand for well-paid medium skilled jobs.

The report finds that high-skilled jobs increased their share of total employment from 33.4 percent in 1999 to 36.3 percent in 2010, while the employment share of medium and low skilled jobs has declined from 57.3 and 9.3 percent to 54.6 and 9.1 percent over the same period, respectively.

Report author Derek Burleton calls the findings a refutation of common wisdom that wages between high skilled and medium-skilled workers and between tradespeople and other workers are diverging, and proposes more research be done on Canadian labour trends to increase understanding and avoid misconceptions.

CanadianBusiness: Vancouver Could Be The Next Calgary

The LNG plant planned in Kitimat, pictured above, is expected to increase natural gas industry revenues in British Columbia, which would benefit the province’s commercial centre, Vancouver

An article appearing in the online edition of last Tuesday’s Canadian Business magazine suggests that Vancouver stands to follow in Calgary’s footsteps and become an energy company magnet:

The management of Canada’s oil and gas industry has become, over the past few decades, ever more concentrated in Calgary. To many, Imperial Oil’s 2005 move from Toronto sealed the deal.

But that pattern is now showing some notable exceptions. Giants of the energy industry are suddenly setting up offices in Vancouver instead, and it looks like they’re here to stay.

Alberta in general and Calgary specifically have for years stood apart in Canada for having the highest per capita GDP, the lowest unemployment rates and the most rapid population growth among all provinces and cities, respectively, in the country.

The source of Alberta’s and by extension Calgary’s wealth has been its large petroleum industry, which has experienced growth in recent years as production in Northern Alberta’s oil sands has increased.

Canadian Business magazine says that newly discovered natural gas fields in northern Alberta and British Columbia, and the planned construction of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) conversion and export plants in Kitimat and Prince Rupert in B.C.’s northern coast, have attracted Vancouver the same type of attention from energy companies that Calgary has enjoyed for years:

Not only the terminals but most of the source wells and pipeline infrastructure will be located in B.C., making the provincial government the principal regulator. So it makes sense for companies to run their operations close to Victoria, and even closer to the contractors, suppliers and a potentially hostile public. “You could see B.C. double its natural gas production, and all of that would go toward LNG,” says Greg Kist, vice-president of marketing at Progress Energy. “It indicates that there is going to be significant pace of investment in Vancouver.” Kist expects his company’s West Coast office will in time have 200 employees.

It addition to natural gas production and transport, B.C.’s position in between Alberta and the Pacific Coast makes it an important pathway for oil pipelines, a fact that has spurred Calgary-based Enbridge, which operates the largest pipeline system in the world, to recently decide to open an office in Vancouver.

Immigrants already account for 40 percent of the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s population. If the city experiences an energy boom on the scale of what Calgary has undergone, that would make it all the more alluring to immigrants and Canadians from other regions of the country.

New Safeguards Drastically Reduce Canadian Asylum Claims from High-Fraud Regions

New rules put into effect by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in December have led to a significant reduction in asylum claims being made in Canada

Canada, which was facing one of the worst bogus refugee claims problems in the world, and seeing government expenditure on welfare for asylum claimants gradually increase as a result, has seen a drastic reduction of asylum claims from problem countries in the aftermath of instituting new laws on how asylum claims are processed.

Changes that came into effect on December 15th 2012 require claims to be processed quickly – within 30 to 45 days for individuals from countries considered democratic and observant of human rights – and prevent claimants from delaying a deportation through years of appeals.

The number of claims from Hungary, the country that led the world in producing Canadian asylum claimants, and from which the vast majority of claims are rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board or abandoned by the claimant before their hearing, declined from 353 in the January 1st to February 19th period of 2012, to 7 in the same period of 2013.

Totally, asylum claims have declined by 70 percent, while claims from countries designated as safe have declined by 86 percent.

The primary reason for the drop in claims is likely that the new rules have eliminated the incentive to file a bogus asylum claim by making it impossible to take advantage of the years of welfare and other free social services it could previously provide.

The new rules are expected to save tax payers $400 million a year.

Immigration Causes Canada to Have Highest Per Capita Remittance Rate in the World

A money transfer office in New Jersey used by immigrants to send money to family overseas

According to an article published on Tuesday in Maclean’s, a Canadian weekly news magazine, Canada leads the world in per capita outgoing remittance, as a consequence of its proportionally large and well-skilled immigrant population.

In 2012 an estimated $23.4 billion was sent overseas, according to new World Bank figures which track remittances. On a per capita basis that’s double what flows out of the United States or the United Kingdom. India was among the countries receiving the largest chunk of that money, while China and the Philippines were other top recipients.

Globally, Canada is behind only Australia in its per capita immigration rate, and its highly selective immigration programs result in most of those immigrants being skilled workers. These factors combine to account for high remittance rates.

Remittance is now one of the largest sources of income for many developing countries. For example, foreign remittance accounts for 45 percent of the GDP of Tajikistan, a small country in Central Asia, making it the primary source of income for a significant portion of its population.

Due to the enormous volume of foreign remittance, estimated at $400 billion in 2012, many international development experts consider it an important type of foreign aid, which makes a substantial contribution to economic development in poorer countries.

Some have even argued that increasing immigration is a better way for the developed world to assist developing countries, by way of increasing remittance, than providing government aid.

The author of the Maclean’s article, Rosemary Westwood, suggests that to bolster the aid remittance provides to the less-developed world, the developed world should make it easier for its citizens to send money to family-members living abroad, and notes that Canada has made some effort to this end:

along with other G20 countries in 2011, [Canada] agreed to try to reduce remittance fees paid to banks and transfer firms to five per cent—they often reach as high as 24 per cent.

Remittance options limited but growing

There is still much room for improvement, as international remittance to some parts of the world continues to be slow and very expensive, with firms like Western Union charging a fee of up to 20% for transferring to more remote countries.

The advent of new financial services promises to reduce these fees however. Bank of America (BoA) for instance eliminated fees for remittance from the U.S. to Mexico in 2005, leaving only a 1.74 percent currency exchange fee for such transfers.

Competition and investment in new financial networks is spurring an increasing number of companies around the world to offer lower priced remittance services like BoA, leading to remittance becoming more cost-effective and practical for immigrants and migrant workers.

As financial friction is reduced and immigrant populations increase, it’s likely that remittance flows will only grow larger and play an increasingly significant role in developmental economics.

Canadian Immigration Hopefuls Gearing Up For Launch of Federal Skilled Worker Program

Citizenship and Immigration Canada will be accepting applications for the Federal Skilled Worker Program starting May 4th

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the mainstay of the Canadian government’s economic class immigration stream, last accepted applications on May 8th 2012, when the program’s 20,000 application cap for the July 1st 2011 to June 30th 2012 period was reached.

On July 1st 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced that the program would be put on moratorium to give the immigration department time to process FSWP applications in its backlog and to design new rules and put in place new processes for a revamped skilled worker program that better meets Canada’s economic needs.

Now, after a nearly one year wait, the program is set to begin accepting applications on May 4th 2013, providing skilled foreign workers who lack the financial means to qualify for Canada’s investor and business class programs and without a job offer from a Canadian employer, with an immigration program they can potentially qualify under.

Alex Khadempour, a licensed immigration consultant for CICS Immigration Consulting Inc., says that the majority of people who have contacted his firm over the last several months have been enquiring about the FSWP.

“There just aren’t any options through existing Canadian immigration programs for the vast majority of people who are interested in immigrating. Many who contact us are pinning their hopes on the return of the Federal Skilled Worker Class,” said Mr. Khadempour in an interview with CICS News.

One of the major new requirements of the revamped skilled worker program is the Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) said Mr. Khadempour: “we recommend to every one who contacts us to get their academic documents ready so that they can get their ECA as soon as CIC designates the Credential Assessment Organizations. All Federal Skilled Worker applications will require an ECA under the new rules.”

Canadian Working Holiday Visa Quota For Ireland Filled in Two Days

A typical Irish town. Following earlier waves of Irish immigrants, Irish youth have taken up all 6,350 working holiday visas allocated by the International Experience Canada (IEC) program for 2013 in a record two days (Certo)

According to the National Post, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)’s 2013 quota of 6,350 work permits for Irish passport holders filled up in two days this month:

“It’s staggering; we all knew that the demand was going to be very high this year, but I don’t think anybody anticipated this,” said Cathy Murphy, executive director of the Toronto-based Irish Canadian Immigration Centre.

She called the surge in demand a sign of the “desperation of young people to get out.”

Last year, by contrast, it took Canada’s Irish embassy five months to hand out only 5,350 visas.

The International Experience Canada (IEC) program grants work permits, informally called ‘working holiday’ visas, of a duration of one to two years to young adults in participating countries. The program is reciprocal, with Canadian youth, usually defined as those 18-30 years of age, being eligible for working holiday visas in the counterpart country.

CIC announced last year that the quota for Irish work permits through the IEC would be upped to 6,350 in 2013, and 10,000 in 2014, from 5,350 in 2012.

The duration of Canada’s working holiday visa for Irish youth, which was previously one year, but for up to two separate visas, was also changed to a single two year visa, to make it easier for those working in Canada, as the change means they’re no longer required to disrupt their work schedule and leave Canada to re-apply for their second working holiday visa.

The moves were intended to attract more individuals from a group that is seen to quickly integrate into Canadian life and has the English language proficiency and the types of skills required in Canada’s economy, particularly in the skilled trades.

What was unexpected was how sought after the working holiday spots would be among young adults in Ireland.

The exploding demand for Canadian visas among Irish nationals likely stems from ongoing economic hardships in the EU that have been particularly pronounced in Ireland, as well as a media campaign by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to promote Canada to the Irish, including an appearance on an Irish TV show last year.

Increase in US Oil Production Threatens Canada’s Oil Sands

An oil rig in Northern British Columbia. The oil and gas industry is vital to the economy of Western Canadian provinces

Canadian energy producers exported over $120 billion worth of energy products in 2011, which constituted over 25 percent of the $462 billion worth of goods/services exported from Canada that year.

The sizeable contribution made by the oil and gas sector to Canada’s export revenue helped shore up the value of the Canadian dollar, which enhanced Canadians’ purchasing power internationally and helped raise the average household wealth of Canadians above that of Americans for the first time in history.

Canada’s natural resource wealth, in particular in energy resources, has also given it the best economic performance among the G8 countries over the last several years, and allowed it to better weather the economic decline following the bursting of the global credit bubble in 2008.

The exceptionalism of Canada among the developed world faces a threat from an unexpected source though: increasing shale oil production in the US.

As noted in the Edmonton Journal, a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report projects a substantial increase in global oil supplies as new oil extraction methods like hydraulic fracturing make previously inaccessible shale oil reserves accessible for the first time:

Thanks to such innovations as horizontal drilling and fracking (hydraulic fracturing), the U.S. is currently producing more oil than it has in 20 years. U.S. output now exceeds seven million barrels a day, and that has enabled the world’s biggest oil consuming nation to cut its imports to the lowest level in 16 years.

Since Canada’s crude oil exports are a critical driver of well-paid jobs, royalties, taxes — and ultimately, federal equalization transfers — that’s something that should alarm all Canadians.

Indeed, if current trends continue, the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017, the International Energy Agency has predicted.

This can threaten Canada’s energy sector due to both global and regional effects. Globally, an increase in oil production would reduce oil prices, and with it, Canada’s oil and gas revenue. Regionally, given ninety percent of Canada’s energy exports are sent to the US, an increase in American oil production would significantly reduce the premium Canadian oil producers receive thanks to the proximity of their major buyers.

The regional effects could be alleviated with the construction of more pipelines capable of transporting the oil produced in the Athabasca oil sands in Northern Alberta to the Pacific Ocean, from where it can be shipped to Asian economies, but projects being proposed at the moment, like the Enbridge pipeline, face political challenges due to ideological and cultural opposition to the oil industry among a sizeable section of the Canadian public.

Economic repercussions

If the global petroleum market progresses as the PwC report predicts, the prosperity of Canada’s Western provinces, which depends to a large part on energy production, would diminish, and federal revenues from oil and gas royalties would decline.

The rapid immigration of skilled trades people to Canada to work in the oil and gas sector would slow, and other developed countries, especially large oil importers like European countries and Japan, would become more attractive destinations for immigrants and international investors.

The net effect for the world would likely be positive, as reduced oil prices increase global economic growth and raise the average of standard of living around the world.

Eight More Countries Considered “Safe” By Canada’s Refugee System

A refugee camp in Africa. The Canadian government resettles over 10 percent of the refugees settled annually worldwide (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

As part of an effort to reduce the number of bogus asylum claims made in Canada, the federal government has added eight countries to its list of designated countries of origin, which are those it considers as having strong protection of human rights, and from which genuine refugees are unlikely to originate.

Asylum claimants from the now 35 designated countries of origin will still be able to file a claim with the Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), but they will receive a hearing within an expedited 30-45 day period, instead of the 60 days that individuals from non-designated countries will wait.

Individuals from designated countries of origin will also not have the recently created, quasi-judicial, Refugee Appeals Division (RAD) available to them, although they will still be able to appeal their decision in federal court.

The removal of access to the RAD from those originating from safe countries is intended to alleviate a major problem of those whose claims are rejected delaying their removal from the country through appeals, allowing them to stay in Canada for years, and collect thousands of dollars in social assistance, until they have finally exhausted the appeals process.

The eight countries categorized as designated countries of origin are:

  • Mexico
  • Israel (excluding Gaza and the West Bank)
  • Japan
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Switzerland

The introduction of expedited processing of asylum claims from designated countries puts Canada in the company of a number of other countries who withhold full access to their refugee system from claimants originating from countries deemed ‘safe’, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium and Finland.

Study Shows Immigrants Have Larger Babies After Moving to Canada

Immigrant women give birth to larger babies than women in their country of origin, according to a study by St. Michael’s Hospital researcher Dr. Joel Ray (John Markos O’Neill)

A study by St. Michael’s Hospital researcher Dr. Joel Ray finds that immigrant women give birth to larger babies than women from their native country, but still smaller than babies born to Canadian-born women.

The study, which appears in the journal of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, finds that male babies of immigrant women weigh on average 115 grams more than babies in the immigrant woman’s country of origin, while female babies weight 112 grams more.

The cause of the weight difference is likely the higher income of Canadian immigrants compared to the population they immigrated from, due to selective immigration rules that require high education and career achievements to qualify for immigration to Canada, according to Dr. Ray.

Dr. Ray writes that the difference could also be due to immigrants consuming more calories and getting less exercise than when they lived in their native countries, resulting in both them and their babies being bigger.

Previous studies have shown that Canadian immigrants have better health indicators than the average Canadian upon arriving in the country, but that their health status quickly degrades as they stay in Canada longer.