Immigration Department Closing Citizenship Applications to Reduce Backlog

New Canadians taking the Oath of Citizenship. Citizenship application processing times have increased from 12 – 15 months in 2008 to 23 months today

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is closing citizenship applications of unresponsive applicants in an effort to reduce its backlog and speed up application processing.

A new article by Postmedia News lists some factors that could be used to determine which applications are dormant:

Citizenship and Immigration will shut the files of those who fail to attend multiple scheduled citizenship tests or interviews. Applications submitted on or after April 17, 2009 will also be considered dormant and closed if applicants fail to provide proof of residency after receiving two notices to do so from the government.

CIC spokeswoman Andrea Khanjin told Postmedia News that 54,000 citizenship applicants did not show up for their citizenship test in just the last three years and that CIC estimates about 12,000 files will be closed soon under the new procedures.

Khanjin said that citizenship application processing will favour those who make an effort to comply with the process requirements over those who do not:

“Those who take their citizenship seriously will not have to wait in line behind those that don’t bother showing up to their citizenship test, interview, or who don’t respond to a residence questionnaire. The citizenship application process has been bogged down for too long by those that do not take Canadian citizenship seriously.”

Citizenship application processing times have increased in recent years, from 12 to 15 months in 2008 to 23 months in April of this year, leading to more funding being allotted by the federal government for citizenship application processing and, now, an effort to cut down the backlog of 350,000 applications by closing dormant files.

Canada comes in top 5 among G20 in Entrepreneurship Ranking

Lack of regulatory barriers, availability of venture capital funding and a culture that embraces entrepreneurship placed Canada in the top quartile in the EY G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013 (U.S. Department of State)

A new report by Ernst & Young places Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in the top five among the G20 countries.

The G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013 ranks a country’s entrepreneurial environment according to its score in five sub-categories: access to funding, entrepreneurship culture, tax and regulation, education and training, and coordinated support between government, academic institutions and the private sector.

The formulation of the ratings relies on business environment indicators, like number of new businesses started per year, data collected in a survey of more than 1,500 entrepreneurs across the G20 countries, the insights gained in interviews with entrepreneurs, academics and experts, and a qualitative analysis of government initiatives to encourage and assist entrepreneurship.

Canada came fourth in the access to funding category, thanks largely to per capita venture capital funding that is second only to the U.S. It ranked third in entrepreneurship culture, behind the U.S. and South Korea, as interviewees had a generally positive opinion of the country’s attitude toward entrepreneurship and its acceptance of failure (more accepting than other countries).

In the tax and regulation category, which scores countries by the ease of complying with regulations when starting and running a business, and the number of special tax incentives for entrepreneurs, the country came second, after Saudi Arabia, for its simple business registration process, lack of labour laws allowing for a flexible labour market, and an abundance of tax subsidies for small and medium sized enterprises.

While the G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer is one of many possible ways of determining the quality of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and has not been shown to predict for entrepreneurial success, Canada’s strong showing will at the very least help boost its image globally as a centre of innovation and a country that’s open for business.

Canadian Government Celebrates First Skilled Trades Immigrant

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander welcoming one of the first successful Federal Skilled Trades Program applicants (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

New Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander this month welcomed Eric Byrne, a Canadian immigrant from Ireland, and one of the first individuals to become a permanent resident of the country through the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), in a press conference to promote the new immigration program.

Describing the program’s connection to the Canadian government’s broader economic goals, Alexander said:

“Our Government remains focused on job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity. The new Federal Skilled Trades Program enables us to attract and retain skilled workers—like Eric—so we can address regional labour shortages and strengthen Canada’s economy.”

Byrne met the FSTP’s first requirement, a Certificate of Qualification from a provincial trades authority – in his case the Ontario College of Trades – in May 2012, and is currently employed as a plumber for University Plumbing and Heating.

He initially entered Canada through the country’s working holiday program, called International Experience Canada.

The reciprocal visa program allows the young adults of countries that Canada has a working holiday agreement with, like Ireland, to work and live in the Canada for a period of one to two years, while Canadian youth are given the same opportunity in the contracting country.

The program grants a maximum of 6,350 two year working holiday visas to Irish permanent residents and citizens per year. The visas have become highly sought after in Ireland, with the annual quota being met just two days after the program began accepting applications in 2013.

Part of new immigration selection strategy

The increasing reliance on the International Experience Canada program, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and new immigration programs that target foreign nationals with skills in demand in Canada, like the FSTP, for selecting new immigrants, began during Jason Kenney’s tenure as Citizenship and Immigration minister.

The aim of this new direction in immigration selection is to reverse the trend seen of highly educated immigrants arriving in Canada and having difficulty integrating into the economy, resulting in a growing employment and income gap between new immigrants and the general population.

By choosing applicants from countries more similar in language and economic structure to Canada, those who have Canadian work experience, and those who are certified to work in their vocation in Canada, the immigration ministry hopes new immigrants can immediately start contributing to the Canadian economy at the same rates as native born Canadians.

For his part, Kenney, who is now the Minister of Employment and Social Development, welcomed another one of the first successful applicants of the FSTP, Paul Lyttle, who is working as an electrician for Calgary-based Unitech Electrical Contracting Inc.

He promoted the program as a positive for the Canadian economy.

“The new Federal Skilled Trades Program is a significant improvement to Canada’s immigration system which, for too long, had not been open to in-demand skilled workers. Immigrants like Paul are set for success and I am pleased that this new Program will enable him, and others like him, to contribute skills to our economy on a permanent basis,” he said.

Two Occupations in Canadian Immigration Program Reach Sub-Cap

CIC’s most recent update shows 1,103 of the 5,000 spots in the quota have been filled for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (Government of Canada)

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the mainstay of Canadian economic class immigration, has reached the maximum allowable applications in two of the 24 eligible occupations.

The FSWP has a cap of 5,000 total applications, and a sub-cap of 300 applications per occupation, for the period between May 4, 2013, and April 30, 2014. Applications exceed either the total cap, or the sub-cap per occupation, will be disregarded.

In a recent update from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), financial and investment analysts and computer programmers and interactive media developers are shown as having reached their respective caps.

The total number of applications received in all occupation is currently at 1,103, leaving 3,897 spots left in the FSWP for the one year quota period.

Of the occupations still accepting applications, computer engineers (except software engineers/designers) is currently closest to its cap, with CIC reporting 116 applications received.

On the other end of the spectrum, CIC reports zero audiologists and speech-language pathologists applications received and only one application received for each of the mining engineers and petroleum engineers occupations.

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.

2013 Areas of Training List Released for Quebec Skilled Worker Program

A view of the Tower of Montreal. Applicants for the Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP) must intend to settle in Quebec to qualify for the program (Antonello Musina)

The Quebec government released the new ‘Areas of Training’ list for the Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP) on August 1 2013, which includes changes to the number of points awarded for dozens of areas of education and training.

The QSWP is one of Canada’s most popular immigration programs, allowing foreign nationals who are proficient in French and have qualifying educational and/or training credentials to become permanent residents of Canada.

The changes to points awarded for various educational and training qualifications in the new Areas of Training list can be found in full here.

A large number of new educational and training specialties have been added to the list of those awarded points for the QSWP. Under the QSWP, only those areas of training that receive points qualify individuals for the program, so the additions made have substantially changed who can apply through the program.

In addition to the new Areas of Training list, the QSWP has also introduced new, more demanding French language requirements for the program, as described here.

Fertility of Immigrant Women Higher than Canadian-born

Immigrant women from Central Africa have the highest fertility rates according to Canadian census data (Steve Evans, CC license)

A recent study by researchers in the U.S. and Canada finds that immigrant women have slightly higher fertility rates than women born in Canada, reversing the trend from before the 1980s of lower-than-average fertility among immigrants.

The study, by Princeton University’s Alicia Adsera and University of Calgary’s Ana Ferrer, attributes the change in relative fertility rates to a shift of immigrant country of origin to regions with higher fertility rates.

Immigrants from countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia have the highest fertility rates according to Canadian census data compiled by the researchers.

The rising share of immigrants coming from these regions has changed the fertility profile of the average Canadian immigrant, the study authors conclude.

Immigrants from China, North/Central Europe and Eastern Europe were found to have the lowest fertility rates. Among immigrants from high-fertility regions, those from Central America and Central and Eastern Africa were found to have the highest fertility figures.

While the researchers found that the pattern of higher fertility rates among immigrants held even when other factors, like language spoken at home, intermarriage, and language of spouse, were controlled for, one factor that did predict native-level fertility rates was education, with educated immigrant women having on average similar fertility rates as native-born Canadians.

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.

Foreign Service Workers Union Expands Strike to 15 Largest Visa Centres

Foreign service staff have been reduced at 15 Canadian visa offices overseas, including the High Commission of Canada to the United Kingdom, pictured above (GOOGLE MAPS)

The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO), the union for Canadian diplomats, has withdrawn some of its members from the 15 largest foreign Canadian visa processing centres in order to pressure the government to come to a deal on their pay dispute.

The strike is affecting visa and immigration services at Abu Dhabi, Ankara, Beijing, Cairo, Delhi/Chandigarh, Hong Kong, London, Manila, Mexico City, Moscow, Paris, Riyadh, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai, though visas are continuing to be issued, and permanent residency applications processed, at a slower pace.

Talks between PAFSO and the federal government broke down after PAFSO rejected the government’s offer to enter into binding arbitration on the condition that PAFSO agree that one of its main arguments would not be considered during arbitration.

The argument the Treasury Board wanted to be left unconsidered is the claim that foreign service officers are paid lower salaries than public servants working in similar positions in other divisions of the federal government.

The federal government says that since foreign service officers receive a foreign-living allowance, and the positions are highly sought after by Canadians, the deal it has offered is fair to both the union and the rest of the Canadian population which has to pay for their salaries.

The government also sees the use of a strike as an attempt to blackmail the government by withholding an economically vital service, and is reluctant to reward the strike with concessions.

For its part, PAFSO says that it has been left with no choice but to strike as the government has refused to enter into binding arbitration without unreasonable preconditions, and that the cost of meeting its demands would cost Canada only $4.2 million, which is much less than what it says is hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tourism and foreign study income that has resulted from the strike.

Montreal Tops List of Best Cities for International Students

Cultural attractions like the iconic Montreal Museum of Fine Arts helped give Montreal the top spot in the ‘social experience’ sub-index of the Sea Turtle Index

An index commissioned by the Bank of Communications (BoCom), one of the largest banks in China, places Montreal, Canada as the best city in the world for international students.

Other Canadian cities that ranked well include Toronto (4th) and Vancouver (15th).

Created by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with design input from BoCom management, the Sea Turtle Index (a name referring to Chinese students who study abroad only to return, like sea turtles, to their country of origin) ranks foreign student destinations according to five sub-indices:

  • Educational returns: the international value of the education provided in the city relative to its cost
  • Financial returns: the openness of the investment environment to foreign nationals and the amount of volatility risk that could effect investment returns
  • Real estate returns: the return on investment in the local real estate market
  • Work experience: the local job market for foreign students and graduates in terms of availability of jobs, wages and low-taxes
  • Social experience: the city’s level of culture, worldliness and multi-culturalism

Of the 80 cities included in the index, Montreal came in 6th place in the ‘educational returns’ sub-index, behind only Cambridge (1st), Oxford (2nd), London (3rd), Seoul (4th), and Beijing (5th).

Montreal benefited from having comparatively affordable universities and cost of living while providing high quality tertiary education. Vancouver and Toronto also had their score helped by their low cost of living, although not as much as Montreal which was found to be a more affordable place to live.

None of the American cities included in the study made the top 10 in the educational returns category, despite several being home to some of the best educational institutions in the world. The poor showing was largely due to the high cost of tuition for their undergraduate programs.

Some cities, including Singapore, Hong Kong and New York, saw their educational returns ranking pushed down due to a high cost of living.

The EIU included a ‘financial returns’ sub-index owing to the fact that the parents of international students and often international students themselves like to make investments in the city where the students live.

None of the North American cities included in the study made the top 30 in this sub-index, due in Canada to relatively high taxes and in the United States to excessive “money laundering regulations and terrorism legislation” stifling financial freedom.

Hong Kong placed first in this ranking, followed by Auckland, New Zealand (2nd) and Santiago, Chile (3rd), which benefited from having comparatively few regulations on finance and banking that restrict international capital flows.

Three Canadian cities made the top 30 in the ‘real-estate returns’ sub-index: Toronto (4th), Montreal (12th), and Vancouver (13th), while Hong Kong took the top spot thanks to its hot real estate market.

Canadian cities did well due to a combination of well-performing real-estate markets and avoidance of the boom-busts that affected many other world cities in the period leading up to and following the global mortgage crisis.

Canada’s openness to foreign investment also helped push its cities above those in countries with real-estate markets that have seen substantial gains in recent years but which have more restrictions on foreign property ownership, like Shanghai, Bangkok, Mumbai and Seoul.

Immigration rules benefit Canada

Canadian cities took the top five spots in the work experience sub-index due to immigration laws that allow foreign students, upon completion of their study programs, to obtain post-graduate work permits that are valid for durations equaling the length of their study in Canada.

This contrasts with the U.S. where international students have few options to stay and work in the United States upon completing their studies.

Edmonton’s combination of a hot labour market and low provincial taxes gave it an edge over its Canadian counterparts and earned it the top spot in the ranking, followed by Hamilton (2nd), Toronto (3rd), Vancouver (4th) and Montreal (5th).

Montreal managed to also share the top spot in the ‘social experience’ sub-index with London, England, thanks to its low rates of violent crime, high cultural diversity and its world renowned cultural attractions.

Canada’s high levels of multiculturalism and low crime rates helped three other Canadian cities: Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton, make the top 30 in this ranking.

As incomes in China rapidly grow, parents in the country’s large and education-minded population are increasingly able to afford a foreign university education for their children.

Therefore the good showing of Canadian cities in the Sea Turtle Index, which caters mostly to Chinese students seeking to study abroad, portends well for Canadian efforts to make the country a top destination for international students.

With the federal government having committed itself to making it easier for international students to stay and work in Canada and become permanent residents through programs like the Canadian Experience Class, Canada’s appeal to international students could increase even more in coming years.