Passports to be Handled by Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Passport services are not expected to change when Citizenship and Immigration Canada takes over responsibilities for them on July 2 2013

The federal government announced last week that Canadian passports would come under the responsibility of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) this summer.

Passport Canada is currently managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), which will officially transfer control of the program to CIC on July 2 2013.

Service Canada, which is a part of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), meanwhile will manage passport operations, and Service Canada Centres will gradually offer more passport services, eventually also providing online applications for passports.

The federal government hopes to see efficiency gains from the move on account of CIC’s current responsibilities being more closely related to passports than those of DAIFT.

“The government is committed to making passport services more convenient and accessible for Canadians,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. “As Citizenship and Immigration Canada is already responsible for determining Canadian citizenship, integrating the passport program into the department makes good sense.”

Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley added:

“Through Service Canada, we offer single-window access to a wide range of Government of Canada programs and services for citizens. Leveraging Service Canada‚Äôs resources and service delivery network across the country will make passport services more accessible and convenient.”

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.

A New Microloan Program For Immigrants Launched in Manitoba

HRSDC Minister Diane Finley at a press conference announcing the microloan pilot (HRSDCanada)

A new Manitoba pilot, launched on Friday, will offer low interest loans of up to $10,000 to recent immigrants who are enrolled in training and career development programs. Recipients will be given five years to repay the microloans, and can use the money for living expenses, educational fees, fees related to licensing, and tools, equipment and work clothes.

The Manitoba government is contributing $250,000, while Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), through its foreign credential recognition loans pilot, is providing $1.2 million for the initiative. The two year pilot, called Recognition Counts! Micro Loans for Skilled Immigrants, will be administered by Supporting Employment and Economic Development (SEED) Winnipeg, a non-profit agency with a mission to increase economic development in low-income communities.

The goal of the program is to help immigrants get the qualifications and licensing necessary to work in their vocation in Canada. One of the first program enrollees is Dr. Esam Beshay, a dentist from Egypt who will use the loan to complete the process for getting a license to practice dentistry in Canada.

The microloan program is similar to the Immigrant Access Fund, a program funded jointly by the provincial government of Saskatchewan and HRSDC’s foreign credential recognition loans pilot to provide microloans to recent immigrants for education and training programs.