01 December 2008

Canada announces changes to immigration levels and processing of skilled workers

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has announced changes to the 2009 immigration levels and changes that allow officers to process federal skilled workers' applications faster.

Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, announced on Friday 28 November that the Government would raise immigration levels of 2009 to allow between 240,000 and 265,000 permanent residents. 

"While countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia are talking about taking fewer immigrants, our planned numbers for 2009 are on par with last year and are among the highest for this country over the past 15 years," Minister Kenney said.  "The numbers reflect a continued commitment to an immigration program that balances Canada’s economic, humanitarian and family reunification goals."

The Government has divided the 2009 permanent residence quota into three categories, including 156,600 places in the economic category, 71,000 in the family category and 37,400 in the humanitarian category.

Minister Kenney also announced changes to the application procedure so that officers can process applications for particular occupations faster and more people can move to Canada.  The Action Plan for Faster Immigration means all Canadian skilled visa applications received after the 27 February 2008 are subject to new processing rules, if they meet certain requirements. 

Firstly, the applicant must have a skill in one of the 38 high-demand occupations such as health, skilled trades, finance and resource extraction, and secondly, have an offer of arranged employment or have already been living legally in Canada for one year as a temporary foreign worker or international student.

The provinces and territories, business, labour and other stakeholders agreed upon the 38 occupations after consultations about the labour market and local employment needs.  According to the Canadian Press, fast-tracked occupations include geochemists, speech language pathologists, university professors, plumbers, chefs, nurses, mining engineers, physiotherapists, computer systems managers, and restaurant and food service managers, amongst others.

For those candidates who do not meet the above criteria, their application will be rejected and application fee refunded, so that the massive backlog of applications can reduce in size.  Applicants who cannot apply for a Canadian visa through the skilled migration category can use other pathways such as the Provincial Nominee Program or the temporary workers schemes.  These pathways can still lead to permanent residency in Canada through the Canadian Experience Class.

"We expect new federal skilled worker applicants, including those with arranged employment, to receive a decision within six to 12 months compared with up to six years under the old system," said Minister Kenney.  "All other economic class applications—including applicants chosen by Quebec, provincial nominees, the Canadian Experience Class, and live-in caregivers—will continue to be given priority."

CIC believe the changes to the system would eventually bring Canada up-to-speed with its biggest competitors for immigration: Australia and New Zealand.  Both countries have highly successful immigration systems, limited backlogs and can process economic visa applications within 12 months. 

"The recent steps this Government has taken to improve our immigration system will help ensure that Canada remains competitive internationally and responsive to labour market needs domestically," the Minister added in his statement.

The Canadian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people apply for Canada visa and immigration services.

Article by Jessica Bird, Canadian Visa Bureau.

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