New migrant class draws few
Program to retain skilled immigrants attracts just 210 applicants since its launch in September
November 24, 2008
A highly touted new immigration program has been hit by slow response from prospective skilled migrants and may fail to bring in the targeted 8,000 newcomers with Canadian academic credentials and work experience.
Since the program's inception in September, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has only received 210 applications under the Canada Experience Class, a new category designed to retain temporary foreign workers or foreign students as permanent residents with established credentials in Canada.
While some immigration lawyers say it is too early to gauge the initiative's popularity among immigration applicants, others are worried the economic meltdown would deny these workers and students the job experience they need to qualify.
"Let's face it. These people are trying to get into entry-level jobs. Few of them have the Canadian experience they need and they will be competing with Canadian workers who have been laid off," said lawyer Sergio Karas, chair of the Ontario Bar Association's immigration and citizenship section. "How can an employer justify hiring foreign students and workers while he's downsizing the workforce?"
A foreign worker must have at least two years of full-time Canadian work experience in managerial, professional, technical occupations or skilled trades to qualify for the program. A foreign graduate from a Canadian post-secondary institution needs a minimum one-year full-time work experience.
The initiative was part of Ottawa's answer to the decades-old "doctor-driving-cab" conundrum faced by immigrants whose foreign credentials are not recognized by Canadian employers. The plan is also expected to cut processing time since most applicants are already in Canada, presumably employed, allowing for easier access.
Toronto immigration lawyer Mario Bellissimo, who has a few such applications in the works, said slow response to the program – based on a pass-fail system as opposed to points – can be attributed in part to a language test requirement. "People ... need to prepare themselves psychologically and to study."
While many potential applicants may need more time to meet job experience requirements, lawyer Robin Seligman said those who've left Canada but still would qualify within a year after departing may be unaware of the program. "Others ... could have applied under other categories and decided not to file yet another immigration application under CEC," said Seligman.