Temporary foreign worker (TFW) program suggestions

There is a long list of ways to change and update the temporary foreign worker (TFW) programs but I really like the four suggested in this article.

Here are some of my thoughts on the ones mentioned:

  1. Remove the 10 per cent cap on low-wage temporary foreign workers

There will always be challenging positions to fill.  With lower wage jobs in general, there simply isn’t as many people who want to do them.  Canadian employers that are dealing with low skill/low wage positions don’t have the luxury of large budgets so they would hire local Canadians first as it is more practical anyways.

Employers currently post multiple ads in Canada, actively attempt to recruit Canadians and offer wages at or above the median wage for the occupation, before they are allowed to hire a temporary foreign worker. Since the Canadian government has the power to send temporary foreign workers home, and this has not occurred so far, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to show that temporary foreign workers take away Canadian jobs.

This cap hurts the Canadian economy because it prevents businesses from hiring the people they need.  Employers who cannot operate successful will eventually have to shut their doors, which will result in Canadians being laid off.

  1. Provide a permanent residency pathway for all temporary foreign workers.

The pathway to permanent residency is difficult to navigate.  For those who have managed to clear the hurdles for a temporary work permit, it shows that they are willing, capable and invested in remaining in Canada.  Together with the support of their employer (whose businesses have employed them to support the Canadian economy), this is the type of “worker” we need in the country.

If the job vacancies persist over a period of time, isn’t this sufficient evidence that skill shortage is chronic?  Temporary foreign workers should be given a pathway or at least a small advantage in their permanent residency application.

  1. Enforce temporary foreign worker rules.

With the number of audits there are presumably being conducted, the majority of employers are complying with the law. If the rules are broken, those who don’t follow them should be punished or the rules are meaningless.

  1. Clear guidelines on how temporary foreign worker applications will be assessed.

The requirements should be clear for everyone but a portion of the guidelines the government uses to assess temporary foreign worker applications are not publicly posted.  Larger employers, who have the resources to research the issues have an advantage over smaller businesses.  It is however, the small to medium enterprises (SME’s) who face the biggest hiring challenges and need the most assistance with the TFW administration.

Immigration Levels Plan released March 8, 2016

The Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released the Federal Government’s 2016 Immigration Levels Plan on March 8, 2016.

2016 Immigration Plan

The 2016 Plan is a 7.4% increase over the 2015 level plan for immigration.  It emphasizes family reunification and humanitarian and compassionate processing over foreign workers.  Canada is also aiming to reduce application processing times.

Some of the Plan’s key points include:

  • Canada will admit between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016;
  • Fewer Economic immigrants will be accepted under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), Federal Skilled Workers (FSW), and Federal Skilled Trades (FST) programs;
  • Restoration of the maximum age for dependent children to 22 (from 19);
  • Conditional permanent residence (PR) status to Family Class spouses will be eliminated;
  • Number of new applications allowed each year for parents and grandparents has been doubled;
  • A reduction in federal business immigration by approximately 47% from 2015

A few bright spots for employers

  • Foreign workers who are selected from the Express Entry Pool and submit a complete application for permanent residence may be eligible for an Open Bridging Work Permit to extend Work Permit status
  • The Government of Canada has announced that it will undertake a coast-to-coast review of the Foreign Worker Program.
  • Changes to Express Entry (EE) are expected which includes the allocation of points for Canadian siblings and changes to the CEC category to benefit international students

Same old same old

I am disappointed that the Government has not made more of an effort to include economic immigrants and foreign workers in the 2016 plan.  In many ways the new policies are the same “old” ones.  This current government is canceling what the previous government implemented just recently and reinstated many of the original rules.

LMIA 2.0

A small bright spot is that the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) will be revisited and hopefully redesigned to be more responsive to true business needs.  Immigration Minister McCallum has acknowledged that the Foreign Worker Program (FWP) has swung from one end of the extreme (too lax) to the other (too stringent) as a knee jerk reaction to high profile scrutiny.

The LMIA review is a good sign that we have some action oriented leadership in Canadian immigration today.  It’s important to fix and readjust what isn’t working in a program instead of taking the easy way out by eliminating it.  The FWP has had its problems but it isn’t beyond repair.  If they do employer consultations, perhaps this will provide a reality check for any redesign considerations.

Foreign worker value

The Canadian economy doesn’t operate as a completely closed employment bubble.  Foreign workers provide flexibility, ingenuity and potential to meet Canada’s needs now and into the future.  In an ideal world, Canadian employers could rely exclusively on its own citizens to meet its labour needs.  However, that isn’t possible or realistic.  Foreign workers will always exist and in Canada’s case, this is often the first step onto the permanent resident pathway.

Temporary work permits facilitate what could be a mutual probationary period for potential immigrants to Canada.  Both parties have a practical way to see how things work out before firming up the relationship – this is better than a money back guarantee.

This IRCC infographic provides a good snapshot of the Immigration Plan.

eTA required for Canadian PR’s

The Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) will be coming into effect on March 15, 2016.  This travel requirement (see previous blog post) is being imposed on visa-exempt foreign nationals flying into Canada.  All Airlines will be checking travelers and any passengers who do not have an eTA or do not qualify for an exemption will not be permitted to board the aircraft.

Exemptions

  • Foreign nationals who require a temporary resident visa to enter Canada are exempt
  • Citizens of the United States are exempt – however, US permanent residents / Green Card holders do require an eTA
  • According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”), foreign nationals who hold a study or work permit issued on or after August 1, 2015 have automatically been issued an eTA
  • Visitor record holders must apply for a separate eTA, regardless of when it was issued
  • Permanent residents who hold a valid permanent resident card do not require an eTA
  • The eTA is not required for travel to Canada by sea or land

eTA Application process

The eTA application process is fully electronic and costs CAD $7.00. The eTA will be issued for up to five years and will be electronically linked to the traveller’s passport.  No physical document will be issued so it will be wise to print and carry the CIC confirmation acceptance email.

Permanent Residents of Canada

The eTA air travel requirement will affect permanent residents of Canada in a brand new way.  On March 15, Canadian permanent residents without valid permanent resident cards will not be permitted to board flights to Canada.  They must apply for a separate “travel document” from a Canadian visa office abroad to confirm their status with airlines prior to boarding.

Permanent residents who need to renew their permanent resident cards should send in their applications as early as possible. All travelers should confirm their status with air carriers prior to travel to ensure they will be permitted to board flights back to Canada.  Otherwise, the only other option is to travel back by land or sea.

Canadian Employers

Employers should review current immigration documentation held by non-US foreign workers and permanent residents required to travel for business.  Those individuals who require an eTA or permanent resident card to enter Canada should apply as early as possible; these eTA requirements will increase the immigration-related administration and could impact operations.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, Bill C-24 (Part 2 )

With the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, Bill C-24, the government made changes to strengthen and restrict the granting of citizenship. These new requirements make it more difficult for permanent residents to qualify to be Canadian citizens.

The key changes that came into force with the final installment on June 11, 2015 include:

Stricter Residency Requirements

  • Adult applicants must now be physically present in Canada for at least 1,460 days (four years) during the six years before the date of their application, AND they must be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days in each of the four calendar years within the qualifying period.
  • This is a change from the current residency requirement of accumulating three years of residence within the four years immediately preceding the date of his/her application (1,095 out of 1,460 days). Additionally it will require applicants to be present in Canada for at least 183 days per year in four of the six years.

Expanded language and knowledge testing

  • Applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must meet basic knowledge and language requirements.

The current age group for basic knowledge and language requirements is 18-54.  Under the new changes, the age group has been extended to the younger and older applicants.

Income Tax Filing Requirement

  • Applicants will be required to show proof of income tax filings for the qualifying period.

This is a new requirement that did not exist before.

Intent to Reside Requirement

  • Adult applicants must declare their intent to reside in Canada once they become citizens.
  • the new Act states that the person’s intention must be continuous from the date of his/her application until they take the oath of Citizenship

This is a new requirement that did not exist before. Clients that leaving the country soon after filing a Citizenship application may be construed as a misrepresentation. 

Other changes that came into force…

  • Individuals with foreign criminal charges and convictions which if convicted in Canada would be an indictable offense (regardless of whether a pardon or amnesty was granted) will no longer be granted citizenship as per the Act. The applicant is barred from applying if the act occurred within the four years from the application date.

Under the old Act, this bar only pertained to applicants who had Canadian criminal charges and convictions which amounted to indictable offenses. And the bar was within three years of the date of application.

  • Citizenship provisions to “Lost Canadians” and citizenship will be automatically extended to additional “Lost Canadians” who were born before 1947, and did not become citizens on January 1, 1947 when the first Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect. This will also apply to their children born in the first generation outside Canada.
  • Greater penalties for fraud
  • New authority to designate a regulatory body for citizenship consultants

Only members of the ICCRC, lawyers or notaries (including paralegals and students at law) can be paid to provide citizenship applicants with representation or advice.

  • New revocation model and new grounds for revocation of citizenship

The government will be able to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence received.

Under the current process, revocation involved three steps: the Citizenship and Immigration Minister, the Federal Court and the Governor in Council. In the new model, the majority of revocation cases will be decided by the Citizenship and Immigration Minister only.

Those seeking citizenship will need to plan ahead – by ensuring they file their income taxes with the Canada Revenue Agency, be physically present in Canada for at least four years during the six years before the date of their application and be present in Canada for half of the year (183 days) in each of the qualifying four calendar years.

In addition, the government implemented stronger penalties for fraud and misrepresentation in citizenship applications and has the power to revoke citizenship for dual citizens.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, Bill C-24 (Part 1)

The remaining provisions of the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, Bill C-24 came into force on June 11, 2015. Bill C-24 became law on June 19, 2014 and were the first set of reforms to the Citizenship Act since 1977.

The changes, which amended and improved the citizenship program, came into effect in three phases: July 19, 2014, August 1, 2014 and June 11, 2015.

The government has made changes to strengthen and to restrict the granting of citizenship. These new requirements will make it more difficult for permanent residents to become Canadian citizens.

June 19, 2014

  • Fast-tracking citizenship for members of the Canadian Armed Forces;
  • Improving clarity on the first generation limit on citizenship for those born abroad;
  • Extending the exception to the first generation limit to ensure the children of Crown servants can pass on citizenship; and
  • Moving the decision-making authority for discretionary citizenship grants to the Minister, which eliminated an extra application step.

August 1, 2014

  • Streamlined decision-making process for citizenship applications whereby citizenship officers have complete discretion on all aspects of the application;
  • Improved efficiency of the application process by returning incomplete applications;
  • A new uniform system for judicial review of decisions made under the Act. Now decisions made by citizenship officers can be judicially reviewed and challenged in the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada; and
  • Authority to abandon a citizenship application (at any stage of the process) if the applicant fails to comply with a request for information or to attend an interview.

The final set of changes to the Act that came into force on June 11, 2015. The intent of these new revisions is to deter “citizens of convenience“; and therefore, residency requirements have become much stricter.

Please see Part 2 in next post…

No April’s Fool Joke for TFWs

For those who employ temporary foreign workers (TFWs), April Fools Day 2015 is no laughing matter—as it carries with it a deadline four years in coming.

On April 1, 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) officially capped how long a temporary foreign worker (TFW) could work in Canada at one time to four years. With this “4-in, 4-out” regulation, a foreign national could only work for four years on a work permit; and then leave Canada for at least another four years before being eligible to apply for a subsequent term.

The first group of TFWs will experience this “4-in, 4-out” rule starting April 1, 2015.   The intention of this regulation was to encourage TFWs to either apply for permanent resident (PR) status or leave Canada when their status expired—thereby maintaining the integrity around genuine temporary status.

This type of cap is black and white, but the employers and workers who need the TFW programs come in in every hue.  There are just as many truly temporary TFWs as those who change their minds or use the temporary route as a transitional pathway to permanent residence.  There are also many situations where someone is trying to qualify or complete their permanent resident application while in the country but encounter unexpected hurdles or disruptions.

Although the rationale of a TFW being temporary makes sense, the processing times for immigration is making this much more difficult than the decision makers would have expected in 2011.  Unfortunately, there is no mechanism for flexibility.  The rules and regulations have changed significantly, not only in the last four years but in the last four months.  The fall-out will be interesting as the Express Entry (EE) program, which came into effect on January 1, 2015, has hindered a lot of qualified PR applicants.  Many of these skilled TFWs who have been living and working in Canada haven’t been able to get an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for PR – the pre-qualification required for the EE online system.

While there aren’t very many work around solutions available at the moment—as the TFWs who are caught up in this were likely not eligible for the exemptions to this cap to begin with—let’s hope Canadian government introduces reasonable bridging alternatives as with some of their other programs.  Whether it is an interim period or the start of more reform dialogue, what is needed are workable solutions for immigration which address the greater business needs in the Canadian economy.

 

First ITA draw not requiring job offer to qualify

As Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) works through the growing pains of the new Express Entry (EE) process, we are finally seeing a more reasonable point score. With the March 20, 2015 draw, those who don’t have a validated (LMIA/ PNP) job offer to upload into their online profiles have a chance for permanent residence (PR).

1620 lucky recipients with 481 points or higher received Invitations to Apply (ITA) in this round.  Although 481/1200 doesn’t sound very high, this is still a relatively difficult score to obtain.

The latest announcement details curiously doesn’t appear in the same place as the other previous draws though.

 

Some assembly (and job offer) is required

The very first draw on January 31, 2015 required a high score of 886 out of 1200 to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) was a little shocking. The actual number of candidates invited was 779. The very first question I received during discussions with clients was “You mean 779 in BC? Canada?” to which I answered “I don’t think so. It’s open to everyone globally interested in submitting their application for immigration.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced its first picks for Skilled Worker Express Entry this past weekend.   The folks who received an Invitation to Apply (ITA) have the “golden ticket” to proceed with their permanent resident (PR) application to Canada. They must complete the rest of their submission online within 60 days to receive permanent status in Canada.

This first group of applicants are gave us a glimpse of the direction of how the immigration priorities will be. As with every new government policy/program, the practicalities will still take some time to unfold. There still isn’t a lot of information available and (hopefully) there will be adjustments to be made to the selection emphasis.

Only very narrow definitions of job offer and eligibility are being considered by CIC right now. There is no mechanism for those who don’t have a validated job offer to immigrate to Canada.

Your employees can’t do this alone.

Many industries with highly qualified talent will be caught off guard as they did not see this coming. There are lots of foreign workers who have qualified for work permits through various international agreements such as NAFTA or working holiday programs who will not qualify or receive an ITA. Despite the popularity of Canadian Experience Class (CEC), Express Entry does not appear to recognize everyone with work experience gained in Canada. In the past, programs like CEC made it possible for foreign workers to qualify for PR as long as they were performing skilled work. Although the CEC still currently exists under Skilled Immigration, these individuals will not be able to immigrate without employer assistance. While they could have applied on their own prior to Express Entry, these applicants will now need their employers to support a PNP or LMIA on their behalf.

Temporary leads to permanent

Perhaps the next draw and the future ones will be adjusted to account for those who currently possess different kinds of valid temporary work permits. Otherwise, there will be quite a bit of fallout. The re-recruitment efforts, loss of talent and potential backlash from specialized industries will require more examination. If those who are currently contributing to the Canadian economy already aren’t eligible, how will Canada continue to position itself as a destination for mobile talent? As a country that needs knowledge workers, we will lose the very jobs we are trying to create in the economy.

The ITA pool will be constantly refreshed and continually updated with new applicants and (hopefully) the policy makers will be looking at practical considerations from different angles. Our economy needs skilled labour for employers – whether they are temporary or permanent to start. While permanent jobs is the ultimate goal, the smaller initial step of hiring on a temporary basis is the stepping stone for Canadian employers to start.