Stagnant U.S. employment market makes Canada an appealing work destination
OTTAWA — More Americans are knocking on Canada's door for jobs as their economy worsens and unemployment rates rise.
In July, the unemployment rate in the U.S. stood at 9.1 per cent versus 7.3 per cent in Canada.
Numbers from Immigration Canada show that the number of Americans applying for temporary work visas has doubled since 2008 when the global recession hit. In 2010, the ministry received 4,109 applications versus 2,115 in 2008.
On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama urged Congress to quickly pass a $447-billion jobs bill to stimulate an ailing labour market.
"This is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country. This is a bill that will help our economy in a moment of national crisis," Obama said.
"This is a bill that Congress needs to pass. No games. No politics. No delays."
The U.S. Census Bureau said the number of Americans living below the poverty line rose to a record 46 million last year, with the national poverty rate climbing for a third consecutive year to 15.1 per cent in 2010.
Americans are the second largest group of temporary workers in Canada, behind Filipinos. As of December 2010, there were 32,615 Americans with permanent residence status in Canada.
Janette Luu, a Toronto-based television journalist from Fort Wayne, Indiana, said she flocked to Canada five years ago to work in a bigger city.
"I came up to Toronto for a visit and sent resume tapes and emailed TV stations and they were receptive, which was impressive because Toronto is pretty big city and when you said I'm an American journalist, they seemed interested or wanted to meet," said Luu.
However, her job hunt wasn't always easy since employers had to prove they could not find any suitable Canadian to do the job before hiring international talent.
Despite living in Canada for five years, Luu was considered "not really Canadian" enough for some employers.
"I may pronounce 'process' as 'prawcess' sometimes, but otherwise, how would viewers know I'm American? Toronto is so diverse and most people are from somewhere else to begin with," said Luu.
Windsor-based immigration lawyer Drew Porter, who has dealt with a lot of employment cases because of the shared Detroit border, said Americans need to obtain an offer of employment before a work permit is issued. Under NAFTA, there are certain occupations, including engineers and accountants, who are exempt from going through a Labour Market Opinion, a prerequisite for foreign nationals to be hired in Canada. These candidates can automatically secure a work permit at the border once they show proof of employment.
However, for candidates who don't fall under the NAFTA list of occupations, they usually hit a wall since they need an offer of employment in order to get a work visa.
For Luu's American friends who thought about coming to Toronto for work, they say they love the city but the "paperwork was too complicated" since it could be a burden for the employer.
"If you're under NAFTA, it's not a burden for the employer, but for those who fall between the cracks an LMO could be onerous," Porter said.
"Both countries show intent to protect their labour force but with the aging population and certain skill trades in deficit positions . . . my reading is there is going to be a need for foreign nationals to come to Canada to fill certain voids," said Porter.
With files from Reuters
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