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Ottawa caps number of skilled immigrants

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The federal government will cap at 20,000 annually the number of visa applications from skilled immigrants in an attempt to reduce the backlog.
Immigration applicants must also submit proof of proficiency in one of Canada’s two official languages through a mandatory test, according to new instructions released Friday by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Until now, some applicants were allowed to submit a written declaration testifying to their language ability. For example, exemptions could be granted to those who were educated in English or French.
“Only test results from a third-party language testing agency . . . will be accepted,” the instructions say. Kenney will officially announce the changes Saturday in Toronto.
The approved language tests include the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Test d’évaluation de français (TEF). The language requirement also applies to applicants under the Canada Experience Class.
As part of the changes, the number of occupations eligible for the federal skilled worker program has also been reduced from 38 to 29.
Due to an oversupply in the job market, 20 of the original 38 job categories have been removed, including managers in finances, computer and information systems, health care and construction, as well as university professors and college and vocational instructors.
They are being replaced with 11 new occupations: social workers, psychologists, dental hygienists and therapists, pharmacists, dentists, architects, biologists and related scientists, insurance adjusters and claims examiners, primary industry production managers (except those in agriculture) and professions in business services and management.
Applicants must have one year of continuous full-time or equivalent paid work experience in at least one of the occupations to qualify.
The immigration department will also limit the number of applications in each occupation to no more than 1,000; the applications will be processed on a first-come-first-served basis. These instructions and restrictions are effective until June 30, 2011.
Kenney introduced his first instructions in February 2008 to reduce the ever-growing immigration backlog by restricting the qualifying occupations, but applications kept coming. Critics have said the backlog appears to be re-emerging despite those measures.
Based on an analysis of department data by immigration lawyer Richard Kurland earlier this year, the average processing time from all Canadian visa posts is 7 ½ years, with 600,000 people in the queue for the 80,055 skilled immigrant visas granted in 2010.
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