Canada Looks to Lure Away Skilled U.S. Workers

English: Population distribution of Canadians ...
English: Population distribution of Canadians (Stats Canada 2006) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul Thomas could hardly believe it when a Canadian recruiter called about a position as a mechanic in British Columbia. His annual income had dropped to $40,000 a year from $100,000 as business slowed at the Atlanta car dealership where he worked. He’d filed for bankruptcy, and his house was in foreclosure when the headhunter saw his résumé online. “My wife and I were excited,” says the 45-year-old. “Auto mechanics don’t get approached by recruiters, so it was sort of nice being catered to.”
The headhunter sent Thomas online videos about the heavy-truck dealership that wanted to hire him, and his prospective employer flew him in for four days for a fuller picture of life in Prince George. Last March the company hired him under an immigration program for skilled workers. Scoring the job, which pays about $90,000 a year and comes with government-provided health care, seemed like “I scratched a lottery ticket,” says Thomas. Within a month he had a work permit.
Canada has a high rate of unemployment—12.3 percent in some regions. It also has tens of thousands of open jobs nationwide for plumbers, electricians, and other skilled workers. Employers have a hard time getting potential hires to go where the work is. “Canadians just aren’t willing to leave their provinces,” says Kathleen Kischer, who recruited Thomas. So companies, particularly in Western Canada, are tapping headhunters to (MWW)LinkedIn (LNKD), and even Craigslist in search of Americans and other foreigners with the right résumés—a task made easier by the national government.
This past winter it launched a fast-track immigration program for 43 trades, promising to process work papers within 12 months for applicants who speak English or French and have two years’ experience in their field. Among the most wanted: ironworkers, welders, oil and gas well drillers, and heavy-duty equipment mechanics. “We always point out to Canadians that even though there are too many unemployed Canadians, there are also too many unfilled jobs,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said during a speech in April.
Canada is opening the door to Americans at the same time the U.S. Congress is battling over whether to let in more skilled workers. In Canada last year, 160,617 immigrants were granted permanent residency because of the economic value they brought, while 64,901 became residents via family ties, according to the government. In the U.S., with a population about nine times as big as Canada’s, 680,799 immigrants became residents through family sponsorships in fiscal 2012, and only 143,998 obtained residency based on their employment, federal data show.
It can take a decade for an employed immigrant to get a U.S. green card; in Canada a skilled worker can obtain permanent residency within 18 months, says Richard Kurland, an immigration lawyer in Vancouver. Foreigners can also apply for residency on their own, without an employer’s help—another big difference from the U.S. Word of the perks has spread all over the world. In 2011 the U.S. was only the fourth-largest source of immigrants to Canada, behind the Philippines, China, and India.
Kael Campbell, a headhunter in Victoria, says Canadians are benefiting from the influx of foreigners. “The hiring of one American John Deere (DE) or Caterpillar (CAT)mechanic with 10 years of experience can result in the direct employment of eight to nine Canadians” that are less skilled, Campbell says. His firm landed jobs in the mining and equipment industries for 30 immigrants last year, up from 18 in 2011.
Going north solved Thomas’s financial problems. His wife is now a cashier at a Costco (COST). They’ve made friends. “Home will always be the States,” says Thomas. That won’t stop the couple from applying for permanent residency in their new country. “Canada was my saving grace,” he says. “I believe I will stay here for a while.”
The bottom line: Canada gives preference for visas to immigrants who’ll add to its economy—a contrast with the U.S., where family ties trump employment.
Louis is a reporter for Bloomberg News in Washington.

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Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification: Phase II

English: A grandfather teaching his little gra...
English: A grandfather teaching his little granddaughter how to ride a kick scooter. Simmering, Vienna, Austria, June 2006. Photo by KF. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the backlog and wait times being cut in half, Phase II of that Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification will build on that success with further backlog reduction and even faster processing times.

First: Maintain high admissions

In 2012 and 2013, Canada will admit 50,000 parents and grandparents. This represents the highest level in 20 years. In 2014, Canada will maintain high levels of admissions for parents and grandparents.
This will help reunite more families and enable further backlog reduction.

Second: Make the Super Visa a permanent program

The Super Visa will become a permanent program and will continue to provide flexibility for families who can access the 10-year multiple-entry visa that allows parents and grandparents to remain in Canada up to two years at a time. The Super Visa is very popular. Over 1,000 Super Visas are issued each month, with over 15,000 Super Visas issued since its launch in December 2011 and approval rates remain high at 86 percent.

Third: New qualifying criteria for permanent residency sponsorship

New qualifying criteria ensure that sponsors have the financial means to support parents and grandparents, while reducing the net costs to Canadian taxpayers by leading to less reliance on health care and social programs.
The new qualifying criteria include:
  • Increase minimum necessary income (MNI) for sponsoring parents and grandparents equivalent by 30 percent: The current MNI does not accurately reflect the increased costs associated with being financially responsible for elderly parents and grandparents. The modest increase in the MNI will ensure sponsors are able to meet the financial needs of their sponsored parents and grandparents, which will reduce the net costs to Canadian taxpayers.
  • Lengthen period for demonstrating the MNI from one year to three years:  Individuals who seek to sponsor their parents and grandparents and their accompanying family members will be required to demonstrate that they meet the new income threshold for the three consecutive tax years prior to submitting the sponsorship application. Requiring prospective sponsors of parents and grandparents to provide evidence of income over a three-year period, as opposed to 12 months, will help ensure sponsors have income stability and the financial means to provide for the basic needs of their parents and grandparents. It will also guarantee that prospective sponsors are contributing to the public services their sponsored family members are likely to use (for example, provincial health care, public transportation, etc.).
  • Evidence of income confined to documents issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA): Individuals who seek to sponsor their parents and grandparents and their accompanying family members will be required to demonstrate that they meet the new income threshold for three consecutive years using CRA notices of assessment. This will mean that officials could spend less time reviewing and verifying documents and could help speed up processing times even further. It will also guarantee that prospective sponsors are contributing to the public services their sponsored family members are likely to use (for example, provincial health care, public transportation, etc.).
  • Extend the sponsorship undertaking period to 20 years instead of 10 years:  The current sponsorship undertaking period for parents and grandparents is 10 years.  Individuals who seek to sponsor their parents and grandparents and accompanying family members will be required to commit to a lengthened sponsorship undertaking period of 20 years. This means sponsors and co-signers (if applicable) will be responsible for repaying any provincial social assistance benefits paid to the parent and grandparent and their accompanying family members for 20 years. A lengthened sponsorship undertaking will protect Canadian taxpayers and ensure sponsors assume more financial responsibility for the basic needs of their parents and grandparents over a longer period of time, as well as for health care costs not covered by provincial health care (for example, eye care, dental care, mobility aids, etc.). 
  • Changing the maximum age of dependents: The maximum age of dependents will be set at 18 years of age and under for all immigration programs, including the Parent and Grandparent program. This is in line with the standard age of majority in Canada. Those over the age of 18 can apply to visit or immigrate to Canada independently. There will be an exception for individuals, regardless of age, who are financially dependent on their parents due to a mental or physical disability.

Fourth: Accepting 5,000 applications in 2014

By accepting 5,000 applications in 2014 while maintaining high levels of admissions of parents and grandparents, the government will be able to further reduce the remaining backlog so that families can be reunited even more quickly. Opening the program to an unlimited number of applications as was done in the past will grow the backlog again and increase wait times, undoing the progress made to date.
For additional information on the proposal to redesign of the PGP program, please consult the draft regulatory package.

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New Parent and Grandparent program re-opens January 2, 2014

Matti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mississauga, May 10, 2013 — Citizenship and Immigration Canada will re-open the Parent and Grandparent (PGP) program for new applications on January 2, 2014, by which time the backlog and wait times in the program are expected to have been cut in half.
“The Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification is on track to meet the goals of cutting in half the backlog and wait times in the Parent and Grandparent program,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “It is very important that we continue to make progress and not return to the old broken system with wait times as long as a decade—that would be unfair to families.”
Phase II of the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification will provide even faster processing times, reduce the backlog further, prevent future backlogs, ensure that families have the financial means to support those they sponsor, and protect the interests of taxpayers.
First – In 2012 and 2013, Canada will admit 50,000 parents and grandparents as permanent residents. This represents the highest level of parents and grandparents admitted in 20 years. In 2014, Canada will maintain high levels of admissions for parents and grandparents.
Second – The Super Visa will become permanent and will continue to provide flexibility for families who access the 10-year multiple-entry visa, allowing visa holders to remain in Canada up to two years at a time. Over 15,000 Super Visas have been issued since the program’s launch in December 2011 with approval rates averaging 86 percent.
Third – New qualifying criteria for permanent residency sponsorship of parents and grandparents will increase the financial responsibility of sponsors to ensure they have the means to support those they sponsor, while limiting the program’s cost to taxpayers and Canada’s strained health and social programs.
Fourth – 5,000 new sponsorship applications will be accepted in the program in 2014. By accepting 5,000 applications in 2014 while maintaining high levels, the government will be able to further reduce the remaining backlog so that families can be reunited more quickly.
“These new criteria ensure sponsored family members are well supported by their sponsors throughout their time in Canada,” said Minister Kenney. “The redesigned Parent and Grandparent program reunites families faster while respecting Canadian taxpayers and the limited resources for health and social programs.”
Canada has one of the most generous family reunification programs in the world. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand do not allow grandparents to be sponsored at all or only in very limited circumstances, and they have very restrictive criteria for the sponsorship of parents.
The amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations that are being proposed will be pre-published in theCanada Gazette (Part I) and the public will be able to comment for a 30-day period.

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Canada reforms temporary immigration visa regime

English: The Montreal head office of the Royal...
English: The Montreal head office of the Royal Bank of Canada is the Place Ville-Marie's largest tenant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Canadian government ministers have announced a U-turn in their policy on temporary foreign workers. The announcement comes after two high profile cases which seemed to show abuse of the system have caused negative headlines for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Last year, Canada introduced several changes to the TFWP aimed at stimulating the economy. It allowed employers to pay foreign temporary workers 15% less than the median pay in any sector and also speeded up the system for gaining work permits. The Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO) allowed employers to get work permits for foreign staff in about ten days. Both these measures have been reversed because of cases which seem to show that they are encouraging employers to employ foreign workers instead of Canadians.Temporary foreign workers who work in Canada under the Canadian Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) must now be paid at the same rate as Canadian workers, there will be greater enforcement of the requirement that temporary foreign workers should not displace Canadians and English and French will be the only languages which can be specified as a requirement for employment. The changes will take place with immediate effect.

Temporary workers must be paid 'the prevailing wage'

On 29th April 2013, Jason Kenney, the Canadian Minister for Immigration and Multiculturalism, and Diane Finley, the Human Resources Minister, gave a joint press conference in Ottawa to announce the changes which are as follows.
  • All temporary foreign workers must now be paid 'the prevailing wage' for the job that they are doing.
  • The Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO) process will be suspended.
  • The government will have greater powers to suspend and revoke work permits where the system has been abused
  • Employers will need to show that they are not replacing Canadian workers with foreign workers.
  • Employers which rely heavily on foreign workers will need to show how they intend to employ more Canadians in future
  • The government will raise the fees for applications to employ foreign workers.
  • Employers will no longer be able to specify that employees must speak language other than English and French (Canada's national languages) in order to take a job.
The ministers were responding to two recent, high profile cases which, unions allege, show that the TFWP is being abused by employers.
In November 2012, unions launched a court case against HD Mining, a mining company which imported 200 Chinese miners into a mine in British Columbia. The unions said that there were plenty of available Canadian miners to do the job and the Chinese miners were being paid CAN$10 an hour less than the market rate. The company said that this was because the mine was using the 'long wall' mining technique which was not used in Canada so there were no suitably qualified miners available locally. HD Mining is 55% owned by a Chinese company.

Unions allege abuse of the system

Unions alleged that the Chinese miners were also being forced to make illegal payments to that company in order to work in Canada. The unions said that it was an abuse of the system to bring in workers and pay them less than the market rate when there were plenty of unemployed Canadian miners living locally. They said that the employer was only employing Chinese speaking miners, further disadvantaging Canadian workers.
The second case was even more damaging to the reputation of the TFWP because it involved the flagship Canadian bank, The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). It also involved allegations that existing staff were being made redundant and replaced by foreign temporary workers.
Unions allege that RBC subcontracted certain functions to Indian outsourcing firm iGate. iGate then applied to the Canadian government for permission to bring in temporary workers. This was granted and once the temporary workers arrived, existing Canadian staff were instructed to train them and were then made redundant. The iGate staff were paid less than their Canadian counterparts.

iGate: 'Authorizations are properly issued under existing law '

When the news of this arrangement broke in early April, iGate spokesman Prabhanjan Deshpande said that the company was doing nothing wrong; 'For any engagement requiring foreign workers, appropriate immigration applications are filed by iGate and all work authorizations are properly issued under existing law and policy'.
However, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Go Public investigative TV programme claims that iGate has yet to respond to allegations that it did not inform the Canadian government that its workers would take the jobs of Canadian staff when applying for Canadian work permits.
At the time, a Canadian government spokesman said 'We recently learned of allegations that RBC could be replacing Canadian workers by contracting with iGate, which is filling some of the roles with temporary foreign workers. If true, this situation is unacceptable'.
Even before these latest cases, unions in Canada were complaining that Canadian employers were replacing indigenous workers with cheaper temporary foreign workers on work permits. They say that foreign workers are not being used as a last resort, as the law requires, but were, instead, being used as an alternative to Canadians and to drive down wages.

Number of temporary foreign workers has more than doubled since 2002

The unions point to the fact that the number of temporary foreign workers with short term work permits (usually lasting either one or two years) has risen from about 185,000 in 2002 to around 447,000 in 2011. Meanwhile, the Canadian unemployment rate has remained higher than 7%.
But Sharaf Sultan, a lawyer at Canadian law firm Heenan Blaikie says that the TFWP contains many protections for Canadian workers and 'thoughtfully assesses the potential impact of the entry of a foreigner in the Canadian labour market. Contrary to the accusations of several commentators, the TFWP is already geared, first and foremost, at protecting local labour markets'. He adds 'Canada faces serious labour shortages across various regions and sectors of the economy'.
In order to employ a foreign worker under the TFWP, a Canadian employer (or international employer like iGate) must receive a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), the Canadian government's department for employment.

Accelerated LMO procedure reduced protection

An LMO is a certificate which assesses the likely impact of employing a foreign worker on the Canadian economy. In order to be allowed to employ a foreign worker, employers must show that this will have a neutral or a positive effect on the Canadian jobs market. This is done by showing that the job has been adequately advertised to Canadian workers. However, after the government had introduced the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO), it became easier for employers to get approval without showing that they had advertised. The unions say that this resulted in reduced protection for Canadian workers.
The joint announcement by Mr Kenney and Ms Finley will, seemingly, make it harder to get LMOs for foreign workers. Ms Finley told the press conference 'The purpose of the TFW program is to help fill genuine and acute labour needs and we have been reviewing the program to ensure that goal is met and Canadian workers are never displaced.'
Even so, the overall trend towards the employment of more workers on temporary work visas, both in Canada and globally, looks set to continue. is a specialist visa consultancy with nearly twenty-five years of experience dealing with visa applications. We are OISC registered. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to the UK or your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.

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