BY RICHARD GILBERT - Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is launching a new immigration system that offers express entry to immigrants under the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) who want to become permanent residents.
“It’s creating an online system that would allow foreign trained individuals who are interested in coming to Canada on a permanent basis to be able to pre-register on a website managed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada,” said Michael Atkinson, president of the Canadian Construction Association.
“And, their ability to be preferred as a permanent resident into Canada will be measured based on whether they have any job offers from Canadian employers, and whether or not their occupation is in demand. So, it’s not on a first come first served basis.”
The federal government is implementing new measures in key economic immigration programs to prepare for next year’s launch of Express Entry.
Express Entry is open to skilled immigrants and allows the government to select the best candidates who are most likely to succeed in Canada, rather than those who happen to be first in line.
As a result, it is expected to prevent backlogs and allow CIC to better coordinate application volume with the annual immigration levels plan.
New applicants began submitting applications to CIC on May 1 under three different streams.
These are the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), FSTP and Canadian Experience Class (CEC).
“What will happen under this system is that once you have pre-registered, in the event that there is a job offer or you don’t want to come in now, you will be invited by the system to apply for permanent entry,” said Atkinson.
“Now, the rules that will decide whether or not you qualify for permanent entry are not going to change.”
The cap for the FSTP will be increased to 5,000 applications to help meet the demand for skilled trades people.
All 90 skilled trades designated under the program regulations will now be eligible for consideration.
However, sub-caps remain in order to ensure appropriate representation of the various occupations.
“My understanding is the provincial governments are going to be part of this, and you may see that the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) are going to be managed by this system,” said Atkinson.
“Although, the provinces themselves would probably control the invites.”
Express Entry candidates who receive a job offer or nomination under the PNP will be quickly invited to apply for permanent residency.
This is a key distinction between Express Entry and the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program, which is only used to fill temporary labour and skill shortages.
The whole process is expected to take about six months from the time of pre-registering with the fully automatic online system to enter the country under one of the permanent entry programs.
Atkinson said one of the issues for Express Entry is that similar systems already operating in Australia and New Zealand provide employers with the ability to search the database, in which these pre-registrants are sitting.
“What is not clear to us is to what extent the Canadian system is going to allow for that,” he said.
In addition, Atkinson said the Express Entry system may be linked with the Government of Canada’s Job Bank.
It currently matches Canadian employers with potential immigrants and Employment Insurance recipients, who are looking for work.
“If you are an employer under the Temporary Foreign Worker program, the government requires you to use the Job Bank to make sure employment offers go to any and all permanent residents and Canadians, before you are allowed to get an LMO (Labour Market Opinion) that allows you to go offshore,” said Atkinson.
The 2014 federal budget will invest $14 million over two years and $4.7 million per year ongoing to ensure Express Entry is implemented successfully.
According to Atkinson, the FSTP was very well received by the industry, but employers have found other ways to bring workers into the country.
“Some employers prefer the PNP program, because it is more employer-directed, broad and more flexible,” he said.
“And if you employ a TFW, after 12 months of experience, they can apply for permanent status under the CEC, without having to leave Canada.”