Immigration to Canada – New Federal Skilled Worker Program

Immigration to Canada – New Federal Skilled Worker Program Magazine – April – June 2013 Edition (In Print, Available at Chapters)
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Immigration to Canada – New Federal Skilled Worker Program

On December 19, 2012, the Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced significant changes to the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) for immigration into Canada. In an official news release, the Minister stated, “The government’s number one priority remain jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity. The new Federal Skilled Worker Program criteria will ensure Canada is selecting the skilled immigrants our economy needs, who are the most likely to succeed and fully realize their potential in Canada.”

Since July 1, 2012, the FSWP was placed on a moratorium and no applications were accepted except for those from certain PhD students and those supported by a qualifying job offer. Good news is, the New FSWP will be opened up to accept new applications on May 4, 2013. With new criteria for the FSWP set to take effect in May, many prospective immigrants may already be preparing to apply.

What’s New Under the New Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)?

Key Changes to the FSWP points-system selection criteria include:

Language (28 points max.) – minimum official language thresholds and increased points for official language proficiency, making language the most important factor in the selection process

Age (12 points max.) – increased emphasis on younger immigrants (18 – 35 years old), who are more likely to acquire valuable Canadian experience, are better positioned to adapt to changing labour market conditions

Education (25 points max.) – introduction of the Educational Credential Assessment (ECA), so that education points awarded reflect the foreign credential’s true value

Work Experience (15 points max.) – as foreign work experience is a weak predictor of success in the Canadian labour market, the total number of points for foreign work experience are educed, and the years of experience required to get full points are increased

Arranged Employment (10 points max.) – new list of priority occupations that allow employers to hire applicants more quickly if there is a demonstrated need in the Canadian labour market

Adaptability (10 points max.) – additional points for spousal language ability and Canadian work experience

Cap on Applications – in order to ensure fast processing times and to avoid backlogs, only a fixed number of applications be accepted each year.

Applicants are selected based on a grid of 100 points that assess the candidate’s overall capacity to adapt to Canada’s labour market. Each applicant is awarded points for official language ability, age, education, work experience, employment already arranged in Canada, and adaptability (such as previous work experience, education acquire in Canada, or familial connections in Canada). The passing mark remains to be 67 points out of 100. Successful applicants must also meet admissibility requirements on health, security, and financial grounds. For instance, someone who has committed a serious crime or whose health is likely to cause excessive demand on health or social services may be deemed inadmissible to Canada.

The new selection grid reflects Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)’s interest in attracting the immigration of younger, more educated, skilled workers and those with higher language proficiency in one or both of Canada’s official languages. CIC’s Research shows that such applicants are most likely to succeed in securing a viable career, integrating in society more rapidly, being active members of the work force for a longer period of time and thereby achieving the Immigration Refugee & Protection Act (Canada) legislative objective of permitting Canada to pursue the maximum social, cultural and economic benefits of immigration. This also identifies the problem the Minister is concerned about: “For too long, too many immigrants to Canada have experienced underemployement and unemployment, and this has been detrimental to these newcomers and to the Canadian economy,” said Minister Kenney. “Our transformational changes to the FSWP will help ensure that skilled newcomers are able to contribute their skills fully to the economy as soon as possible. This is good for newcomers, good for the economy, and good for all Canadians.”

Some critics comment that picking and choosing immigrants by age and language skills is discriminatory and is inconsistent with the principals of equality and freedom in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On such point, the Charter only applies to individuals who are physically present in Canada and by virtue of such presence amenable to Canadian law; secondly, equality rights are subject to “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” In light of the financial and societal benefits potentially brought by a younger, more adaptable workforce, it makes economic sense for the FSWC program to differentiate applicants by awarding points based on the new selection criteria.

Vyvyan Tsui, Barrister & Solicitor

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