The new improved
Readers of this column will be aware that federal immigration changed drastically throughout 2012. Some will say it is for the better while many will say it’s for the worse. Immigration minister Jason Kenny is seen either as the saviour of our immigration programs or the destroyer of things that Canadians hold dear. The final judgment will be at the polls where Canadians will have the real opportunity to give him feedback that he and the ruling Conservative government deserve.
The focus of the objective reader should be in judging what he has done to change things and what he has introduced in their place. My article will not focus on immigration in general or changes like the “temporary” (uncertain at this time) moratorium on parental/grandparental sponsorship – set to end in November 2013. The jury is still out on many changes. Rather, I shall focus on the New Federal Skills Worker Program (FSWP), which will start accepting applications on May 4, 2013.
The FSWP has been in place for many years but Minister Kenny drastically altered it in 2012. First, there was the yearly change of targets from 20,000 down to 10,000 within individual restricted National Occupational Classification codes being reduced first to 1,000 then 500 per annum. Then FSWP was stopped and no new applicants were accepted.
For those applicants who had already applied to the FSWP, Minister Kenny took the drastic step of reducing the federal backlog by 300,000 plus applications. In one harsh stroke of his pen he instructed his department to return hundreds of thousands of applications and refunded their processing fees of over $130 million. Many of the applicants, primarily from China, India and the Philippines, had been waiting patiently for years. Minister Kenny said that the backlog was something that Canada could not tolerate and that the applicants were no longer qualified to meet the current requirements for skilled workers. I don’t want to belabour the point but this issue is still not resolved with one ruling of the Supreme Court going against the federal department and a final ruling still to be made. The backlog, for the record, was not the fault of the applicants but the responsibility of the Minister and his department who did not process applications in a timely or apparently fair fashion.
In place of the old FSWP, which Minister Kenny maintains did not work in Canada’s best interest, he has introduced the new “improved” FSWP.
“For too long, too many immigrants to Canada have experienced underemployment and unemployment, and this has been detrimental to these newcomers and to the Canadian economy,” said the Minister. “Our transformational changes to 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.”
I could take issue with the premise that Minister Kenny used to justify his actions but it is more important at this point for readers to understand what he is introducing as an improved FSWP.
What will FSWP look like in May 2013? We have some indication from past pronouncements and especially the Minister’s news release of December 19, 2012. The new program should include:
- Minimum official language thresholds and increased points for English or French language proficiency, “making language the most important factor in the selection process.” The minimum language threshold is Canada Language Benchmarks 7 for English with a similar level for the French language test;
- Increased emphasis on younger immigrants “who are more likely to acquire valuable Canadian experience, are better positioned to adapt to changing labour market conditions, and who will spend a greater number of years contributing to Canada’s economy”;
- Introduction of a requirement for applicants to have their foreign academic credentials assessed (Educational Credential Assessment or ECA), “so that education points awarded reflect the foreign credential’s true value in Canada.” A list of the assessment organizations designated by the Minister will soon be announced;
- In addition there will be changes to the arranged employment process, “allowing employers to hire applicants quickly, if there is a demonstrated need in the Canadian labour market;”
- Additional points will be awarded for spousal official language ability and Canadian work experience;
- The Minister again states his commitment to making the new FSWP work faster “within a few months, rather than a few years.” The announcement warns that in order to meet this reduction in processing times, the new FSWP will accept only a fixed number of applications (not specified yet) for 2013; and
- He once again refers to the overall change in the development and implementation of an Expression of Interest (EOI) model, which will provide Canadian employers with a pool of skilled workers.
Looks like another year of changes in Canadian immigration. If the new FSWP is any indication, the changes are happening so quickly even Minister Jason Kenny cannot keep up with his own announcements. Let’s wait and see what the FSWP looks like by the implementation date. May is only a few months away.
Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org