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On March 14, 2008, the Conservative government announced their intention to introduce significant amendments to Canada’s immigration system. Many heated debates, numerous stakeholder consultations, a federal election, and a new Immigration Minister later, the amendments were finally announced on November 28. Immigration remains a key priority for Canada, but now has a slightly stronger focus on economic immigration.
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Canada (CIMC) Minister Jason Kenney recently announced the details of the Canadian Government’s new Action Plan for Faster Immigration, which sets new regulations for the Federal Skilled Worker program of Canadian immigration.
“We expect new federal skilled worker applicants, including those with arranged employment, to receive a decision within six to twelve months compared with up to six years under the old system,” said Minister Kenney.
Under the new regulations, Federal Skilled Worker applicants will need to satisfy one of the following criteria in addition to the current points system in order to qualify:
They must have at least one year of continuous full-time or equivalent paid work experience in the last 10 years in one of 38 qualifying occupations that are in high demand in Canada; OR
They must have an offer of Arranged Employment in Canada; OR
They must have been legally residing in Canada for at least one year as a temporary foreign worker or an international student.
Federal Skilled Worker applicants who do not meet these requirements will have their applications returned with a full refund of government processing fees. The new regulations are retroactive to applications that were received on or after February 27, 2008.
It is important to note that a returned application has not been refused or rejected by CIMC. It can presumably be resubmitted at a later date, when the processing queues become shorter and/or when other occupations are included in the list of qualifying occupations. For those who do not want to wait until that time, there are other options for Canadian immigration, such as the Provincial Nomination Programs (PNP), through which applications receive priority processing.These measures were put in place to reduce the backlog of applications in the system and to speed up the processing times of immigration applications.
Minister Kenney assured that, “The eligibility criteria apply only to new [submitted on or after February 27, 2008] federal skilled worker applicants and will not affect Canada’s family reunification or refugee protection goals.”
In addition to changing the selection criteria, the application submission process has also been retooled, to ensure that new applications will be processed in the targeted 6-12 month period.
With the new regulations finally in place, Minister Kenney was able to get on with tabling the Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration.A central focus of the report, which is in line with the new regulations, is the realigning of immigration with labour market needs. The report states that “Efforts to meet economic needs must go hand in hand with the goal of building Canada as a nation and integrating newcomers into the social and cultural life of the country.”
Between 240,000 and 265,000 new Permanent Residents will be welcomed to Canada in 2009. Up to 156,600 of them will be in the economic category - a slightly larger proportion than last year’s targets. The plan also aims to admit a record number of Provincial Nominees (up to 26,000) to meet the increasing regional demand.
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