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Migration & visa related news

February 27, 2015

Canada - Critics call for fine-tuning of federal skilled immigration program


Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says he's happy with the results of the Express Entry program's program’s inaugural draw.
February 27, 2015 A total of 779 candidates were selected in the inaugural round of Ottawa’s revamped skilled immigration program, but critics are already calling for the program to be fine-tuned. The successful applicants, selected at the end of January, accounted for 26 per cent of an estimated 3,000 people who entered the draw for the federal government’s highly-touted Express Entry program.

The decisive factor was securing a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) by a prospective employer to prove a candidate possesses skills that are in high demand.

Successful candidates were those who scored at least 886 points out of a maximum of 1,200. Securing a positive LMIA automatically earned applicants 600 points, while personal attributes such as education, language skills and work experience made up the other 600 possible points. However, in the aftermath of Ottawa’s temporary foreign worker program controversy, critics say it has become too difficult to acquire an LMIA as officials tighten the screening for assessing if a foreigner’s skills are in demand.

“It’s the first draw under the new Express Entry program and the numbers were quite low. The pass mark was 35 per cent lower than the max. The kick of it is to get a positive LMIA,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas.

“But LMIAs are incredibly difficult to get. It’s such a laborious, time-intensive and complicated process for employers. Service Canada now looks for things to refuse an application. Why would employers spend the time and money on these applications?”

Karas also said that the pool of applicants should be widened by exempting some people from obtaining LMIAs, since workers from countries that have trade agreements with Canada don’t require the documents.

“That includes those who have graduated in Canada and currently hold postgraduate work permits, and those who are here under exempt categories, such as NAFTA professionals and intracompany transferees,” said Karas.

Under the new two-step selection system, all applicants are screened to enter the pool and then ranked against each other in order to be invited to apply for permanent residency.

Roughly 10,000 people applied for the inaugural draw and 3,000 were entered into the pool.

Although the government has touted the program’s expediency in matching employers with prospective migrants via the Canadian job bank, Karas said it does not make sense for employers to advertise a position in a job bank as part of the LMIA application when they have already recruited a prospect and made a job offer.

“It is ridiculous to require employers to advertise to look for somebody else or compete against other employers to hire the person,” said Karas, explaining the added factor for employers’ reluctance to apply for the LMIA on an applicant’s behalf.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said he was happy with the results of the program’s inaugural draw.

“The fact that everyone who was invited to apply for permanent residence in this round of invitations already has valid job offers, or provincial nominations, shows that Express Entry is working to fill Canada’s existing labour market gaps,” Alexander said.

“With Express Entry, we’re inviting highly skilled candidates with a high chance of success in Canada to apply for permanent residence, and bringing them to Canada more quickly and easily than ever before.”

Critics also complain the new system lacks transparency.

“Even people already working here may not be deemed worthy or qualified to be permanent resident. There’s no rationale provided how the cut-off was set,” said lawyer Mario Bellissimo, past president of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration law section.

“When these (numbers) become moving targets, there’s less transparency and little justification, the integrity of the system is called into question.”

A second draw, held February 7, also selected 779 candidates, with a passing score of 818. The successful candidates must respond to the invitation within 60 days. Failed candidates will remain in the pool for six months for future draws. Between 15 and 25 draws are planned for 2015.

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