Canadian immigration ministers agree to cooperate on visa reform

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On Tuesday 18th March 2014, Canada's immigration minister Chris Alexander met in Ottawa with the immigration ministers of Canada's provinces and territories to discuss Canada's future immigration policies.

According to a joint statement they have 'reiterated their commitment to actively recruit economic immigrants that have the skills the Canadian economy needs most'.

The statement says that they intend to increase the percentage of Canada's total immigrant intake that is made up of economic migrants. In 2012, 62% of migrants were in the economic stream. They said that they intended to increase this figure to 'a minimum of 70%, nationally and by jurisdiction in the years ahead'.


Canada is a federal country comprising ten provinces and three territories. Each of them has considerable autonomy in most matters. This is particularly so in the case of Quebec, the only French-speaking province. Each of the territories and provinces is a 'jurisdiction' and each will attempt to increase economic immigration to 70% of the total 'in the years ahead'.

Sanwar Ali of said 'This is good news for would-be migrants. Canada is actively seeking skilled workers and there are jobs to be had. There will be jobs in construction, mining, medicine and IT and in many other fields too'.

Federal Skilled Worker Program

Canada's main skilled immigration program at present is the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). Around 55,000 people annually receive permanent residence visas under this program. Skilled workers can apply under the FSWP in one of the three following circumstances:
  • They have an offer of full-time employment in Canada.
  • They are skilled in one of 24 eligible occupations on CIC's eligible occupations list. Only 5,000 eligible occupation visas will be issued annually.
  • They are studying for a PhD in Canada

In recent years, however, a greater number of immigrants have been selected for permanent residence visas via the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). The PNP is a system which allows provincial and territorial governments to nominate applicants for Canadian permanent residence visas. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the federal immigration department, will then decide whether to grant a visa.

Expression of Interest

At their meeting, the immigration ministers agreed to continue to work together on a replacement for the FSWP; the new 'Expression of Interest' (EOI) system. They announced that they intend that the new system will be introduced in January 2015.

According to the ministers' statement, The EOI system 'will complement the Provincial Nominee Program'.

Canada's EOI system was first proposed by Canada's last immigration minister Jason Kenney. Mr Kenney based his plan on the Australian SkillSelect EOI system. Under the SkillSelect system, foreign workers interested in immigrating to Australia make an initial approach to Australian immigration.

Employers select suitable candidates

In the 'Expression of Interest' system applicants provide details of their skills, qualifications and experience. The applicant's details are then placed in a searchable database. Employers are able to browse EOIs online and select a suitable candidate.

This candidate will then be invited to apply for a visa. At this point, he or she must provide proof of all the claims made in the EOI (for example educational certificates).

It is thought that the Canadian EOI system will be similar but that employers will not be able to search the database of applicants.

Court case

As immigration minister, Mr Kenney was concerned at the lengthy backlogs in the FSWP system. By 2012, some applicants were waiting for eight years to have their applications processed. As a result, Mr Kenney took drastic action, terminating all applications made before February 2008.

Many of the applicants who lost the chance to emigrate to Canada as a result sued CIC but lost their case. Mr Kenney's decision shortened the waiting time for a FSWP visa considerably but applicants were still waiting for two years for a decision. Mr Kenney said that, for Canada to compete for international talent, it had to reduce waiting times.

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