Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bridging programs help foreign-trained professionals gain accreditation

The programs not only upgrade their academic qualifications but expose immigrants to how their profession is practiced in Canada.
By SHELDON GORDON | October 5, 2016
Stories abound – and they’re not all apocryphal – of foreign-trained professionals in Canada having to drive a taxi to earn a living. A 2006 survey by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, as the department was then called, found that there were 1,525 taxi drivers in Canada with a master’s degree and 255 with a doctorate or medical degree.
The 2006 Canadian census reveals that occupational underemployment is a significant problem for immigrants. This costs the federal and provincial governments billions of dollars in potential income tax revenues. Four years after their arrival in Canada, the majority of immigrants still work in jobs that are not commensurate with either their education or the jobs they had in their homeland.
Engineering is the most common professional field of study for immigrants to Canada. But, in 2006, only 19 percent of immigrants who graduated in engineering and were employed in Canada were working as engineers, versus 42 percent of Canadian-born individuals who graduated in engineering.
The disparity was even more pronounced in medicine. While 92 percent of Canadian-born individuals who studied medicine were working as doctors in 2006, only 56 percent of immigrants with the same field of study were practicing in the profession.
Several Canadian universities offer bridging programs to help foreign-trained professionals – dentists, engineers, pharmacists, teachers and others – overcome barriers to accreditation and integrate successfully into Canadian society. The programs not only upgrade their academic qualifications but expose them to how their profession is practiced in Canada.
Marie Bountrogianni, dean of the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University (and former minister of immigration for Ontario), says the bridging programs are both altruistic and good labour-market economics. “It’s unethical to encourage highly educated people to come to this country and then not allow them to practice their profession or a related profession,” she says. “But there’s an economic part as well. As soon as these highly educated new Canadians start working and paying taxes, they add to the prosperity of all of us.” (Over the last decade, Ryerson has had the most enrolments in bridging programs of any university in Ontario.)
University Affairs examined the bridging programs for four different professions at four Canadian universities.

“At first I felt so intimidated by my accent, but I was able to overcome that.”

Jimmy Buena
Education – University of Alberta
Jimmy Buena, 38, has a doctorate in education and taught computer science and mathematics as a university professor for nine years in his native Philippines before he emigrated to Canada in 2009. After settling in Edmonton and gaining permanent resident status, he hoped to teach in the Alberta school system.
Illustrations by Antonio Uve,
Illustrations by Antonio Uve,
Due to a bureaucratic mix-up, however, it took three years for his teaching credentials to be assessed by Alberta Education, which is responsible for teacher certification in the province. “Meanwhile, I worked as a server at a Denny’s restaurant,” he recalls. “It was frustrating.” He wasn’t sure whether he would ever have the opportunity to teach, especially when the professional standards branch of Alberta Education assessed his academic qualifications to be insufficient.
However, the branch referred Dr. Buena to the University of Alberta’s faculty of education, which offers the Internationally Educated Teachers (IET) Bridging Project. Funded with $200,000 annually from Alberta Education, the project provides free tuition for up to 12 IETs a year as they earn from 24 to 30 additional credits to meet provincial standards for certification.
Randolph Wimmer, who co-founded the 12-month program in September 2013 and is now interim dean of the faculty of education, says he is committed to keeping the program going even if provincial funding eventually stops.
“Is it possible to receive a teaching certificate without this bridging program? Yes, absolutely,” he says. “But it’s extraordinarily difficult for people who are new to Canada … to navigate highly bureaucratic systems within universities, school systems, and the government. The success rate is very minimal, compared with that of a bridging program.”
The IETs, in addition to the standard coursework, do a nine-week classroom practicum. They also attend a weekly seminar where they “unpack” what they’ve experienced in their placement. “It’s not just a place to vent,” says Dr. Wimmer. “It has academic rigor as well.”
“The practicum was the most valuable part,” says Dr. Buena. “At first I felt so intimidated by my accent and pronunciation, but I was able to overcome that.” The Catholic elementary/junior high school in Edmonton where he did his placement was sufficiently impressed that it hired him as soon as he completed the bridging program in May 2015. He now teaches math, science, health and Tagalog, the Filipino national language (many of the students at his school are of Filipino origin).
The current IET cohort comprises 11 participants from nine countries. Teachers from countries that are culturally similar to Canada, such as the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, are excluded. The program hasn’t yet had to turn away applicants for lack of space. For this summer’s intake, “we had a record 19 interviews for 11 spots, but many are struggling with achieving the English-language proficiency requirements,” says project coordinator Brent McDonough.
An estimated three-quarters of the program’s graduates are now teaching in the Edmonton area. “Some are even approached mid-practicum to see if they might be available for employment,” says Mr. McDonough. “These are serious teachers,” adds Dr. Wimmer. “They’re highly motivated. They have a lot of teaching experience, and it shows. Schools want diversity in their teaching force. They need teachers who speak languages in addition to English and French.”

“ It’s pretty intense; you have to put aside everything for school.”

Maria Fernanda Castro Herrera
Pharmacy – Université de Montréal
Université de Montréal offers a bridging program for foreign-trained pharmacists: the program de qualification en pharmacy, or QeP. Since the QeP’s inception in 2011-12, a total of 107 candidates has graduated. The current cohort is 35, selected from 121 who applied. The QeP must admit at least 25 participants to receive an annual subsidy from Quebec’s Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion.
The program runs 16 months and requires participants to earn up to 64 credits, though the number can be much lower, depending on the assessment of academic qualifications by theOrdre des pharmacies du Québec (OPQ). The foreign-trained pharmacists on average pay $1,600 in tuition, the same amount per credit that Quebec students pay for U de M’s pharmacy degree program.
The QeP is one of two routes foreign-trained pharmacists can follow to become licensed in Quebec. The other is to pass the country-wide exam administered by the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada. “Their success rate is not all that high, so some candidates decide to apply to the QeP,” says Marie-Claude Vanier, director of the QeP. The QeP itself has an overall success rate of 88 percent.
nov2016-feature-bridgingpharmacy-300QeP internships are provided in hospitals and retail pharmacies. A one-week placement in the first year is followed by two eight-week internships in the second year. “It’s always a challenge to find enough internships for the students,” says Ms. Vanier. “But what really limits our intake is the number of available laboratory spaces for them to practice.”
Completion of the QeP does not by itself entitle graduates to practice in Quebec. The final step in that process is an internship mandated by the Ordre des pharmacies. It is both lengthy and unpaid, and the graduates have to find these internships themselves, without help from the Ordre or QeP.
Ever Andres Herrera Cantor, 31, and his wife, Maria Fernanda Castro Herrera, 29, were pharmacists in Colombia for four years before emigrating to Quebec in 2013. They were seeking an improved quality of life and a more patient-oriented practice than was possible in Colombia.
Through his involvement with Colombia’s pharmacists’ council, Mr. Herrera Cantor had met pharmacists from other countries and decided Canada offered the best prospects. “At the time, it was easier and quicker to come to Quebec than to other provinces, and we were familiar with the QeP,” he says.
It took six months to gain the Ordre’s approval to apply for the QeP. Before starting the program in January 2015, the couple managed to find part-time work in their field – he as a technician in a pharmacy, she with a pharmaceutical company – while studying to upgrade the basic-level French they had learned in Colombia.
They’ve found the QeP to be a very demanding but valuable program. “It’s pretty intense, you have to put aside everything for school,” says Ms. Castro Herrera. Still, doing the program as a couple has an advantage, she says. “When one of us doesn’t understand something, the other can help.”
They’re pleased that, unlike the Colombian universities – which emphasize pharmacology, or the study of drugs – the QeP also focuses on pharmacotherapy, the use of drugs for the clinical care of patients.
After completing the QeP, Mr. Herrera Cantor wants to acquire experience and savings as a staff pharmacist, then become a pharmacy owner. Ms. Castro Herrera, for her part, wants to complete her remaining internships before deciding on her career niche.

“ As it was, I was flying solo when I did my job search.”

Adeilton Ribeiro
Engineering – Ryerson University
Ryerson’s faculty of engineering and architectural science has been offering theInternationally Educated Engineers Qualification Bridging (IEEQB) Program for the past decade. The program enables foreign-trained engineers to meet the academic requirements for licensure by Professional Engineers Ontario as a professional engineer in the province.
The IEEQB program initially received dedicated federal and provincial funding, but now relies entirely on faculty resources and tuition fees. It accepts candidates three times a year, averaging 15 to 20 participants at each intake. Participants must first have their academic qualifications assessed by PEO to determine which courses they need.
nov2016-feature-bridgingengineer-300“We don’t offer courses specially designed for the IEEQB,” says Liping Fang, program director. “The internationally educated engineers take courses with our regular students and pay the same tuition [per course] as they do. Each has an individualized study plan.” It takes about a year to complete the program. A 60 percent grade is required to pass each course exam. About 72 percent of candidates have successfully completed the program.
Civil engineering is the most popular of the engineering disciplines among the participants. Once they meet the academic requirements, candidates must satisfy the work experience requirement (48 months, including 12 months of engineering-related work in Canada) and pass PEO’s professional practice exam.
Brazilian-born Adeilton Ribeiro earned a bachelor of civil engineering in Brazil and worked for four years in São Paulo before emigrating to Canada in 2013. “My wife is Canadian,” he says, “and we decided Canada would be a better place to raise a family. Also, it would be easier for me to adapt to Canada compared to her adapting to Brazil.”
While still in Brazil, he contacted PEO and learned which courses he would need to take in Ontario to meet its academic requirements. “The accreditation process was fair and straightforward,” he says. Through an online search, he discovered Ryerson’s IEEQB program.
“The course content was mostly material that I had studied in Brazil,” he says. “The most difficult part was mastering the English-language terminology. I had to refer to some non-course materials for that.” He did six courses, for which tuition was a “pricey” $4,000. During his final three months, he worked part-time as an IT technician for Ryerson’s media studies department.
Mr. Ribeiro, 31, says it would be helpful if the bridging program included internship opportunities. “As it was, I was flying solo when I did my job search.” Still, even before writing his final exams, he applied to several companies and landed a job with AECOM, a multinational civil engineering firm. Since 2014, he has worked as a computer-assisted design drafter, producing civil and architectural drawings for rail and transit projects.
Ryerson also offers bridging programs for doctors, dietitians, social workers and midwives. Its latest is the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors Bridging Program. Launched in January 2015, it has graduated 14 candidates and accepted a second cohort of 14 (out of 150 applicants). The program is not intended to lead directly to licensure as an MD in Canada, says the Chang school’s Dr. Bountrogianni, but rather equips participants for alternative, well-paid jobs in the health sector.
“That said,” she adds, “we know anecdotally from our graduates that it has assisted a number of them in eventually achieving their medical residency because it helped them with the interview, which is very competitive, and with learning Canadian norms.”

“ It’s very scary when you have a family and no career.”

Akeel Al-Dabboos
Dentistry – University of British Columbia
UBC’s faculty of dentistry has, for at least 15 years, run the International Dental Degree Completion Program, or IDDCP. This two-year program leads to the doctor of dental medicine degree, or DMD.
The DMD, however, doesn’t automatically confer the right to practice dentistry in British Columbia. Graduates still must be certified by the National Dental Examining Board of Canada and licensed by the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia. (They also must have citizenship or permanent residency.)
For the current IDDCP cohort, which graduates in 2017, the program had 99 applicants, interviewed 29 and accepted seven. The usual cohort is no larger than 12 candidates. Dean of Dentistry Charles Shuler says all of the program’s graduates have gotten licenses.
The program is funded by the dentistry faculty, which charges foreign trained dentists over $80,000 a year (about 50 percent higher than domestic students). Most of the immigrant dentists take out student loans of $250,000 each to cover tuition and living costs, using their future career prospects as “collateral.”
nov2016-feature-bridgingdentist-300Akeel Al-Dabboos, who graduated in 2013 from the IDDCP, says that, despite the cost, participating in the program was worth it. “I’d encourage anyone to go through the program. It saves you the hassle of trying to do [the accreditation process] on your own.”
(Internationally-trained dentists no longer have to do the IDDCP as a condition of licensure; as of four years ago, they can instead sit the National Dental Examining Board’s “challenge exam.”)
“The most valuable aspect for the immigrant dentists [in the IDDCP] is learning how we do dentistry in Canada,” says Dr. Shuler. “In some countries, dentists do fewer crowns and bridges and more extractions. In Canada, we believe in saving teeth. Also, there’s a lot of discussion around the need for informed consent from the patient.”
Dr. Dabboos, 47, came to Canada with his wife and three children from war-torn Iraq, settling first in London, Ontario. He applied to dental programs at Western and Dalhousie universities before being accepted at UBC. Before getting in, his future was “a big question mark,” he recalls. “It’s very scary when you have a family and no career.”
Once in the program, he liked UBC’s emphasis on the practical rather than theory. “More than half the time, we were involved with the dental clinic, treating people.” Since graduating and gaining a license, Dr. Dabboos has returned to Ontario, where he practiced first in Hamilton, then bought an existing dental practice in Barrie.
While the individuals profiled above are success stories, the graduates of bridging programs amount to only a fraction of the foreign-trained professionals seeking accreditation in Canada. For the rest, the taxi meter is still running.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Parliamentary Committee Recommends 21 Changes to Temporary Foreign Worker Program

English: The main doorway into the chamber of ...
English: The main doorway into the chamber of the House of Commons of Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Government Ministers set to respond to Committee report, with major changes to current regulations expected

A House of Commons committee tasked with reviewing Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) has made a wide range of recommendations for changes to the program, including easier pathways to permanent residence for foreign workers and simpler ways for businesses to respond to labour market needs.
The committee also calls for the elimination of a rule that ties a foreign worker’s work permit to a specific employer, based on testimony that this creates a power relationship that is open to abuse. Furthermore, under these recommendations, employers with a track record of using the program appropriately would then be placed into a ‘Trusted Employer Program’ whereby their applications for Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) would be fast-tracked.
The report also supports ending the rule that forces certain workers to leave Canada after four years.
Within hours of the report having been published, the Minister of Immigration, John McCallum, and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, MaryAnn Mihychuk, announced that they would respond to the recommendations within the legislated timeframe of 120 days. Given that the Committee was dominated by Liberal members and that the Liberal Party holds a majority within the House of Commons, the long-awaited report is expected to guide upcoming changes to the TFWP that have been promised by the government since it took office last November. The most recent major changes to the TFWP were introduced by the previous Conservative government in June, 2014.

Recommended changes to the TFWP

Glossary of terms:
  • Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (‘The Committee’) – The House of Commons Committee that submitted the report and the list of recommendations.
  • ESCD – Employment and Social Development Canada, the government department responsible for social programs and the labour market at the federal level.
  • LMIA – Labour Marker Impact Assessment, a document that an employer in Canada may need before hiring a foreign worker.
  • IRCC – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the government department overseeing immigration to Canada.
  • TFWP – Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Labour Market Impact Assessment Application fee
The Committee heard that the $1,000 LMIA application fee made it difficult for certain businesses, in particular small businesses, to remain competitive. For families needing to hire caregivers, the fee has been financially burdensome. Accordingly, the Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC and IRCC take immediate steps to extend work permits for caregivers in the low-wage stream from one to two years.
Processing and timelines regarding LMIA applications
The Committee agreed that there is a need to streamline and standardize the LMIA application process. In particular, the Committee heard that the length of time it takes to process LMIA applications affects companies’ productivity, and has an impact on the temporary foreign workers themselves whose work permit renewals are dependent upon a positive LMIA. The Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC review the LMIA application process, with a view to increasing speed and efficiency; and that such a review take into consideration the National Occupational Classification (NOC) Codes as well as the adequate allocation of resources towards training and meeting service standards.
  2. That ESDC implement a Trusted Employer Program with the objective of reducing LMIA processing timelines for employers who have demonstrated trustworthiness in their use of the TFWP.
  3. That ESDC review the policy with respect to foreign faculty members currently employed or seeking employment with a recognized Canadian academic institution, whose employment is currently dependent upon a LMIA, with a view to providing exemptions or accommodations for this class of foreign nationals.
  4. That the TFWP permit minor modifications to contracts between employers and employees with regards to the nature of the work and increases in wages if both parties consent, the changes do not disadvantage the worker, and ESDC is adequately informed of any changes in short order. The changes must not violate the spirit of the job description.
TFWP streams
Currently, the TFWP comprises various streams, each with its own specific requirements. Witnesses appearing before the Committee suggested that the current way in which the TFWP is structured needs to be reformed as current stream-specific requirements do not fully address the individual needs of various industries. The Committee acknowledges that the current program streams may not fully reflect Canadian labour market needs and recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC appropriately restructure the TFWP such that it achieves better overall economic and social benefit for Canadians and program participants. That ESDC re-establish the TFWP into more specific program areas and streams that adequately reflect the realities of labour market needs in Canada.
  2. That IRCC study the impacts of expanding the definition of primary agriculture as found in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
  3. That ESDC and IRCC seek to review and improve mechanisms in which migrant workers are brought into Canada to fill both temporary and permanent positions, preventing the use of the TFWP to satisfy permanent labour needs.
Transition Plans
Currently, employers seeking to hire high-wage workers must submit transition plans along with their LMIA application to ensure that they are taking steps to reduce their reliance on foreign workers over time. High-wage workers are those earning above the median hourly wage for a given occupation in specified region. Transition plans are designed to ensure that employers seeking foreign workers are fulfilling the purpose of the program.
The majority of witnesses who appeared before the Committee to talk about the high-wage stream shared the view that the requirement for a Transition Plan may not be realistic when there is a proven labour shortage of high-skilled workers that cannot be addressed domestically in the short-term. Other stakeholders support abolishing Transition Plans altogether. The Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC provide an exemption on the Transition Plan requirement for five percent of the business’ workforce that consists of high-wage temporary foreign workers.
  2. That ESDC work to implement measures to ensure appropriate training and education resources are allocated in those fields most likely to present labour and skills shortages. Also, that appropriate apprenticeship targets be included as a requirement of the Transition Plan for employers to ensure they meet their recruitment and training obligations for Canadians.
  3. That ESDC, businesses, and stakeholders continue to monitor labour market needs as to ensure skills, training, and educational output match Canada’s current and future employment needs such that our reliance on foreign labour diminishes, and invest in better collection and retention of labour market information in Canada to adequately assess labour market needs.
Cap on the proportion of the workforce that consists of low-wage temporary foreign workers
Currently, employers with 10 or more employees applying for a new LMIA are subject to a cap of 10 percent on the proportion of their workforce that can consist of low-wage temporary foreign workers. The introduction of this cap has negatively affected some businesses’ production levels, and some industry-specific exemptions may be contemplated. The Committee also recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC ensure the cap on the percentage of temporary foreign workers a business can employ at a given time, be set at a minimum of 20 percent, and further review sector and geographic considerations.
Certain low-wage positions in the Accommodation, Food Services and Retail Trade sectors
Currently, LMIAs with respect to certain low-wage positions in regions with a six percent or higher unemployment rate will not be processed. However, witnesses told the Committee that available labour market data is very high-level and not suited to determining labour market conditions in smaller communities situated within the broader geographic region. The Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC take immediate steps to improve the collection of labour market data and review the geographic zones used for determining unemployment rates, with a view to aligning the labour market conditions of more localized economies with the requirements of the TFWP.
Employer-specific work permits
Temporary foreign workers employed in the low-wage stream and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP, part of the TFWP) have consistently stated that employer-specific work permits tying workers to one employer lead to a power imbalance that may lead to abuse. The Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC take immediate steps to eliminate the requirement for an employer-specific work permit; provided that it implement appropriate measures to ensure temporary foreign labour is only utilized within the existing provisions of the LMIA process, including sector and geographic restrictions.
  2. That IRCC provide multiple entry work visas for temporary foreign workers employed in seasonal work, with the objective of allowing these individuals greater mobility during off-seasons; that when a work visa is extended, the multiple 32 entry visa must also be extended so workers can continue to enter and leave Canada.
Pathways to permanent residence for all migrant workers
The Committee acknowledges that all migrant workers, especially those that are filling long-term labour needs and are fully integrated into Canadian society, should enjoy greater pathways to permanent residence. Therefore, the Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That IRCC review the current pathways to permanent residence for all temporary foreign workers, with a view to facilitating access to permanent residence for migrant workers who have integrated into Canadian society and are filling a permanent labour market need. That IRCC allocate adequate resources to allow for the timely processing of permanent residence applications for those migrant workers that are hired under the TFWP.
  2. That IRCC work with provinces, territories and other government departments to increase information sharing that will create more harmonization with immigration and nominee programs to function in collaboration with one another. That these efforts aim to reduce duplication of work benefiting both the government and applicants.
  3. That IRCC amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to remove the relevant provisions with respect to the “cumulative duration” rule, which currently makes certain workers ineligible for new work permits if they have been working in Canada for four years and bans them from applying for a new one for an additional four years.
  4. That IRCC reform the Express Entry immigration selection system to allow for fixed-term employment contracts to be allocated the same number of points as permanent work contracts, where there is a strong likelihood of continued employment.
Monitoring and enforcement
The Committee acknowledged that program monitoring and enforcement remains an issue, despite recent steps towards improvement. The Committee recommends as follows:
  1. That ESDC, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, review current monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, with the objective of addressing gaps in employer compliance and the protection of migrant workers’ rights. In addition, an effort shall be made to move away from a complaint-driven model of program enforcement. The review shall take into consideration the following specific measures:
    • increasing resource and information sharing with provinces and territories;
    • increasing the frequency of on-site inspections and ensuring that they be conducted while temporary foreign labour is being used;
    • creating an accreditation system for recruiters, which requires compliance with the TFWP rules and from which employers could exclusively select;
    • establishing a dispute resolution mechanism for migrant workers when conflict with an employer arises;
    • ensuring, through on-site inspections, that labour laws and regulations are properly enforced where migrant workers operate; and
    • guaranteeing that any workplace injuries that require immediate attention be granted emergency care where deemed necessary in Canada.
  2. That ESDC, in collaboration with stakeholders, establish measures to ensure that incoming migrant workers and their employers are informed of their rights and responsibilities under the TFWP, including dispute resolution and abuse reporting procedures, as well as information on wages, benefits, accommodations and working conditions; and that the Department undertake best efforts to provide this information in the language of preference of the migrant worker.
The next steps
“The Committee has undertaken a major project and returned with some welcome recommendations that would benefit Canadian workers, foreign workers, and businesses alike. Representatives from each stakeholder group have been consulted and, consequently, the report is thorough,” says Attorney David Cohen.
“Although some of the recommendations may be tweaked or shelved, I would expect many, if not most, of these recommendations to become part of the program regulations in one form or another. With a program that is likely to undergo significant changes over the coming months — and as businesses and workers figure out exactly what may be required of them before and after the program is modified — I would encourage stakeholders to consult an expert on Canadian work permits to ensure a smooth hiring process.”

Express Entry Breaking News: CRS Requirement Decreases yet Again in Latest Draw as Number of Invitations to Apply Increases September 21, 2016

Internal development of Canada's internal bord...
Internal development of Canada's internal borders, from the formation of the dominion to the present. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In a development that has been welcomed by candidates for Canadian immigration through the Express Entry selection system, the latest draw has seen a substantial increase in the number of candidates invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence. This increase means that the number ofComprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points required in order for a candidate to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) has decreased for the second draw in a row.
A total of 1,288 candidates in the Express Entry pool with 483 or more CRS points received an ITA in the September 21 draw. Candidates who have been issued an ITA are now in a position to submit an application for Canadian permanent residence. Accompanying family members, including spouses or common-law partners, as well as dependent children, may also come to Canada along with the principal applicant. The government of Canada aims to process applications within six months.
Just four weeks ago, the CRS point requirement was 538 and only 750 candidates were invited to apply. The move towards larger draws, and a corresponding decrease in the CRS point requirement, likely reflects a desire on the part of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to issue more ITAs through the fall season, in order to reach the annual intake levels set earlier this year for the federal economic immigration programs that receive applications through Express Entry. An IRCC representative made comments earlier this year to that effect, and it now appears that that prediction is becoming a reality.
With the number of ITAs having increased and the CRS cut-off point going down substantially, many candidates who did not receive an ITA on this occasion remain optimistic about achieving their Canadian immigration goals.

Obtaining an ITA

When the government of Canada published its year-end 2015 Express Entry report, it stated that more than half (57 percent) of candidates who received an ITA in 2015 had Core CRS scores below 450* (Core CRS indicates a candidate’s score without the additional 600 points for a job offer or an enhanced provincial nomination certificate). Many of these selected candidates entered the pool before receiving an enhanced provincial nomination certificate from a Canadian province.
Since Express Entry was first introduced in January, 2015, more and more Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)options have become available to Express Entry candidates. For example, since the previous Express Entry draw took place on September 7, the province of British Columbia (BC) conducted a draw for the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP). Approximately half of the total 477 candidates for immigration to BC who were invited in that draw were Express Entry candidates who had previously created a profile in the federal Express Entry system. These skilled worker and international graduate candidates are now in a position to obtain a provincial nomination certificate, after which they may be awarded 600 additional CRS points and an ITA in a subsequent draw from the pool.
With many other PNP categories opening and closing quickly (such as Saskatchewan’s International Skilled Worker – Express Entry sub-category) evidence suggests that being ready to apply for such opportunities in advance is key to ultimately receiving an ITA for permanent residence.
There are many potential ways in which candidates may increase their CRS score, and thereby increase their chances of receiving an ITA. For tips for improving Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System scores, click here.

Taking the opportunity

“The latest developments in Express Entry are very encouraging,” says Attorney David Cohen. “IRCC’s forecast that the number of invitations to apply would increase is coming to fruition, and candidates in the pool continue to have opportunities to obtain additional points, particularly through the Provincial Nominee Programs.
“In addition to the latest positive developments, the government of Canada has made it quite clear that it is looking at increasing the number of immigrants to Canada in 2017 and beyond. Not only that, it has stated that it is looking at options to make changes to the Express Entry system. The exact changes, if and when they happen, are not yet known. Accordingly, individuals who are currently eligible to enter the pool are encouraged to do so. It is only once a candidate is in the pool that he or she may attract the attention of Canadian provinces that are looking to welcome newcomers through a PNP, as well as Canadian employers hiring through the Express Entry system.”

To find out if you are eligible for immigration to Canada, including through the federal economic programs that are processed under Express Entry, please fill out a free online assessment today.

*The lowest CRS cut-off point in any draw that has taken place so far is 450.
© 2016 CICnews All Rights Reserved


The Centre Block on Parliament Hill, containin...
The Centre Block on Parliament Hill, containing the houses of the ByCanadian parliament (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To be competitive in our global economy, Canadian businesses need the right people and access to critical skills to deliver results quickly. Unfortunately, the battle for such talent is fierce and many employers in the Canadian startup and innovation space struggle to attract and retain key workers. In fact, the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) predicts that, by 2019, Canada will need an additional 182,000 skilled information and communications technology workers alone to meet the domestic needs of employers.
With the pervasive skills shortages in key sectors, employers often need to turn to foreign workers. However, it has become increasingly evident that Canada’s economic immigration policy does not adequately support the specific talent needs of startup and innovative companies, thereby hindering their growth and plans.

The current challenges startups are facing

The current immigration programs present challenges, both in employing temporary foreign workers and transitioning their status to become permanent residents of Canada.
Typically, to employ a foreign national in Canada, an employer must first obtain government approval by demonstrating that there are no willing and qualified Canadians to assume the proposed role. This process, known as the Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”), requires the employer to undertake extensive public recruitment, which can be costly and time-consuming. Moreover, the process may be unnecessarily redundant for employers in the area of innovation – the skills shortage in Canada is indisputable.
Canadian companies within the innovation ecosystem often have to resort to limited immigration strategies, resulting in prolonged processing times.
In addition, employment terms offered by innovation and startup companies are usually in conflict with the LMIA review criteria. For example, many new (and often cash-strapped) companies offer compensation packages that are largely based on variable incentives, whereas an LMIA approval requires a guaranteed salary. Furthermore, innovation and startup companies often have unconventional roles and fluid job duties, which do not fit neatly into the National Occupational Classification system as required by the LMIA.
Secondly, the Express Entry system, through which permanent residency applications are processed, is largely ineffective for innovation companies to secure or retain foreign talent. Under Express Entry, candidates are awarded points based on various factors and ranked against each other based on their total points. Candidates with a ‘Qualifying Offer of Arranged Employment’ are awarded 600 out of the total 1,200 points, significantly improving their chance of receiving an ‘Invitation to Apply’ for permanent residence. A job offer of “indefinite” duration and which is supported by an LMIA is one of the only ways to qualify for the “arranged employment” points. Given the challenges faced by innovation and startup companies with obtaining LMIAs, this is a significant impediment for these foreign worker candidates.
As a result, Canadian companies within the innovation ecosystem often have to resort to limited immigration strategies, which usually means prolonged processing times. All too often, from the time a foreign worker is identified to the completion of the temporary or permanent immigration process, significant business opportunities have been missed. Indeed, innovators and opportunities are frequently lost to global competitors.

Canada’s immigration policies must support innovation and growth

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has publicly stated that immigration policies are not against hiring temporary foreign workers, but employers are encouraged to consider a permanent residence solution first. Canadian innovation requires the opposite approach; there must be an expedited temporary solution to first meet immediate business needs and compete globally, and the permanent residence solution should follow as an incentive.
An immigration solution must be developed based on a policy rationale that supports Canadian innovation and economic growth. Under Section 205 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, a work permit can be issued without an LMIA to a foreign national to perform work that would create or maintain significant social, cultural or economic benefits for Canadians. If necessary, IRCC has the authority to create new work permit categories that achieve the legislative intent of Section 205. This is not unusual or unprecedented; in February 2016, IRCC created a new LMIA-exempt work permit category for television and film production workers on the basis of the anticipated significant economic benefits for Canadians.

An ‘innovation-based’ work permit

A feasible solution would be for IRCC to create an ‘innovation-based’ work permit category, exempt from an LMIA pursuant to Section 205, for workers in the innovation space based on the anticipated benefits to the Canadian Innovation Ecosystem. Policy considerations for innovation based work permits may include: developing Canada’s innovation ecosystem; supporting significant innovation projects and ideas; growing Canada’s innovation footprint internationally; attracting foreign investment and talents; enabling skills transfer, training and new job creation for Canadians; and stimulating business growth. In developing the criteria for the exemption, IRCC policymakers should consult with innovation experts, academics, businesses and industry advisors. While a broad LMIA-exempt work permit category currently exists for workers that provide “significant” social, cultural and economic benefit to Canada, there is a need for a specific exemption that addresses the uniqueness and value of Canadian innovation.
A temporary immigration solution by way of an innovation-based work permit should, in turn, correspond with amendments to Canada’s permanent residence system in order to facilitate long-term talent retention in Canada. In particular, foreign workers holding such work permits could be awarded additional points under Express Entry, thereby increasing their likelihood of receiving an invitation to apply for permanent residence. It would also be a creative incentive to ensure Canada is able to retain key skilled workers to address long-term labour market shortages.
If the government is truly committed to making innovation an intrinsic Canadian value, it must carve out a bolder, more aggressive immigration policy to support our innovation and startup culture. The timing seems right, with a Minister of Immigration who has a strong economic background and a government that has prioritized innovation to be a national priority. In fact, the policy rationale supporting innovation-based work permits is entirely consistent with the Federal Government’s Innovation Agenda which seeks to establish Canada as an innovation leader and improve the ease of doing business in Canada.
Additionally, Canada could benefit significantly in attracting new startup ideas, entrepreneurs, and investors, by promoting an efficient and focused immigration strategy designed to support the growth of new businesses in the innovation space.