Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced yesterday a temporary freeze on accepting new applications to the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) and Immigrant Investor programs. This “temporary pause”, as Minister Kenney described it, will be effective starting July 1, 2012.
Mr. Kenney explained that by not accepting new applications, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will be able to better address those applications that have already been submitted, thus eliminating the programs’ current backlogs. These currently stand at approximately 110,000 applications for the FSW program, and 25,000 for the Investor program. In addition, the pause will give CIC the opportunity to make important changes to the programs before accepting new applicants. In this way, CIC believes that Canada will transition to a “faster, more flexible immigration system”.
The FSW program was expected to re-open its application quotas for the following year on July 1. Mr. Kenney was quick to add that despite the freeze, immigration levels to Canada will not be decreasing during this time period. Current applications will continue to be processed, meaning that “current immigration remains at historic levels”. Last year, Canada welcomed approximately 250,000 new temporary and permanent residents through its borders.
It is important to note that certain streams within the FSW program will remain open during this time. Individuals with offers of arranged employment, as well as those applying under the PhD stream, are still welcome to apply.
Intake of all FSW application types is currently expected to resume in January 2013, when a number of proposed changes to immigration programs are expected to become operational. Some of these proposed changes include:
- Restructuring the FSW points grid
- The creation of a Skilled Trades stream within the FSW program
- The introduction of new FSW language requirements
Mr. Kenney acknowledged that many prospective immigrants to Canada may be disappointed to hear of the temporary pause. However, he explained why he believed such a pause to be necessary. “This is a way to ensure that improvements to the program have time to be put in place, which will give new applicants the opportunity to be even more positioned to succeed in Canada”.
He further explained that this was the last step in a long process to modernize the country’s immigration system. Another big step occurred earlier this year, when the government announced plans to legislate away approximately 280,000 FSW applications that had been submitted before 2008, under antiquated rules and regulations. This decision is currently being challenged in court.
People should not read into this decision that the door to Canada is closed. “The fact is that over the past few years the Federal Skilled Worker category has been taking in fewer and fewer applications,” says Immigration Attorney David Cohen. “In the last 12 months, only 10,000 FSW applications were accepted for processing.”
Attorney Cohen urged prospective immigrants to remember that they may have other options to come to Canada during that time. “People considering an application for Canadian Permanent Residency should know that in addition to the Federal Skilled Worker program, there are more than 60 other Canadian immigration programs for which they may be eligible.”
Individuals whose applications are submitted before July 1 should expect processing of their cases to continue normally. In the meantime, further information regarding changes to the FSW and other programs is forthcoming.
To find out if you are eligible for one of the over 60 Canadian immigration programs, please fill out a free online assessment.