After months of deliberations and consultations, the details of what will govern the selection of skilled worker applicants for immigration to Canada will finally be disclosed early in the fall, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Minister Diane Finley.
The new amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which were made law in June, have given the Immigration Minister the ability to prioritize the processing of Canadian immigration applications based on Canada’s socio-economic needs. In what was a once first-come-first-served system, where all applications were considered on the same objective criteria, the Minister will now be issuing instructions to the Canadian immigration visa officers as to which applications should be fast-tracked, which should be held for review at a later time, and which should be returned outright.
The ministerial instructions will be issued in the fall, to be applied to Federal Skilled Worker applications received on or after February 27, 2008. They will be based on the prospective immigrant’s ability to ease regional labour shortages and contribute to the community.
CIC representatives have spent the past month or so in consultation with stakeholders groups across Canada in order to establish the framework for these instructions. At each meeting, participants focused on three central questions: What is the role of immigration in Canada? What are the critical short-term and long-term labour shortages? And what are some issues and barriers to credential recognition?
Though Minister Finley has yet to disclose the particular occupations that will be prioritized, she noted that nearly all regions are facing shortages in the medical, financial, and IT sectors.
The policy changes follow on 2008 budget commitments to modernize Canada’s immigration system. $109 million over five years has been allocated to reducing wait times for new applicants, reducing the current backlog of applications, and better responding to Canada labour market needs through immigration.
With this funding, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has begun recording occupational information for applicants in the current Federal Skilled Worker backlog.
Where possible, the department plans to divert qualified applicants to the Provincial Nomination Programs (PNP) for priority processing.
CIC is also working towards increasing capacity and efficiency at Canadian immigration visa offices where the backlogs are the greatest, and reconfirming the intentions of applicants who face the longest wait times. It also intends to centralize the receipt of new applications in order to better control the backlog.
Nevertheless, the Conservative government’s amendments to Canadian immigration legislation remain highly criticized by Opposition parties and other stakeholder groups, who charge that the Conservatives plans are too near-sighted, too labour market-oriented, and could potentially overshadow Provincial Nomination Programs.
The Liberal Opposition has developed an alternate immigration plan to be introduced in its election platform, should a fall 2008 federal election be called.
The bottom line for now is that ministerial instructions are on the way for all skilled worker applications that have been frozen in the system since February 27th.