Since 1991, the province of Quebec has had an agreement in place with the Government of Canada, called the Canada-Quebec Accord, which allows Quebec to select its own immigrants. In the June 2009 edition of our newsletter, we reported that the Quebec Immigration Minister had announced changes to Quebec’s immigration programs. Some of these changes have already been put into effect, while others will be implemented in October. More information has since been released about how the new amendments will facilitate immigration to Quebec.
Archives for July 2009
Working-aged dependents of Temporary Foreign Workers in Ontario and Alberta can now obtain Open Work Permits, giving them the ability to contribute to the Canadian workforce alongside their parents. On an Open Work Permit, these individuals will be able to work for any employer in Alberta or Ontario without having to undergo the usual process involved in applying for a Temporary Work Permit.
In many cases, dependent children of Temporary Foreign Workers come to Canada on either Study Permits or Visitor Visas, or apply for their own Work Permits, so as to keep the family together. In other cases, the family is split up while the Temporary Foreign Worker is in Canada. Alberta and Ontario are now giving dependent children of Temporary Foreign Workers the opportunity to join their parents and work in Canada without first needing a job offer, as part of two separate pilot projects these provinces have put into place.
Currently, a Canadian employer who wishes to hire a foreign worker must first extend a job offer to that worker, and then apply to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO).
A Labour Market Opinion (LMO) is a document that HRSDC issues to employers that demonstrates that the employer’s temporary job offer meets the HRSDC standards and is usually necessary for Work Permit issuance. Employers must usually demonstrate that they made reasonable, but unsuccessful, efforts to hire a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident before they extended the job offer to the foreign worker. They must show that the applicant possesses the necessary skills and training for the job and that the compensation and conditions of the job are commensurate with regional standards.
With a genuine job offer and an LMO, the Temporary Foreign Worker can apply for a Work Permit that is usually issued for the duration of the employment contract.
Alberta and Ontario are allowing dependent children of Temporary Foreign Workers to avoid this process, as Open Work Permit holders can legally work in Canada without first receiving a confirmed job offer or an LMO from HRSDC.
Under these pilot projects, in effect from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, dependent children of Temporary Foreign Workers headed to, or working in, either Alberta or Ontario will be eligible to apply for Open Work Permits if certain conditions are met.
The temporary foreign worker (called the ‘primary applicant’) must:
• Be found eligible for an employer-specific Work Permit or already be holding it;
• Intend to work in Alberta or Ontario; and
• Work in an occupation that falls under the “A”, “0” or “B” skill levels in HRSDC’s National Occupation Classification (i.e. the occupation must be a skilled, managerial or professional occupation).
Dependent children of primary applicants may apply for Open Work Permits if they are of legal working age in Alberta (18 years of age) or Ontario (14, 15, 16, or 18 years of age, depending on the occupation). For the purposes of Canadian immigration, children are considered dependent if they are not married or in a common-law relationship, and are under the age of 22.
Eligible dependent children must apply for an Open Work Permit if they wish to work, as these permits are not automatically issued. They may apply either together with the primary applicants or later on.
The dependent child’s work permit will be valid for the same time period as the primary applicant’s work permit, and if the primary applicant’s work permit is extended, the dependent child’s work permit may be extended as well.
It is important to note that time period allocated for these pilot projects does not refer to the validity period of the open work permits, but rather the time period during which these work permits can be issued.
The “Programme de l’expérience québécoise,” or “Quebec Experience Class” (PEQ), is a new, accelerated immigration program that will allow international students and Temporary Foreign Workers in Quebec to apply to immigrate permanently to Quebec. The PEQ, which will be put into effect before October, 2009, shares some aspects with its federal counterpart, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), which began accepting applications in September 2008. However, the PEQ process will be even more simplified than the CEC process, and applicants will be able to qualify sooner under the PEQ than the CEC after they first arrive in Canada.
Both immigration programs operate under a “pass-fail” model, which means that if all the requirements for the program are met, the applicant is eligible. However, if any of the requirements for either program are not met, the applicant is not eligible to apply under that program.
Under both the PEQ and the CEC, there are two different streams: one for foreign students, and another for Temporary Foreign Workers.
Under the PEQ, foreign students will be eligible to apply for a Certificat de Sélection du Quebec (Quebec Selection Certificate, a document that allows the holder to immigrate to Quebec, commonly known as a CSQ) if they:
1. Have obtained a degree or diploma from an educational institution recognized by the Quebec Ministry of Education;
2. Have studied in Quebec for at least 1,800 hours (two years); and
3. Show that have successfully completed a level B1 French course at a Quebec educational institution, if their studies were not completed in French.
Temporary Foreign Workers in Quebec will be eligible to apply for a CSQ if they:
1. Have 12 months of Quebec work experience in a skilled, managerial or professional occupation in the 24 months prior to their application:
2. Are employed and show legal status in Quebec at the time of their application; and
3. Show that have successfully completed a level B1 French course at a Quebec educational institution, or provide results of a standardized French proficiency test. Alternatively, they can show that they have satisfied the French language requirements of the professional order governing their occupation in Quebec.
Applying under the PEQ is a more simplified and accelerated process than applying under the CEC. While the Canadian Experience Class is a fast-track application at the federal level, its application process requires the submission of complete documentation to the Canadian Immigration Visa Office for assessment. On the other hand, applicants under the PEQ will be able to apply online and submit minimal documentation to the Quebec Immigration Visa Office.
Because the application process for the PEQ is so simplified, Quebec immigration authorities expect the assessment of applications under the PEQ to be completed relatively rapidly.
However, applying to immigrate to Quebec under any category is a two-step process in which an applicant first obtains a CSQ, and then submits their application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for federal approval before their Canadian Immigration (Permanent Resident) Visa can be issued. Federal immigration authorities are responsible for processing criminal and medical checks.
All applications from individuals who have obtained a CSQ are processed in their own priority queue at the federal level.
Requirements differ for the Canadian Experience Class.
Students who have successfully completed a program of study of at least two academic years at a Canadian post-secondary educational institution may qualify for the CEC if they have:
1. At least one year of skilled, professional or technical work experience within 24 months of the application date: and
2. Moderate or basic language skills, depending on the skill level of their occupation.
Foreign workers can qualify to immigrate to Canada under the CEC if they:
1. Have at least two years of skilled, professional or technical work experience in Canada within 36 months of the application date; and
2. Have moderate or basic language skills (depending on the skill level of their occupation).
The PEQ offers an advantage to foreign students in Quebec in that they do not need work experience in Quebec to be eligible for the PEQ and can even begin the application process six months before their expected graduation date. However, their applications will only be assessed upon submission of proof that they have graduated.
Temporary foreign workers in Quebec only need one year of eligible work experience to qualify for the PEQ, whereas temporary foreign workers elsewhere in Canada need twice the amount of work experience before they become eligible for the CEC.
Individuals who are eligible to apply to immigrate under the PEQ program are not subject to the Quebec Skilled Worker selection criteria.
It is important to note that an applicant may qualify for the Canadian Experience Class category with work and study experience obtained in Quebec. However, an individual may only apply under the CEC if they intend to reside in a province or territory outside of Quebec. If an individual’s intention is to settle in Quebec, he or she must apply under a Quebec immigration program.
Language ability plays a crucial rule for immigrants to Canada in terms of their ability to find employment and successfully integrate into their new society. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has set up language training services for new arrivals across the country. However, it is also important to be proficient in one of Canada’s two official languages before immigration to Canada, as it is an important selection factor for many immigration categories. Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Canada Minister Jason Kenney is encouraging future immigrants to get a head start on their settlement plan by improving their proficiency in one or both of Canada’s official languages, as he says newcomers with English and French language ability are the most successful when settling in Canada.
According to a study released last week by the Maytree Foundation, a privately-funded charitable foundation that studies policy issues with respect to immigration, diversity, integration and building civic communities, language ability is the most vital component of an immigrant’s successful integration into the Canadian labour market.
“Knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages has been identified as the single most important predictor of successful labour market integration,” said Naomi Alboim, who authored the report, a year-long study of Canadian immigration policies conducted by academics, governments and immigrant settlement workers.
Language proficiency is a determining factor not only in the success of a newcomer’s ability to find a job upon arrival in Canada, but in their overall professional success as well.
“Experience has also shown that early investments in language and employment training can lead to higher earnings,” Alboim said in her report.
Minister Kenney agrees.
“Access to language training services is, for many newcomers, a first step in establishing networks and contacts so they are engaged and feel welcomed in their communities,” said Kenney.
The recent announcement by Minister Jason Kenney that Citizenship and Immigration Canada was allocating $9.5-million in funding to organizations offering language training to immigrants in the Calgary, Alberta, area highlights the Canadian government’s commitment to ensuring that newcomer’s language ability leads to their successful integration and settlement in Canada.
Funding of this kind is just one of the ways that the federal and provincial governments encourage initiatives to help immigrants learn Canada’s official languages, an essential means to their success both in the Canadian workforce and within their new social communities.
While language ability is an important qualifying factor in many Canadian Immigration programs, Kenney said that many newcomers arrive with the ability to converse in one of Canada’s official languages without being able to communicate at levels required by the Canadian workforce. This can be a major hurdle when looking for employment or simply trying to integrate into Canadian society.
Proficiency in one of Canada`s official languages is “a critical pathway to success in Canada,” Kenney said.
To that end, Citizenship and Immigration Canada funds official language training services across the country under the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. These services are offered free of charge to adult permanent residents and by schools, universities, settlement organizations and community organizations. The Ministère de l’immigration et des communautés culturelles (Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities) in Quebec administers similar language training programs throughout the province.
Since 2004, the federal government has also been supporting Enhanced Language Training (ELT) programs, which provide job-specific language training in both French and English to newcomers to Canada. In addition to language training, these programs provide immigrants with mentoring, job-placements and cultural orientation to the workplace. While Quebec does not offer ELT programs, it does administer, with the help of educational institutions and settlement programs, similar language training accompanied by guidance on finding employment and succeeding in the workplace.
Language programs constitute a major portion of federal investment in settlement and integration programs in all provinces and territories, except for Quebec, which has a separate agreement with the Canadian government.
These initiatives are fundamental tools for newcomers, especially when looking for employment and attempting to adapt to the Canadian workforce.
Language proficiency is also an essential requirement for many immigration programs, most notably for the Federal Skilled Worker program and the Quebec Skilled Worker program. In some cases, applicants are asked to submit results of standardized language tests, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test d’évaluation du français (TEF) to demonstrate their language ability. There are many ways to prepare for tests like the IELTS examination in advance, such as online IELTS practice courses and free IELTS Practice Tests.
About a year ago, I was privileged to appear before parliamentary committees that were charged with examining proposed changes to Canada’s immigration selection system. The government of the day claimed that urgent modifications to the law were necessary in order to streamline the immigration process and reduce the backlog of pending skilled worker (economic) applications. At the time, I felt there was more to it than that. For, if the government really just wanted to shorten the immigration queue, it could have easily accomplished this goal by exercising its authority within the immigration regulations as they then existed. Clearly, they had more in mind, and in the end the government got the changes they desired.