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Changes announced concerning the Federal Skilled Worker program

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On June 26, 2010, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that the Government of Canada has amended its current immigration procedures to put even greater emphasis on economic recovery and further reduce the Federal Skilled Worker application backlog. The changes, effective immediately, concern the Federal Skilled Worker program, including:

1) a change in the occupations that are currently ‘open’ under this program,

2) the creation of a limit on the number of applications which will be considered by Canadian Immigration Visa Offices, and

3) a change in the documentation required for an application under this program.

These changes do not affect any applications received at the Central Intake Office before June 26, 2010.

Under these updated instructions, an application is eligible for processing if the applicant:

• has at least one year of continuous, full-time (or equivalent) paid work experience in the past decade in a qualifying occupation, which have been identified as the most in-demand occupations in Canada at this time; or
• qualifies for Arranged Employment with a full-time permanent job offer from a Canadian employer.

Applicants who formerly qualified because they had been living in Canada with legal status as a Temporary Foreign Worker or an international student will no longer be eligible under the Federal Skilled Worker program, but may still meet the eligibility criteria of the Canadian Experience Class program.

The former list of 38 qualifying occupations has been amended to include 11 new occupations with 20 previously listed occupations having been removed.

Effective immediately, the following occupations have been added to the list:

0811 Primary Production Managers (Except Agriculture)
1122 Professional Occupations in Business Services to Management
1233 Insurance Adjusters and Claims Examiners
2121 Biologists and Related Scientists
2151 Architects
3113 Dentists
3131 Pharmacists
3222 Dental Hygienists & Dental Therapists
4151 Psychologists
4152 Social Workers
7216 Contractors and Supervisors, Mechanic Trades

The following occupations remain on the list:

0631 Restaurant and Food Service Managers
3111 Specialists in clinical medicine
3112 General practitioners and family physicians
3142 Physiotherapists
3152 General duty registered nurses
3215 Radiological technologists
3233 Licensed practical nurses
6241 Chefs
6242 Cooks
7215 Contractors and Supervisors, Carpentry Trades
7241 Electricians (Except Industrial & Power System)
7242 Industrial Electricians
7251 Plumbers
7265 Welders & Related Machine Operators
7312 Heavy-Duty Equipment Mechanics
7371 Crane Operators
7372 Drillers & Blasters – Surface Mining, Quarrying & Construction
8222 Supervisors, Oil and Gas Drilling and Service

For those skilled workers applying under the occupation list, the government will limit the number of applications considered for processing to 20,000 total per year. Within the 20,000 limit, a maximum of 1,000 applications per occupation will be considered. This limit does not apply to applicants with a job offer.

Candidates for the Federal Skilled Worker program and for the Canadian Experience Class Program will now be required to submit the results of a language proficiency assessment exam, along with a complete set of supporting documents (such as copies of passports, evidence of educational history, documentation of marital status, proof of settlement funds, police clearances, etc.) with their application forms. As such, the language proficiency results and additional documentation must be gathered to create an initial application.

The authority for the changes, known as ministerial instructions, comes from amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act approved by Parliament in 2008 as part of the Action Plan for Faster Immigration.

The instructions are meant as a flexible tool to allow the government to keep the intake of applications for economic immigration in line with the number and types of jobs available in Canada, as well as reduce application backlogs and processing times.

Since the first instructions were issued in November 2008, the backlog of federal skilled worker applicants in process prior to the legislation has dropped from 640,000 to 380,000. The majority of decisions on new applications are being made in six to 12 months, compared with up to six years prior to the changes. But in the first quarter of 2010, the number of new applications rose significantly beyond the department’s ability to process them in a timely way, leading to the recognition that a more refined approach is necessary.

“These changes bring Canada in line with the practices of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, our main competitors for skilled immigrants,” said Immigration Minister Kenney. “They help match the supply of applicants to our processing capacity and today’s post-recession job market needs. This is the only responsible way to manage our immigration system.”

“This completely changes the nature of an application for a Federal Skilled Worker permanent resident visa,” commented Canadian immigration Attorney David Cohen. “Under these new rules, there are between 680 and 1000 visas to be issued for each occupation on the list and those spots will fill up very quickly. As the expression goes, ‘the early birds are going to get those worms’,” said Cohen.

Attorney Cohen went on to explain that these new rules favour the fastest and most organized applicants. “The reality of these new rules is that an applicant has only one try to get his or her application accepted. If an application has even a tiny error, it risks being returned without processing, and by the time that error is corrected, the odds of the occupation category being closed are that much greater.”

The new rules and the closure of some of the Federal Skilled Worker occupations should not discourage potential immigrations from considering Canada as a destination. Attorney Cohen encourages potential immigrants: “Remember that there are 60 immigration programs across Canada from which to choose. If the Federal Skilled Worker program is no longer an option, I’ll advise my clients to explore other alternatives.”

One such alternative is the Quebec Skilled Worker program, which uses completely different criteria for selecting applicants. The Quebec selection model relies on the concept of “human capital”, and tries to select candidates based on the likelihood of successful economic and social integration.