This year has brought many changes to various Canadian immigration laws, regulations, and policies. While most changes were made in order to allow more people to immigrate to Canada, other changes were made to limit who could apply under a specific program. The following are some of the more notable changes that were made to immigration programs this year.
Changes to the Federal Skilled Worker Program
On June 26, 2010, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that the Government of Canada had amended its current immigration procedures in hopes of reducing the Federal Skilled Worker application backlog and to place greater emphasis on Canada’s economic recovery.
Three major changes were made to the Federal Skilled Worker Program:
1) a change in the occupations that were currently ‘open’ under this program reducing the number from 38 to 29 qualifying occupations,
2) a change in the documentation required for an application under this program, and
3) the creation of a limit on the number of applications which would be considered by Visa Offices.
These new changes did not affect applicants who qualified for Arranged Employment with a full-time permanent job offer from a Canadian employer. The most important change made to this program was the creation of a cap system which affected only skilled workers applying under the qualifying occupation list without a job offer from a Canadian employer. Under the new cap system, the Government of Canada limited 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 would be considered. As of November 2010, one occupation, Professional Occupations in Business Services to Management, NOC 1122, had already reached the 1,000 cap and the Registered Nurse occupation, NOC 3152, is quickly approaching the cap as well.
As these changes limited the number of applicants able to qualify under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, applicants have had to explore other avenues of immigration, such as Provincial Nominee Programs, Canadian Experience Class, Business/Investor Programs, and more.
Changes to Provincial Nominee Programs
Two streams in the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program were put on hold this year. Prior to August 23rd, people who were working in the United States on temporary work visas and people who had a close family member living in Alberta were able to apply through Alberta PNP. As of August 23rd, Alberta stopped accepting applications submitted through the Family Stream and the U.S. Visa Holder category. Alberta has not yet announced when the two streams will re-open.
This past May, British Columbia announced changes to its category for international graduates. According to the new changes, students who recently obtained a Master’s and/or Doctorate degree in natural, applied, or health sciences from a British Columbia post-secondary school, were no longer required to have a job offer to qualify for nomination under this program. In addition, students who did have a job offer from an employer in British Columbia could qualify for this program with a degree from any province.
Manitoba announced that changes will be made to their programs in early 2011. Currently, international graduates who wish to apply through Manitoba must have at least 6 months of work experience for a Manitoba employer. Starting in 2011, applicants who graduate from a Manitoba post-secondary educational program of at least two academic years will be able to apply immediately to the Provincial Nominee Program in advance of receiving an offer of employment.
In February, the province of New Brunswick announced that family members of current New Brunswick residents were eligible to apply under the Skilled Worker with Family Support stream if they possessed work skills that are in demand in that province. New Brunswick receives several hundred immigrants each year, and the new changes will allow families to reunite.
Changes were made to the International Student Category in Ontario. Previously, only Ph.D. students were allowed to apply for permanent residency without a job offer. In September, Ontario changed its program to allow graduates from Ontario Master’s programs to also apply for permanent residency without requiring a job offer. This was good news for Ontario students as there are currently 4,600 students in Master’s degree programs in the province.
Prince Edward Island
In April, Minister Allan Campbell had announced that the Prince Edward Island Nominee Program was currently under review. New streams are being assessed and changes to the programs are expected to be announced in 2011.
The province of Quebec introduced a fast-track immigration program for students and temporary workers living in Quebec. Under the Quebec Experience Class, students who had graduated from a recognized, participating Quebec education institution and individuals who had worked in the province for at least 12 months out of the last 24 are now able to qualify in this program.
Applicants who wish to reside in Quebec may also qualify for the Quebec Skilled Worker Program. Applicants must meet certain selection factors, such as training, experience, language proficiency, and more. A job offer or study in Quebec is not required for this program, but may add additional points in the various selection factors.
To find out if you qualify for immigration under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Quebec Skilled Worker Program or Provincial Nominee Programs, please complete a free online eligibility assessment.