Last Thursday, the Canadian government released the ‘Economic Action Plan’, its budget for 2013. This plan includes a number of immigration measures to be implemented in this fiscal year and beyond. Most notably, the government has announced its intention to enact significant reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, in addition to a number of international initiatives outlined throughout the document.
The following is a summary of the budget’s notable immigration-related announcements:
Reforming the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Last year, approximately 200,000 temporary foreign workers came to Canada to perform work in a range of key fields. More than ever, the country is in need of foreign workers to offset labour shortages in key industries such as healthcare, natural resources, and information technology.
The government cites industry statistics to demonstrate Canada’s need for qualified workers. For instance, ‘the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Council declares that by 2016 Canadian employers will need to hire some 106,000 ICT workers – over 17,000 per year.’ Additionally, ‘the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council forecasts that Canada faces a shortage of 357,000 workers in the supply chain sector […] between now and 2020.’
While acknowledging shortages, the Government of Canada wishes nonetheless to ensure that Canadian citizens and permanent residents are first in line for Canadian job opportunities. To make sure that these individuals receive priority, a number of reforms will be made to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. While further details will be outlined in the coming months, the government announced in the budget that it would take the following measures:
- Work with employers to ensure that temporary foreign workers are relied upon only when Canadians genuinely cannot fill jobs.
- Increase the recruitment efforts that employers must make to hire Canadians before they will be eligible to apply for temporary foreign workers, including increasing the length and reach of advertising
- At present, employers usually need to advertise for a job in Canada for a minimum of two weeks.
- Assist employers who legitimately rely on temporary foreign workers, due to a lack of qualified Canadian applicants, find ways to ensure that they have a play to transition to a Canadian workforce over time.
- Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to restrict the identification of non-official languages as job requirements when hiring through the Temporary Foreign Worker process.
- Introduce user fees for employers applying for a Labour Market Opinion
- Currently, there is no fee to apply for a Labour Market Opinion
Business Immigration Program
Many Business Immigration program streams, such as the Federal Investor Class, have been temporarily closed to new applications. However, the government has now announced its intention to ‘look at creating an Immigrant Investor pilot program to test a new approach to attracting immigrant investors’, signalling that perhaps the doors will be reopened to new investors.
In addition, it has been re-confirmed that a new pilot program for Entrepreneur Start-Up Visas will be opening on April 1st, 2013. Further details on the program have yet to be announced.
Newcomers to Canada who become Canadian citizens will see enhanced support for processing of applications. The government has proposed $44 million in funding for these efforts over the next two years.
For this program, the government has proposed to allow the Immigration Minister to set fees ‘in a timely and efficient manner’.
Home to some of the world’s best schools, Canada is poised to maintain its status as a leader in global education. In 2010, international students poured over $7.7 billion into Canada’s economy. International graduates are also a valuable asset to Canada’s labour force, as many remain in the country as foreign workers on temporary or permanent bases.
To support international students, the Canadian government is pledging $10 million to promote Canadian education internationally. Additionally, a portion of the $42 million pledged to support processing of temporary resident applications will be specifically allocated to study permit applicants.
The Canadian budget does not elaborate on specific programming details. Rather, it is intended to outline the government’s plans for the upcoming year. The budget has been brought before Canadian Parliament, and is currently pending approval. If all immigration measures in the plan are approved, Canada will continue to expand its commitment to helping newcomers receive the very best support before and after their arrival in the country.