A popular pilot program that allows certain spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to work while awaiting permanent resident status has been extended for another year. This week, CICNews sat down with an applicant for immigration to Canada who has already benefited from this program.
Around this time last year, Toronto resident Phil Decelis was in a tricky spot. His fiancée, Liv, was heavily pregnant with the couple’s first child, but Phil, originally from Cambridge, England, had just three months left on his work permit.
Liv, a Canadian permanent resident originally from Peru, wanted to sponsor Phil so that he could immigrate to Canada permanently. But Phil, now 27 years old, had limited options. He could either remain in Canada throughout the application process without working, or he could work abroad. One option entailed potentially not being able to provide for his daughter, the other meant not being able to be around her and Liv at all.
“We toyed with the idea of the outland application. It would have been a struggle, but would have been better than staying in Canada for potentially more than two years without having a consistent income,” states Phil, matter-of-fact.
As it happens, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) gave the young couple the best Christmas present possible on December 22, 2014 when it announced a new pilot program allowing spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents in the Spouses or Common-Law Partners in Canada Class (SCLPC) to obtain an open work permit.
Armed with this gift, Phil submitted his application for an open work permit, along with an application for permanent residence, the very next day.
“It was definitely a huge relief when I found out I could work and I didn’t have to wait an unknown amount of time without having an income. Arianna was born just a couple of weeks after I had applied, and if I wasn’t able to work at that point then it would have been quite difficult. Regardless, I had to take some time off work anyway for Arianna. The work permit was approved in April. It was actually kind of a blessing because, with such a young daughter, I had two months off.”
When Phil first came to Canada on a short vacation in 2008, little did he know that just a few years later he would be the father of a Canadian citizen. Back then, fresh out of school, Phil and a friend visited Toronto.
“I just came for ten days. I didn’t really have a reason, to be honest, but I really liked the city. When I got back to England I researched the Working Holiday visa.
“I was working in England, but was laid off during the recession at the time. After that I thought of going to live in Toronto for a while. It was actually a toss-up between Canada and New Zealand, but having been to Canada already and really liking the vibe, I chose to come here.”
The original plan was to stay in Toronto for six months, Vancouver for six months, and then go back to England. But Canada stole his heart.
After his second work permit expired, however, Phil had to find another option to stay working in Canada. A company in Toronto submitted an application for what used to be known as a Labour Market Opinion (now Labour Market Impact Assessment) so that they could hire Phil as a foreign worker, but the company applied under the wrong National Occupational Classification (NOC) code for the position.
“I spoke to an immigration lawyer about it and the lawyer looked through my job description. Turns out the application should have been under a different classification code,” says Phil.
“Eventually we got a two-year work permit, but I was actually let go from that job about a year-and-a-half, which left me up the creek with no paddle because my status in Canada was based around that work permit, and I no longer had that job.”
Nevertheless, before Phil was let go he had met Liv, who was working at the same company. “We left the job together, actually on the same day,” he says. By the Spring of 2014, Liv was pregnant. A rule change in the International Experience Canada (IEC) program allowed Phil to get another Working Holiday Visa, but time was quickly running out on that work permit too.
“I can’t tell you how relieved I was when the pilot program was announced. The regulations changed just at the right time.”
Toronto is home
In Canada’s largest city, Phil and Liv have found a home away from home, the perfect place to raise a family.
“Before even having a kid, I actually thought that I would like to bring up a child in Toronto,” states Phil.
“People’s ideologies and the things that you’re exposed to in Toronto, such as different ethnicities and different religions, are incredibly valuable things to grow up with. The majority of people here seem to really like the city, particularly in the neighbourhood that we’re in [The Junction]. There are lots of child-oriented things and good schools and parks and stuff like that.
“The majority of people I’ve met — typically mixed couples who may have one Canadian and then one partner who may be Latin American or European or from elsewhere — are planning to stay for the long term. I definitely would like to stay here.”
Phil has embraced the city in multiple ways. He is a season ticket holder for the Toronto F.C. soccer team and brought Arianna to her first game this summer. “She’s nearly a year old, up on her feet, causing trouble, breaking all of the expensive stuff that we have in the house, so it’s going well.”
With around half of Toronto’s population having been born abroad, he gets to socialize and work with people from all over the world. To top it all off, work life is going better than ever for him at a growing software company in the city.
“We kind of have our own talent development section of that department, which I’m spearheading. It’s a really good start-up tech company, but we’ve grown and grown and grown, so we’re not particularly small anymore. It’s great — there are lots of good opportunities for advancement.”
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Phil!
On December 11, 2015, CIC announced that this pilot program has been extended for an additional year. This program has allowed many spouses, such as Phil Decelis, to provide for themselves and their families, as well as gain valuable Canadian work experience, while awaiting permanent resident status.
News of the extension of this pilot program affects certain spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents in the Spouses or Common-Law Partners in Canada class (SCLPC) of Canadian immigration. Depending on where the applicant is in the process, he or she may apply for an open work permit.
The holder of an open work permit can work for any Canadian employer, without first having a confirmed offer of employment.
Officers will issue open work permits to SCLPC class applicants if they meet the following requirements:
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