Canada removing barriers to permanent residence for physicians

Edana Robitaille
Published: October 4, 2022

As Canada continues to experience a nation-wide shortage of qualified physicians, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has made changes that will exempt physicians already in Canada as temporary residents from some of the current requirements involved in obtaining permanent resident status through Express Entry programs.

Most notably, physicians who are already working in Canada often find themselves unable to qualify for Express Entry because doctors in Canada often use a “fee-for-service" payment model that is different than the traditional employer-employee relationship. On paper, this means many physicians who are currently in Canada as temporary residents are considered self-employed.

Self-employed individuals, who gain this experience within Canada, are not eligible for most economic immigration pathways, such as those offered under Express Entry. It is important to note that being self-employed on its own does not render a candidate ineligible. If a candidate has gained at least one year of work experience abroad, or as an employee in Canada, they may still be eligible for an Express Entry program.

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Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says removing this barrier will act as a signal to physicians that they are welcome to stay in Canada. While in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, last week he spoke positively about the new measure.

“In my home province in particular, foreign-born physicians have been helping to keep families healthy and to take care of our aging population,’ said Fraser. “Their skills are critical resources in our community, and it does not take long before they become our neighbours, friends, and fellow community leaders. Physicians resettling here in Nova Scotia or in other parts across the country is a win-win situation. The measures announced today signal to these physicians that we want them to stay, by making it easier for them to choose Canada as their permanent home.”

The measure is another attempt by IRCC to attract and retain physicians and other healthcare workers. As of June 2022, approximately 4,300 permanent residents were admitted under the health care streams of the time-limited Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence pathway.

Nationwide shortage of healthcare workers

Canada currently has a job vacancy rate of nearly 6% in the healthcare sector. This means that in the second quarter of 2022, there were over 136,000 healthcare professions that needed to be filled across the country. Manitoba has the highest vacancy rate at 6.7%.

Data from IRCC suggests that one in four healthcare workers in Canada is an immigrant. This includes 36% of physicians. The same data highlights that there are nearly 500,000 workers in the health-care sector that are over the age of 55 and therefore will hit retirement age, 65, in the coming decade. To combat this shortage, and shortages across all sectors, Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan is targeting the highest ever numbers of new permanent residents across all lines business. Most newcomers will come from economic class programs.

So far in 2022 IRCC has accepted over 8,600 temporary and permanent resident applications from foreign nationals intending to work in the health sector.

Changes coming in Express Entry

The exception for physicians signals the start of changes in Express Entry that can be expected to continue into 2023. Last June, Bill C-19 received Royal Assent in Parliament, and will give IRCC more authority to target Express Entry candidates who have specific work experience, education, or language abilities, rather than issuing invitations to apply to a wider range of candidates based solely on their CRS scores, as is currently the norm.

Fraser told CIC News in an interview in June that the new authorities will allow Canada to invite candidates who are already primed for success in the labour market and will therefore be better placed to contribute to Canada’s economy, rather than overloading already robust labour sectors with new applicants.

“If you’re in a circumstance where you have an abundance of applications that are all in one particular sector, and that sector doesn’t have high needs in Canada the Express Entry system as it exists today, is likely to bring in people that might not be perfectly matched to the needs of the Canadian economy,” said Fraser.

Express Entry

Express Entry is an application management system that uses a points-based system, the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), to rank candidates’ profiles in the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, or the Canadian Experience Class. The top-scoring candidates receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) and can then apply for permanent residence. IRCC has a processing standard of six months for new Express Entry applications.

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