Offering a Job to a Refugee or Displaced Person Living Overseas? Consider the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot

The government has now implemented its Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot which provides a path to permanent residence for refugees and displaced persons living overseas, who have not been integrated permanently into their host country, and who have a job offer from a Canadian employer. While there is a very limited intake for those without job offers (only 150 applications accepted each year) and those who are eligible for the Provincial Nominee Program, Atlantic Immigration Program, or Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (only 500 total), there is no cap for those who have a job offer.

Importantly, this program lowers the usual language requirements for Economic Class applicants and allows those with high-basic to low-intermediate English or French skills to apply. It also allows for jobs offers for positions that only require the completion of high school. The pilot requires that the applicant have one year of previous work experience. This presents employers with opportunities to hire refugees or displaced persons in order to fill various labour shortages. Further, application fees are waived, medical examination costs are covered by the Interim Federal Health Program available to refugees, access to the Immigration Loans Program is provided to help with the right of permanent residence fee and travel costs, and settlement assistance is also provided. The government has said it will try to process these applications in 6 months or less.

Given this, employers who are looking to fill labour shortages may want to consider the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot. In addition to benefitting their business, they would be providing a humanitarian service to a refugee or displaced person in need and their family. If this is something you’re interested in, reach out to one of our professionals today for a permanent residence consultation. Our Canadian immigration legal professionals can be reached by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.

Parlez-vous français ? Canada Wants You!

Canada has two official languages of equal status: French and English. In its commitment to maintaining and increasing the use of the French language, and to ensure that French language communities prosper throughout Canada, the federal government has modified and created immigration pathways for French speakers to settle outside the province of Québec, where most Francophones in Canada reside. While many French-speaking immigrants may wish to settle in Québec, it is worth considering other provinces and territories as well, since French speakers wishing to immigrate have a great advantage over non-French-speakers.

The government has been increasing its target for French-speaking immigrants. The target of 4.4% French speakers outside of Quebec in 2023 was surpassed, and for 2024 this target will be 6%, 7% in 2025, and 8% in 2026.

In the points-based Express Entry immigration system, people who are bilingual in French and English are awarded more points. Further, those with strong French skills but basic English skills get more points than those with strong English skills but basic French skills. If you are fluent in both, you have a big advantage.

Since 2023, the federal government has also performed targeted Express Entry draws just for Francophones. Francophones are very much in demand, as the government has performed these draws more than any other draw for in-demand occupations, such as skilled trades, healthcare, STEM, transportation, and agriculture.

Outside of Québec, almost all permanent residence programs by the provincial and territorial governments also favour Francophones. Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have targeted programs just for French speakers while the other provinces and territories award extra points for French speakers.

Additionally, for foreigners wishing to work or those wishing to hire workers, the Mobilité Francophone work permit is now easier to obtain than before. The language score requirement has been loosened so that those with an intermediate level of French may be eligible. A job offer is required, but now any job at any skill level outside of agriculture is eligible. Previously, only high-skilled jobs were eligible. With a Mobilité Francophone work permit, a person’s Canadian work experience can count for points towards their permanent residence, offering another pathway towards immigrating permanently to Canada.

If you would like to know more about the French immigration programs or would like to assess your or an employee’s eligibility, reach out to one of our Canadian immigration legal professionals today. We can be reached by phone (416-368-1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.

Significant New Limits to the International Student Program

With increased pressure from the public amidst the cost of living and housing crises, the federal government has announced significant new limits to the international student program for at least 2 years.

Cap on International Students

In 2024, the number of study permits issued will be limited to 360,000. The cap will be distributed across the provinces and territories based on their populations. Since most international students opt for Ontario and British Columbia, these provinces are due to see the greatest decreases in new international students compared to previous years.

Students pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees will not be affected by the cap. Neither will students renewing their study permits, or elementary and secondary school students.

As of January 22, 2024, study permit applications must be accompanied by an attestation letter from the government of the province or territory they will study in. However, the federal government has provided until March 31, 2024, for provincial and territorial governments to establish processes for issuing attestation letters. Without such a process, students may not be able to submit their applications until that time.

Post-Graduation Work Permit Eligibility

Further, the eligibility criteria for Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs) is being changed. PGWPs offer a path to permanent residence for many graduates by allowing them to gain Canadian work experience, so they are much coveted by many graduates.

Starting September 1, 2024, students who graduate from a program under a Public College-Private Partnership will not be eligible for PGWPs. Agreements under Public College-Private Partnerships allow students to attend a private college that is licensed to deliver the curriculum of a publicly funded college.

Master’s degree graduates and graduates of other, short graduate-level programs will soon be eligible to apply for a 3-year PGWP. Currently, PGWPs are issued for the length of the program of study. With this change, graduate-level students will be eligible for a 3-year PGWP, even if their program length was less than 3 years.

Open Work Permits for Spouses of International Students

Soon, open work permits will only be available to spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs. Spouses of those in undergraduate or college programs will no longer be eligible. Spousal open work permits allow the holder to work for any employer in Canada.

Other Recent Measures

This announcement is made in addition to other measures that the government is taking that will reduce the number of international students. These include an increase to the funds requirement for international students from $10,000 to $20,635, which took effect on January 1, 2024; a “trusted learning institution” system, details of which are yet to be announced; and a requirement for the verification of every letter of acceptance by the post-secondary institution that began on December 1, 2023.

As a way to offset its increase of the funds requirement to $20,635, the government has also announced that it will implement targeted pilots to help members of underrepresented groups study in Canada, but has yet to announce details.

Employers that have relied on foreign students to grow their work force in the past, may want to look at measures to retain existing temporary talent working for them by assisting these temporary workers with an application for permanent residence. Given the focus on international students, employers should also review their foreign student population employees to ensure compliance while they are working on a study permit. Reach out to one of our professionals today for a permanent residence consultation and/or consultation related to compliance. Our Canadian immigration legal professionals can be reached by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.

Ontario Changes Eligibility Requirement for Employer Job Offer: International Student Stream

Ontario has announced that it will allow anyone who completed a one-year college program and earned an Ontario College Graduate Certificate to register for the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) Employer Job Offer: International Student Stream. Previously, the requirement was that a candidate must have completed a one-year academic program that required at least an undergraduate degree for admission to that academic program. That undergraduate degree is no longer required, so long as the candidate received an Ontario College Graduate Certificate.

For many foreign students with post grad work permits running out soon, this may seem like good news.  However, it may only be a source of false hope. The Ontario government has not drawn a significant number of candidates in the Employer Job Offer: International Student Stream in recent years. In 2023, only 2,963 invitations to apply were issued for this stream, compared to 5,734 for the Masters Graduate Stream. It is important to consider that the purpose of this immigration stream is to address labour shortages in Ontario, and therefore a candidate must have a job offer from an employer in Ontario. The OINP have recently targeted skilled trades, tech, and health care occupations. Thus, this change may only generate a pathway to permanent residence for a few.

We expect that the Ontario government will continue to use this stream to address labour shortages, which will likely benefit those who work in in-demand skilled trades, tech, and health care, and will leave many others hanging, unless there are more general draws in 2024.

Foreign students need to be proactive and continue to consider all available pathways to permanent residence. Our Canadian immigration legal professionals can provide a consultation.  Reach us by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.

Immigration Developments Kicking Off 2024

The New Year has brought with it developments in the Courts and at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) that will shape immigration and citizenship policy for years to come. Here’s what you need to know.

Second-Generation Born Abroad Citizenship Rule Deemed Unconstitutional

Along with naturalization, Canada provides for citizenship by birth inside Canada, and citizenship by birth outside to a Canadian parent. However, since April 2009, the Citizenship Act has imposed a cut-off of one generation only for those born outside of Canada to a Canadian parent, whereby a child born outside of Canada to a Canadian citizen parent would be a Canadian citizen but could not pass on citizenship in the future should they have a child born outside of Canada. This “second-generation born abroad rule” meant that if you were born outside of Canada to a Canadian parent who had been born outside of Canada, you were not a Canadian citizen. That all changed in December.

As a result of a challenge at the Ontario Superior Court, the second-generation born abroad rule was deemed unconstitutional: Bjorkquist et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, 2023 ONSC 7152 (CanLII).

The Court said that it discriminates on the prohibited grounds of national origin and sex. The rule particularly affected Canadian women who were born outside of Canada and were living abroad, as they could not pass their citizenship onto their children. It forced pregnant women living outside Canada who were the “first-generation born abroad”, to make the difficult decision of choosing between their own health, job, and finances by giving birth outside Canada, or ensuring their child would be a citizen by returning to Canada to give birth weeks or even months in advance of their due date. Consequently, this rule was deemed to violate another constitutional right: the right to enter, remain in, and leave Canada.

The striking down of this provision raises several questions. The Court has provided the government with 6 months to amend the rule in line with its decision or it will be fully invalidated. It is now up to the government to respond. Will they appeal the decision? Will they amend the provision in the Citizenship Act? Will the provision be fully removed from the Citizenship Act? Stay tuned to see how it all plays out.

Conflict in the Middle East – Israel, Gaza, the West Bank

Many Canadians and their families are deeply affected by the ongoing conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the war between Israel and Hamas. As a result, IRCC has announced the following measures:

  • Family members in Gaza – Beginning January 9th and for a period of 1 year, IRCC will accept a total of 1,000 temporary resident visa applications for the relatives of Canadian citizens or permanent residents (“PRs”) who are in Gaza. The relative must hold a Palestinian Territory passport, and must be a spouse, common-law partner, child (regardless of age), grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling of the Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident (“PR”). The Canadian citizen or PR must provide their relative with orientation to life in Canada and financial support for 1 year.
    • Those who came to Canada from Gaza following an assisted departure may be eligible for time-limited medical coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program.
  • Israeli nationals and Palestinian passport holders who are the immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and who are currently in Canada with valid status after leaving Israel or the Palestinian Territories on or after October 7, 2023, are eligible for a fee-exempt open work permit or study permit.

Conflict in Sudan

The ongoing conflict in Sudan continues to have profound effects on Sudanese nationals in Canada, as well as many Canadians and their families. IRCC has announced the following measures in response:

  • Family members in SudanBeginning February 27th and for a period of 1 year, IRCC will accept a total of 3,250 permanent residence applications for the relatives of Canadian citizens or PRs in Sudan. The relative must be a spouse, common-law partner, child (regardless of age), grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling of the Canadian citizen or PR. The Canadian citizen or PR must meet a financial requirement and must provide their relative with orientation to life in Canada and financial support for 1 year.
  • Until October 27, 2024, Sudanese nationals in Canada as visitors, workers, students, or temporary resident permit holders can apply to extend their status or change their temporary resident status (e.g. visitor to worker) for free.
  • Sudanese nationals with an immediate family member who is a Canadian citizen or PR can apply for an open work permit, study permit, or PR through family sponsorship if they meet these requirements:
    • Both the Sudanese citizen and the Canadian citizen or PR left Sudan on or after April 15, 2023;
    • The Sudanese citizen entered Canada before July 15, 2023;
    • The Sudanese citizen is in Canada when filing the application and when a decision is made.

Employers Must Ensure Their Foreign Workers Are Paid the Prevailing Wage

IRCC has mandated that employers conduct wage reviews for foreign workers on LMIAs every year. The wage must continue to meet the prevailing wage as posted on Job Bank. Prevailing wages on Job Bank are updated in the fall, and employers must do their wage review by January 1 of the following year. If a wage is modified, this does not need to be reported to Service Canada if the modified wage meets the prevailing wage.

This policy came into effect on January 1, 2024, so now would be a good time for employers of foreign workers on LMIA-based work permits to check the Job Bank and ensure that their foreign workers are being paid the prevailing wage for their occupation and region of work.

International Students

IRCC has increased the funds requirement for a foreign student from $10,000 to $20,635. This funds requirement is in addition to a student’s first year tuition and travel costs.

Previously, as part of efforts to reform the immigration system for international students, IRCC also announced that certain learning institutions will be recognized as providing top-quality services and support, including housing, to international students. We will have to see how this “trusted learning institution” system is implemented, but it is likely that many private colleges which rely on international students will not make the list.

IRCC has also announced that international students will continue to be able to work for more than 20 hours per week while doing full-time studies until April 30, 2024.

The COVID-era measure allowing international students to count time spent studying online towards the length of their future post-graduation work permit, as long as the online study was less than 50% of the program, has been extended to students who begin a program of study before September 1, 2024.

If you have questions about any of these initiatives, we are happy to advise. Our Canadian immigration legal professionals can be reached by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.

New Licensing Requirements For Temporary Help Agencies and Recruiters

Effective January 1, 2024, under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), temporary help agencies (“THAs”) and recruiters in Ontario will be subject to new licensing requirements which are aimed at cracking down on the exploitation of temporary workers.

Any person or entity that wishes to use the services of a THA or recruiter in Ontario from January 1, 2024 onwards will need to ensure that said staffing agency or recruiter holds the required license. Knowingly using an unlicensed temporary staffing agency or an unlicensed recruiter will constitute a violation of the ESA. Penalties include administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) of $15,000 – $50,000 for providing false or misleading information under the Act and AMPs of $250-$1000 for any other contravention of the Act.

An unlicensed THA or an unlicensed recruiter will similarly face such penalties as of January 1, 2024.

A recruiter is defined as any person who, for a fee, finds or attempts to find employment in Ontario for prospective employees, or finds, or attempts to find, employees for prospective employers in Ontario. The recruiter does not have to be located in Ontario for these licensing requirements to apply to them.

A THA is defined as an employer that employs persons for the purpose of assigning them to perform work on a temporary basis for clients of the employer. If a THA is located outside of Ontario, but assigns employees to work in Ontario, the licensing requirements apply to them.

In connection its licensing application, the THA or recruiter must include an electronic irrevocable letter of credit in the sum of $25,000, that can be drawn upon if needed to cover wages owed to employees, provide business contact name for all locations of business inside and outside Canada, provide the names and addresses of corporate officers and directors (as applicable), partners (as applicable), tax compliance information, information about compliance with the ESA, the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997  and pay a non-refundable application fee of $750.

If the staffing agency or recruiter submitted its licensing application before January 1, 2024, and has not yet received a decision on that application by January 1, 2024, it may continue to operate until a decision is made on the pending application.

If the staffing agency or recruiter has not submitted its licensing application before January 1, 2024, it will be prohibited from operating until it has been issued a valid license.

The employer compliance regime which is applicable to employers of foreign workers that hold employer specific work permits requires that employers comply with any federal, provincial or territorial laws that regulate employment and recruitment in the province or territory in which the temporary foreign worker works. Employers who use the services of a THA or recruiter as of January 1, 2024 are therefore advised to ensure that the THA or recruiter is licensed.

The licensing status of a THA or recruiter in Ontario can be checked at:

https://mltsd-tha.my.site.com/portal/s/public-facing-registry-page?language=en_US

If you have questions related to immigration compliance, contact one of our Canadian immigration legal professionals by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.

TRUSTED EMPLOYERS TO GET QUICKER ACCESS TO TEMPORARY FOREIGN WORKERS

At long last the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages, has launched a trusted employer program for foreign workers, the Recognized Employer Pilot (REP) under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

REP is a three-year initiative intended to help address labour shortages and reduce the administrative burden for repeat employers participating in the program who demonstrate a history of complying with program requirements.

Under the REP, eligible employers will gain access to Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) that are valid for up to 36 months, while also benefitting from a simplified LMIA application, should they need to hire additional workers from the same occupation during the Pilot. This will help employers better plan for their staffing needs and reduce the number of different LMIAs they need to submit over three years.

To be eligible to participate in REP, employers must have a minimum of three positive LMIAs for the same occupation over the past five years from a list of occupations that have been designated as in-shortage based on Canadian Occupational Projection System data.  Although the program is for “trusted employers”, meaning those with a sound track record using the TFWP in the past and is intended to reduce the administrative burden on employers,  the Minister’s  announcement indicated that employers will be subject to a more rigorous upfront assessment process based on their history and track record with the program, in order to ensure that REP targets employers with the best recruitment practices. This appears someone contradictory and therefore,  likely not as streamlined as what many businesses were hoping for in a trusted program.  Even the list of approved occupations appears confusing, using a suite of models developed by the Economic Skills Development Canada to project labour demand and labour supply, and identify labour market imbalances (shortages/surplus) for 293 occupational groupings at the national level, covering the entire workforce for the 2022-2031- period.

REP will be rolled out in two phases:

  • First, primary agriculture employers will be able to apply starting in September 2023,
  • While all other employers will be eligible to apply in January 2024. Employer applications for REP will close in September 2024.

Employers who qualify can expect:

  • A simplified application process for future LMIA applications for positions on the COPS list;
  • Fewer points of contact between participating employers and ESDC during the pilot due to simplified LMIA forms that allow employers to hire more TFW for genuine job offers during REP; &
  • A job bank designation that indicates their recognized status to increase interest from prospective workers.

The fact that employers, other than those in the agriculture industry, will have to wait until next year to use the REP is most disappointing. It also does not apply to employers using the Global Talent Steam (GTS) LMIA program or International Mobility Program, many of who have  solid track records  hiring foreign workers and are very trustworthy.  Hopefully the REP does simplify the LMIA process for those eligible employers, and the government is open to expanding the program sooner rather than later.

If you have questions about this announcement, please contact one of our Canadian immigration legal professionals by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.

A Tech Strategy That Lacks Economic Benefits For Canada

In an attempt to help tech businesses, fill labour shortages and to become a “tech talent” leader, the Minister of Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada (“the Minister”) recently announced six new measures.

  1. Open work permits for holders of H-1B visas: Foreign workers on H-1B specialty occupations visas in the US will be able apply for a Canadian work permit, study permit, and work permit options for their accompanying family members.
    • The H1-B specialty occupation visa holder work permit will commence from July 16, 2023 and will remain in effect for one year or until Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) receives 10,000 applications, whichever comes first.
    • Approved applicants will receive an open work permit of up to three years in duration, which means they will be able to work for almost any employer anywhere in Canada.

This initiative may help to buy time for foreign nationals that missed the H1-B draw in the United States but is unlikely to benefit Canadian businesses.  Instead, these foreign workers will likely continue to work for their American employers remotely from Canada. This will not assist Canada in building a strong tech workforce to benefit Canadians companies, but rather it will put more strain on the housing market as these 10,000 workers will need a place to live while they continue to work for their American employers from the comfort of their Canadian homes.

  1. An Innovative Stream under the International Mobility program: This new stream is intended to be an integral part of the tech talent strategy by attracting highly skilled individuals to Canada. This innovative stream will be exempt from a labour market impact assessment (LMIA).
    • Employer specific work permits for up to 5 years to workers destined to work for a company identified as contributing to Canada’s industrial innovative goals. If a company contributes to Canada’s industrial innovation goals, the company will be able to hire foreign workers without obtaining an LMIA.
    • Open work permits for up to 5 years for highly skilled workers in selected in-demand occupations.

It remains to be seen what the criteria will be for a Canadian company to meet the definition of “contributing to Canada’s industrial innovative goals”, and which occupations will be designated as “in- demand”.

  1. A return to 14-day service standard for work permits under the Global Skills Strategy: The Global Skills Strategy initiative was introduced prior to the pandemic to support Canadian employers seeking quick access to highly skilled talent from around the world was negatively impacted by the pandemic. Processing times far exceeded the 14-day service standard during the pandemic. The Minister confirmed that Employment and Social Development Canada is now meeting the two-week standard for processing Global Talent Stream labour market assessments for employers and IRCC is also now meeting their two-week standard for processing GSS work permit applications. The is welcomed news for Canadian employers.
  2. Canada will become a destination for digital nomads: Apparently, individuals that work in technology will be allowed to work in Canada for six months as a visitor.

This announcement is puzzling, because our immigration legislation already allows visitors to work remote from Canada, as long as they do not receive compensation from a Canadian source. So, it is unclear how this announcement will enhance the current talent pool. Meanwhile these individuals will need accommodation, and potentially other resources, such as healthcare. Perhaps when details are announced the benefits might reveal themselves.

  1. Express Entry STEM-specific draws: To further support the recruitment of skilled individuals, a STEM-specific draw under the Express Entry Program was announced. The first draw occurred July 5, 2023, and selected candidates with expertise in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Invitations were issued to 500 individuals with a comprehensive ranking score (CRS) of 486. Given that recent regular draws invited individuals with CRS of 488, initially there doesn’t seem to be a huge advantage to these STEM candidates as they likely would have received an invitation in any event.

  1. Improvements to the Start-up Visa Program (SUV): The Start-up Visa path to permanent residence targets foreign entrepreneurs who gain the support of a designated Canadian venture, capital fund, angel investor organization or business incubator for their start up. These applicants are intended to come to Canada to work in startup companies. More spots have been allocated under this program as a step toward addressing the lengthy wait times for applicants. Recognizing the long application wait times due to significant interest in the SUV program, IRCC will change the temporary work permit option for SUV applications and will allow them to apply for an open work permit for up to three years, rather than a one-year work permit that limits them to work solely for their own start-up. Work permits will also be available to each member of the entrepreneurial team, in comparison to the current policy, where only members of the team who are identified as essential and urgently needed in Canada can apply.

The announced improvements to the SUV program appear to be counterproductive to the intention of the program. It remains to be seen how allowing these entrepreneurs to work for any company, as opposed to exclusively working for their own start-up will assist the start-up in succeeding.

Hopefully, as more details of these measures become available, the economic benefit to Canadian businesses will become more apparent. In the meantime, Canadian businesses shouldn’t rely on these initiatives to assist them with challenging labour market conditions. Canadians instead will have to compete with the digital nomads and 10,000 H1-B holders for housing. Perhaps the Canadian Government hopes these tech workers will “like Canada enough”, that they will eventually apply to work for Canadian companies. This seems like a big leap of faith, especially if the workers continue to be paid in US currency at traditionally higher paying salaries.

If you have questions about any of these initiatives, please contact one of our Canadian immigration legal professionals by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.

2023 Off to a Crazy Start – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

As the first month of 2023 comes to a close, we at Corporate Immigration Law Firm (CILF) are shaking our heads. Some of the recent announcements are so surprising and shocking that we are left with few answers for our clients and certainly few ideas of what will come next. On the other hand, we are cautiously optimistic that processing times for some immigration business lines are starting to show signs of improvement.

Below is a summary of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

  •  Starting January 30th, IRCC will expand eligibility for Open Work Permits to spouses and dependent children of work permit holders at all skill levels. This is mostly a good initiative, but what about the spouses and dependent children of Canadian citizens and permanent residents?  Will IRCC finally treat spouses of Canadian citizens and permanent residents the same as spouses of foreign nationals working and studying in Canada and extend this initiative to them?
  • IRCC has extended and expanded the pilot program for out-of-status construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) by doubling the number from 500 to 1000. This is a very much needed initiative but why not extend it outside of the GTA where it is equally, if not harder to recruit workers due to limited housing and more extreme weather conditions?
  • Canada and the United States have reached a deal on Nexus application backlogs this month. Nexus is a trusted traveler system. The backlog was created when Nexus offices suspended in-person interviews during the pandemic and then did not re-open due to a dispute over legal protections for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers who work in Canadian Nexus offices. The Americans wanted the same protection for these CBP officers as the protections enjoyed by Preclearance CBP officers at Canadian land crossings and airports. A workaround has been announced whereby applicants can complete the in-person interviews in two stages. The first at a Canadian enrollment centre and then at a US Preclearance office at one of eight airports.
  • Backlogs at Passport Offices have been eliminated and apparently it is business as usual after months of chaos with lineups stretching around government buildings. However, recently approved permanent residents aren’t so lucky and are facing huge delays in issuance of PR Cards, leaving them grounded and unable to travel outside of Canada for 180 days. Perhaps the passport offices should take over production and distribution of PR Cards that are an essential travel document for permanent residents.
  • Express Entry draws continue bi-weekly and the cut-off for the comprehensive ranking score to receive an invitation to apply continues to fall. Since draws resumed in the summer of 2022 the cut-off has fallen from 557 to 490. Additionally, processing times of recently filed express entry applications appears to have returned to pre-pandemic times of six or less months for most applications.
  • Applications for temporary resident visas (TRVs) are seriously backlogged and many Canadian missions abroad are reporting delays of well over six months. This is creating havoc for families desperate to reunite after pandemic travel restrictions and hardship for families wanting to attend special events and travel for humanitarian and compassionate reasons, such as funerals and end of life situations. These delays are also negatively impacting businesses that have a need for their workforce to travel to Canada for a variety of business reasons and will have a chilling impact on the Canadian tourism industry as they try to rebound after the pandemic.  This has led to desperate and unprecedented ideas being discussed behind closed doors at IRCC, including the possibility of an amnesty for large groups of pending TRV applicants and/or a policy to eliminate the criteria for a TRV, such criteria normally protect the Canadian public. An amnesty or elimination of the said criteria will almost certainly lead to increase in Canada of asylum claims, humanitarian and compassionate applications, and enforcement cases, all the while draining government resources already stretched within IRCC, the Refugee Board, the Federal Court and Canada Border Services Agency. The government needs to look at other means to use resources efficiently and other policies that might eliminate redundant applications that drain government resources. The integrity of the immigration system should not be compromised when there are other options to improve or reduce backlogs. To find out more, check out the article below published by the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA): https://cila.co/cila-statement-on-waiving-eligibility-criteria-for-temporary-resident-visas/
  • On January 1, 2023, The Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act (“the Act”) came into force, restricting foreigners from buying homes in Canada. In effect the Act prohibits executives and other foreign talent, who plan to move to Canada with their families, from buying a home until they have worked in Canada for at least three years. Given the critical skills shortages, this restriction will place Canada in an uncompetitive position compared to other countries. The Act also creates issues for companies that use relocation companies to facilitate movement of talent across international borders. Typically, relocation companies purchase and resell executives’ homes to speed up a move, but as non-Canadian, they are also banned from conducting such property transactions. The Act will likely cause more harm than benefit given that only 2.2 percent of residential property in Ontario is owned by foreign nationals. This Act is in direct contradiction with the government’s goal to admit 1.5 million new immigrants in the next three years, so it appears clearly political and definitely the ugliest of January’s immigration announcements.

If you have questions about any of these initiatives, we are happy to advise. Our Canadian immigration legal professionals can be reached by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.

Family of Foreign Workers Allowed to Work – But What About the Spouses of Canadian Citizens of Permanent Residents of Canada??

It’s been nearly a decade since Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) ran a pilot program that allowed the dependent children of high-wage foreign workers in certain provinces to work while in Canada.  Last Friday, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced a three staged plan to allow family members of numerous foreign workers to work in Canada, including working-age children of the foreign workers.  Prior to this announcement, only the spouses of foreign workers working in high-skill occupations were eligible for open work permits.

These new temporary measures will be introduced in three phases.

Initially family members of workers coming to Canada through the high-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program will be able to apply for a work permit. This is certainly welcomed news for many, not the least of which are employers trying to recruit top talent to Canada and employers trying to fill job vacancies.  One obstacle to attracting top talent for many employers, has been the fact that prospective foreign workers with teenage children, in the past would not be able to provide their accompanying children with the opportunity to gain work experience; integrate with other youth in the community with part-time jobs; or have the ability to earn their own spending money or save for post-secondary costs. This was certainly a drawback to a foreign national considering accepting a position in Canada and an obstacle for Canadian recruiting personnel in a tight labour market.

Phase 2 will aim to expand the measure to the family members of workers from the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, but only following consultations. Finally, Phase 3 will first include consultation with agricultural partners and stakeholders to assess operational feasibility for expanding this program to family members of agricultural workers.  Given the consultations that still have to be completed, and the historical treatment of low-waged applicants as persons that are not genuine temporary residents,  it is difficult to predict when this program might be implemented and how beneficial it will be since there is no immediate plan to issue work permits to those family members already in Canada or those abroad that might want to join their spouses in Canada.

Despite this announcement improving the well-being of family members accompanying foreign workers to Canada, it highlights the inequality, unfairness, and illogical situation that the spouses of Canadians and Permanent Residents are not afforded an immediate work permit when they come to Canada to join their Canadian citizen or permanent resident spouse.  Instead, the spouse of Canadian citizens and permanent residents must be sponsored as permanent residents, a process that typically takes about 12 months. In comparison the spouses of foreign workers and foreign students are eligible to apply for open work permits at the time that their spouse applies to come to Canada.   Why is this?  Simply put IRCC want to ensure the relationship between the spouse and the Canadian citizen/permanent resident is genuine. In other words, IRCC presume the spouses of Canadian citizens/permanent residents have entered into a marital or common law relationship with the Canadian citizen/permanent resident to gain a benefit under the immigration legislation, but IRCC don’t seem to have the same bias against spouses of foreign workers. For years, IRCC have turned a blind eye to the emotional and often financial hardship imposed on spouses of Canadian citizens/permanent residents caused by the lack of a policy to facilitate these spouses entering Canada as temporary residents and the ability to work in Canada while a sponsorship application is processed. The rationale seems to be that IRCC is concerned a policy to support spouses of Canadian citizens/permanent residents would trigger a floodgate of “bogus marriages” and that once in Canada it would be difficult to remove the spouse should the relationship be found not to be genuine.  Yet, every year IRCC allows thousands of spouses of foreign workers to come to Canada and work, without first scrutinizing the bon-fides of their relationship to the foreign worker.

Spouse of Canadian citizens and permanent residents can only apply for an open work permit after a spousal sponsorship application has been filed and only if the application is processed in Canada. Often the work permit takes months to be issued. The represents a loss of potential income tax and opportunity to fill labour gaps, not to mention the financial and emotional hardship to the Canadian family. Further, many spouses of Canadian citizens/permanent residents cannot even secure a temporary resident visa (“TRV”) to come to Canada as a mere visitor to mitigate the emotional and financial hardship of separation. Routinely applications for TRVs by spouses of Canadian citizens/permanent residents are refused by IRCC on the basis that the spouse is not a genuine temporary resident because the spouse has an intent to come to Canada permanently to reunite with a Canadian spouse.

Could the next announcement, from Minister Fraser, finally address this inequality so that the spouses of Canadian citizens/permanent residents are finally treated the same as spouses of foreign workers?

If you would like to meet with one of our Canadian immigration law professionals to discuss your family members’ eligibility to work, or any other immigration needs, we are happy to advise. Our Canadian immigration legal professionals can be reached by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: caruso@cilf.ca; fagan@cilf.ca; bonisteel@cilf.ca; ali@cilf.ca; mukherjee@cilf.ca; garciafialdini@cilf.ca.