Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Focus: Mixed reviews for changes to popular program

Mixed reviews for changes to popular program

Immigration lawyers have given a mixed reception to the federal
government’s revamp of one of its most popular immigration programs.

‘I think this change should send a very big warning sign to the family class because that is the least productive class in terms of the economy,’ says Sergio Karas.
‘I think this change
should send a very big warning sign to the family class because that is the
least productive class in terms of the economy,’ says Sergio
The government introduced a new overall cap to
the five-year-old Canadian experience class in November that limits the number
of applications to 12,000 per processing year. The move also included sub-caps
for entry under certain occupation categories.

Toronto lawyer Lainie
Appleby, a partner with Guberman Garson Immigration Lawyers, says the changes
needlessly complicate a previously straightforward program.

“I think the
[Canadian experience class] was a great program because it encouraged people
getting Canadian experience to stay here, but it’s a challenge these days,” she

“I think all the studies indicate that it’s the foreign workers who
have Canadian experience in their back pocket that end up doing the best at
establishing themselves here and contributing to the economy. I can’t figure out
the policy rationale behind limiting these people that make ideal

Before the most recent changes, Appleby says the Canadian
experience class was her firm’s “go-to program” for eligible immigrants seeking
permanent residence because of its relative simplicity. The program is open to
foreign skilled workers employed in Canada in jobs under national occupational
classification skill levels A, B, and 0. Applicants must have at least 12 months
of full-time work experience during the last three years and be able to
demonstrate proficiency in English or French. International students who
complete at least two years of post-secondary education in Canada can also
qualify for the Canadian experience class with one year of post-graduation
employment in a level A, B or 0 job.

“We liked it because it’s a
pass-fail system. There’s no real discretionary element that you get in other
programs and the processing times tend to be much quicker, too,” says

Sergio Karas, a program co-ordinator for the Ontario Bar
Association’s citizenship and immigration law section, says clients of his at
large multinational employers have made significant use of the Canadian
experience class.

“When there’s any kind of interest by an employer to
keep an employee on a permanent basis, I suggest that the employee applies under
the [Canadian experience class] as soon as they meet that required 52-week work
period. It’s the simplest, easiest, and least costly way for an applicant
already in Canada working or studying to get permanent residence,” he

Since its creation in 2008, more than 25,000 applicants have gained
permanent residence through the Canadian experience class with the government
expecting another 15,000 admissions in 2014 alone. Blaney McMurtry LLP partner
Henry Chang believes it’s the very popularity of the program that has prompted
the government to step in with caps.

“It was a bit too popular,
especially with skill level B occupations,” says Chang.

In addition to
the overall cap of 12,000 applications in the processing year, sub-caps of 200
will apply to each occupation under skill level B, which covers technical jobs
and skilled trades such as electricians and plumbers. Six level B occupations
will no longer be eligible at all for the program: cooks, food service
supervisors, administrative officers, administrative assistants, accounting
technicians and bookkeepers, and retail sales supervisors. The sub-caps won’t
apply to level A, which covers professional jobs, or level 0, which includes
management positions.

“The government is taking concrete action to reduce
backlogs and processing times. By making these changes to the Canadian
experience class, we are moving towards a more effective and efficient
immigration system,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander
in a statement announcing the caps.

Appleby says the sub-caps have
sparked a scramble by applicants in the most popular level B

“The general feeling is the sooner you can get clients’
applications in under the [Canadian experience class], the less likely they are
to be affected by the cap,” she says.

But for some, the changes will
mean they have to start looking elsewhere altogether for a route to permanent
residence, according to Chang.

“Many skill level B applicants will not be
able to apply under the [Canadian experience class] and will need to consider
other options,” he says.

“The most likely option for these individuals
will probably be the provincial nominee programs that offer a skilled worker
stream. However, the skilled worker [provincial nominee program] streams require
a sponsoring Canadian employer, so if they can’t get their employer to sponsor
them, this option will not be available.”

Karas says he welcomes the new
sub-caps and exclusions. By prioritizing applicants in the higher skilled and
more in-demand occupations, the changes give preference to those who will bring
the most value to the Canadian economy, he says. Other immigration classes could
also be in for changes of their own if that trend continues, he

“I think this change should send a very big warning sign to the
family class because that is the least productive class in terms of the
economy,” says Karas.

“We live in very different times right now and we
need to recognize that needs and demographics have changed in Canada. We cannot
afford to spend processing resources on bringing people here who won’t join the
labour force anymore.”

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