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Quebec passes legislation cancelling thousands of pending skilled worker applications

The Government of Quebec’s controversial immigration reforms were passed by the province’s National Assembly over the weekend, officially cancelling around 16,000 unprocessed applications to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program. 

Known as Bill 9, the legislation was introduced in February and proposed the immediate termination of pending applications to the program submitted prior to August 2, 2018.

At that time, the pending applications numbered around 18,000, but a court order forced the government to continue processing the applications until the National Assembly voted on Bill 9 and around 2,000 applications were processed in the interim, of which 258 were approved.

Bill 9 was passed by a vote of 62 to 42 after 19 hours.

The goal of the legislation, the government says, is ensuring that immigrants to Quebec are better integrated and therefore better equipped to succeed in Quebec’s labour market.

“We are changing the immigration system in the public interest, because we have to make sure that we have immigration that is tied to the needs of the labour market,” Quebec’s Immigration Minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said prior to the vote.

Prioritizing expressions of interest

Barrette has argued that cancelling the backlogged applications, which represented around 50,000 people including applicants’ families, was necessary given the Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP)’s switch to an online Expression of Interest system last summer.

The applications in question were submitted when the QSWP operated on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis, which Barrette has said was not in touch with the actual needs of employers in the province.

The new online system allows Quebec to select candidates based on the details provided in their Expression of Interest, which they submit electronically through a portal called Arrima.

An Expressions of Interest details a candidate’s education, training, work experience and language abilities, among other factors.

Quebec’s Immigration Ministry, MIDI, then invites candidates to apply for a Quebec Selection Certificate (Certificat de séléction du Québec, or CSQ) based on a variety of considerations, including labour needs in outlying regions of the province where worker shortages are more acute.

Jolin-Barrette has said the Expression of Interest system is a better fit for the government’s efforts to tailor the selection of skilled workers in order to address these shortages.

Those whose applications have been cancelled can submit an Expression of Interest, Barrette said.

The Federation of Quebec Chambers of Commerce, the FCCQ, welcomed the passing of Bill 9, saying the government’s efforts to align immigration with the needs of Quebec employers “will have a very important impact.”

“The concerted efforts of the government will lead to a better link between the skills of immigrants and those required by Quebec companies, “said Stéphane Forget, President and CEO of the FCCQ.

The president of the Quebec Association of Immigration Lawyers, meanwhile, condemned the move, calling it “absolutely devastating” to those whose applications are now canceled.

“Some of them have been waiting three, four, five years or more,” Guillaume Cliche-Rivard said.

11 communities named under IRCC’s Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot

The Government of Canada has named 11 Canadian communities that have been selected to take part in its new Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.

The pilot is designed to help smaller rural and remote communities attract foreign workers of various skill levels and provide them with permanent residence.

Canada’s rural communities employ over four million Canadians and account for almost 30 per cent of the national GDP, according to figures provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The pilot’s goal is to help these communities counter labour market shortages caused by declining birth rates, rising retirement rates and the out-migration of youth to more populated areas of Canada.

The 11 communities named on June 14 are located in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Ontario

  • Thunder Bay
  • Sault Ste. Marie
  • Sudbury
  • Timmins
  • North Bay

Manitoba

  • Gretna-Rhineland-Altona-Plum Coulee
  • Brandon

Saskatchewan

  • Moose Jaw

Alberta

  • Claresholm

British Columbia

  • West Kootenay
  • Vernon

IRCC said the 11 communities were selected based on their economic needs and the presence of resources and community partners required to administer the pilot, and will serve as “a blueprint for the rest of the country.”

Each community will work with a local economic development organization to recruit and assess immigration candidates based on local economic needs and job openings and endorse the selected candidates for permanent residence.

The communities selected could be in a position to begin identifying immigration candidates as early as this fall and those selected are expected to begin arriving in Canada 2020.

IRCC said the federal criteria outlining who will be eligible to apply to the pilot will be made available later in 2019.

Toronto Raptors NBA championship a big win for Canadian immigration

A Canadian team made up mainly of foreign players and cheered on by thousands of immigrants is now the best in professional basketball.

Last night saw the Toronto Raptors take their first National Basketball Association (NBA) title by defeating the six-time champion Golden State Warriors in six games.

The Raptors’ championship run garnered almost as much coverage for the diversity of its fans as the team’s prowess on the court. In recent weeks, Raptor superfan Nav Bhatia, who immigrated from India in the 1980s, has been talked about almost as much as star players Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry.

Bhatia, a Sikh who owns a number of used car dealerships in Toronto, has held season tickets since the Raptors first year in Toronto in 1995. Since then, he has given countless, mainly immigrant kids a chance to see their heroes play.

“I use the game of basketball to bring the world together,” he said in one interview.

“An immigrant has risen to be an ambassador of the Raptors,” said a fellow Sikh of Bhatia. “It shows that Toronto is all about diversity, a city where it doesn’t matter where you come from.”

Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia. Credit: @superfan_nav

Toronto is a major draw for newcomers to Canada, largely because of its long-established ethnic communities and its reputation as Canada’s most multicultural city.

Immigrants now make up 46 per cent of Toronto’s population and 51.5 per cent of the city’s residents identify themselves as “visible minority.”

Many see that diversity reflected in the Raptors.

Raptors President Masai Ujiri is from Nigeria and players Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka are from Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, respectively. Most of the team is African-American and the only white player, Marc Gasol, is from Spain. Jeremy Lin, whose roots are Taiwanese, is now the first Asian-American to win an NBA Championship ring.

“Basketball is more like what the nation is like,” a Toronto resident whose parents moved to the city from Vietnam told the New York Times recently.

David Cohen, a senior partner with the Campbell, Cohn Canadian immigration law firm in Montreal, called the celebration of immigration that has taken place alongside the Raptors championship run a proud moment for the country.

“It’s been great to see so much attention on Toronto’s immigrant population and its love of basketball,” he said. “Hockey may still be Canada’s game, but it’s got some serious competition now!”

Canada’s Global Talent Stream: Nearly 24,000 visas granted in 2 years

The Government of Canada this week marked the two-year anniversary of its Global Skills Strategy, which has welcomed nearly 24,000 highly skilled foreign workers through its flagship Global Talent Stream.

The Global Talent Stream provides Canadian employers with easier access to temporary foreign workers with experience in 13 occupational categories in fields such as Information Technology and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Occupations covered by the Global Talent Stream include computer engineers, computer programmers, software engineers and designers and web designers and developers.

“As Canada’s technology sector has historically struggled to attract the talent it needs to scale up, this is precisely the type of talent our Government had in mind when it first launched the [Global Skills Strategy],” Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, said in a joint statement.

Canada’s Information and Communication Technology Council (ICTC) has forecasted 216,000 job vacancies in the country’s ICT sector by 2021.

The Government of Canada announced in March that it was making the Global Talent Stream permanent, a move that was welcomed by the Council of Canadian Innovators, among others.

The stream allows employers to submit a facilitated Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which waives the requirement to prove they first tried recruiting Canadians and permanent residents of Canada, and expedites the LMIA approval process.

The statement said the Global Talent Stream was created to fill labour needs that aren’t being met by Canadian workers.

“While Canadian workers are among the world’s most highly educated and skilled, for Canadian firms to remain globally competitive, they must also be able to attract the best minds and talent from other countries,” it reads, noting that more than 1,100 Canadian employers have used the Global Talent Stream since its creation in 2017.

Around 25 per cent of those recruited through the Global Talent Stream are coming in from the United States and the majority are citizens of India, Hussen told Bloomberg News.

Around 16,000 family members accompanied those recruited through the program and benefited from access to work and study permits, he said.

Demand for tech workers rising
Employers who use the Global Talent Stream must create a Labour Market Benefits Plan that details both the mandatory and complementary benefits of hiring skilled global talent for Canada’s labour market, such as job creation, skills and training investments.

According to the statement, employers using the Global Talent Stream have committed to creating 48,000 jobs and more than 12,500 paid co-op positions and dedicated more than $113 million to skills development and training.

“With the Global Skills Strategy, Canada is positioned to succeed in the global race for talent,” the statement says. “By helping Canadian companies grow, this strategy is creating more jobs for Canada’s middle class and a stronger Canadian economy.”

Tech workers are in high demand in Canada and have a number of options for gaining permanent residence.

A key example is British Columbia’s Tech Pilot, which provides a pathway to permanent residence for tech workers with eligible job offers in 29 occupations.

Ontario has also announced its intention to create a similar tech-focused immigration stream, though no details have been released.

Tech workers have also fared well under Canada’s Express Entry system, the country’s principal pathway to permanent residence for skilled foreign labour.

In 2017, candidates with work experience as information systems analysts and consultants, software engineers and computer programmer and interactive media developers received the most invitations to apply for Canadian permanent residence through the Express Entry system.

New Express Entry draw sees cut-off score decrease by 5 points

A new Express Entry draw held June 12 invited 3,350 candidates to apply for Canadian permanent residence.

The cut-off score in today’s draw was 465, a five-point decrease from the previous draw’s minimum score of 470.

Canada’s Express Entry system manages the pool of candidates for the Federal Skilled Worker Class, Federal Skilled Trades Class and Canadian Experience Class, which are three of Canada’s main economic-class immigration programs.

Eligible candidates for each program are issued a score under what is known as the Comprehensive Ranking System, or CRS, which determines their rank in the pool.

Scores are based on factors including age, education, skilled work experience and proficiency in English or French.

The highest-ranked candidates are awarded an invitation to apply for Canadian permanent residence (ITAs) through regular draws from the pool, which usually take place every two weeks, and the Government of Canada aims to process applications for Canadian permanent residence from Express Entry candidates in six months or less.

IRCC has now issued 38,450 ITAs to Express Entry candidates in 2019.

This is 6,250 more than it had issued at this same point in 2018, a year that saw the current ITA record of 89,800 established.

Canada has higher admissions targets for 2019 and 2020 for the three programs managed by the Express Entry system.

Time between draws a crucial variable
The time between draws is a crucial variable that influences the cut-off CRS score.

The cut-off score in the May 29 draw reached 470 after a period of four weeks elapsed between all-program draws, which allowed a greater number of candidates with higher scores to enter the pool.

The fact only two weeks passed between the previous invitation round on May 29 and today’s draw means fewer candidates were able to enter the pool between draws, leading to a five-point reduction in the cut-off score.

The tie break used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in the June 12 draw was June 6, 2019, at 13:51:59 UTC.

This means that all candidates with a CRS score above 465, as well as those with scores of 465 who entered their profile in the Express Entry pool before this date and time, received an ITA.

The following are hypothetical examples of candidates who would have obtained an ITA in the June 12 draw:

Sai is 30, has a bachelor’s degree as well as a two-year diploma, and has been working as a software architect for three years. Sai is married to Elina, who is 36 and also holds a bachelor’s degree. Sai and Elina wrote the IELTS and scored an 8 in each category. Neither Sai nor Elina has ever worked or studied in Canada. They entered the pool with Sai as the principal applicant. Their CRS score of 467 would have been high enough to obtain an ITA during the June 12 Express Entry Draw.

Aisha is 32, has a master’s degree, advanced English language proficiency and has been teaching for five years. While Aisha has never worked or studied in Canada, her CRS score of 465 would have been high enough to obtain an ITA during the June 12 Express Entry Draw.

“It’s good to see IRCC getting back to a two-week period between draws,” said David Cohen, senior partner with the Campbell, Cohen Canadian immigration law firm in Montreal.

“If this continues, we may see the CRS cut-off to decrease even more in the coming weeks.”