Minister Kenney has announced another step in measures to improve the immigration program’s responsiveness to Canada’s labour market. Retroactive to February 27, 2008, the date specified by the Federal Budget, the Action Plan for Faster Immigration includes issuing instructions to visa officers reviewing new federal skilled worker applications to process those from candidates who:
- are in 38 high-demand occupations such as health, skilled trades, finance and resource extraction; or
- have an offer of arranged employment or have already been living legally in Canada for one year as a temporary foreign worker or international student.
The list of 38 occupations was developed after consultations with the provinces and territories, business, labour and other stakeholders. New federal skilled worker applications that do not meet the eligibility criteria outlined above will not be processed, and the application fee will be fully refunded. This, along with funds set aside in the 2008 Budget to improve the immigration system, will stop the backlog from growing and will start to draw it down.
“The eligibility criteria apply only to new federal skilled worker applicants and will not affect Canada’s family reunification or refugee protection goals,” said Minister Kenney. “Applicants who aren’t eligible for the federal skilled worker category may qualify under another category, such as the Provincial Nominee Program, or as temporary foreign workers, which could then put them on a path to permanent residency through the new Canadian Experience Class. There are many ways to immigrate to Canada.”
“We expect new federal skilled worker applicants, including those with arranged employment, to receive a decision within six to 12 months compared with up to six years under the old system,” said Minister Kenney. “All other economic class applications—including applicants chosen by Quebec, provincial nominees, the Canadian Experience Class, and live-in caregivers—will continue to be given priority.”
These improvements, coupled with a number of recent initiatives that include the introduction of the Canadian Experience Class, bring Canada in line with two of its main competitors for highly skilled labour: Australia and New Zealand. Both of these countries have eliminated their backlogs and have systems that deliver final decisions for economic applicants within a year.