Skilled Worker Immigrant Backlog To Be Eliminated Three Years Ahead Of Schedule

02 Nov 2012

Immigration News

The government is expected to eliminate a controversial, years-old backlog of skilled worker immigration applications by the end of 2014 — about three years ahead of schedule, Postmedia News has learned.

It means a plan to create a pool of would-be Canadians from which provinces and employers could cherry-pick newcomers based on labour market need as opposed to who applied first will also be in place sooner than expected.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is expected to make the announcement Friday.

“Employers are best positioned to decide who can best fill the open jobs rather than a passive and bureaucratic system,” Kenney said of the plan last spring. “It’s not about privatizing the immigration system; it’s about a more active role of recruitment for people so they have jobs when they show up. I’d rather have an engineer working as an engineer than as a cab driver. That’s really where we’re trying to go with this.”

Before the government decided to refund $130 million in application fees and toss about 280,000 pre-2008 applications from skilled workers and their dependents in June, eliminating the backlog was expected to take until 2017.

But the controversial plan contained in the last omnibus budget bill effectively sped up the backlog elimination date to 2015. Government sources, however, say about 80,000 remaining post-2008 backlogged files have already been assessed, leaving just 100,000 left.

That said, the entire backlog elimination plan could be scuttled when lawyers go to court later this month to contest the government’s decision to eliminate the pre-2008 backlog in its entirety.

They will ask the courts to certify a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the thousands of applicants who waited years to come to Canada only to have their files legislated away in an instant.

Lorne Waldman, an immigration lawyer involved in the pending suit, has said the budget amendment dealing with the federal skilled worker backlog ought to be “struck down’’ because it denies applicants “due process.”

“These applicants applied in good faith, some as long as seven years ago. They paid their fees and were told that their applications would be processed,’’ he told Postmedia News in July. “We are arguing that is it is inconsistent with our charter and bill of rights to take away the right to apply to come to Canada in this fashion.”

Meanwhile, Kenney will also announce Friday that Canada will admit between 53,500 to 55,300 permanent residents in 2013 under a revamped federal skilled worker program that better reflects Canada’s labour market needs. It’s about 2,700 fewer people than were targeted for admission this year.

Earlier this week, Kenney announced the federal skilled worker program would be reduced as he was increasing to 10,000 the number of international students and temporary foreign workers already in Canada who would be admitted through the Canada Experience Program. Though the makeup of newcomers was shifting slightly, he also indicated immigration targets would remain frozen for the seventh straight year at between 240,000 and 265,000.

Kenney has long complained that the old first-come, first-served immigration system, combined with a lengthy backlog in applications, has meant Canadian businesses haven’t been able to find the workers they need and newcomers have been left struggling to integrate.

He has tried to fix it by capping the program and in June, he froze applications from federal skilled workers without prearranged offers of employment. It will reopen when the government introduces a new skilled worker point’s grid early next year that will favour younger applicants with strong language proficiency, credentials that are recognized in Canada and in-demand skills.

Meanwhile, the federal skilled worker pool is expected to be in place by 2015. It will essentially expand on an existing pilot project involving British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories. Right now, those regions are able to sort through the federal skilled worker backlog, pick out would-be immigrants they like and invite them to immigrate to their province or territory through the provincial nominee program.

By 2015, this fast-track to immigration will be expanded across the country and opened to employers as well. It could also be opened to other economic streams, not just those who apply through the federal skilled worker program, Postmedia News has learned.



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