It used to be a sure shot thing: arrive as a foreign student in Canada, graduate with a degree or a diploma, and apply for permanent residency.
But the changes in the Canadian immigration regulations, which came into effect on January 1, have turned a sure thing into a game of chance, where the Canadian government will draw names from a pool of candidates, who will then be invited to apply for permanent residency.
If you were planning to take on huge debts to finance your studies in Canada in hope for a permanent residency later, be careful. After accumulating huge student loans, you will still have to compete with other skilled workers to get a shot at permanent residency — for only those jobs for which no Canadian worker is available.
While the new regulations have added new challenges for foreign students in Canada, they have also improved the odds for highly-skilled professionals and trades. Instead of a ‘first come, first serve’ basis, the new immigration regulations will fast-track those prospects whose skills are more in demand in Canada.
As a prospect, one needs a job offer from Canada for advance standing, even before one applies for permanent residency.
The Canadian immigration system was a huge mess. In 2012, 280,000 applicants were waiting to hear back on their applications. The system lacked coordination with the labour markets. Physicians were getting permanent residency, whereas their odds to practice medicine in Canada were very low. This changed in 2012, when the government returned all under process applications and started afresh.
While the changes may look drastic, they benefit those whose odds of finding an employment and adjusting in Canada are stronger.
Despite the changes, Canada will still welcome over 172,000 individuals under the economic class of migrants in 2015.
Application by invitation only
A key difference in the new system is that only those prospects who meet a certain threshold will be invited to submit a formal application for permanent residency.
The two-tier system invites prospects to create an online profile with the government. A new scoring algorithm will automatically score the prospect; for which the maximum achievable score is 1200. Based on the current needs of the labour markets, the federal government will draw names from the pool of prospects several times during the year to admit over 172,000 skilled workers.
These changes guarantee that the system is not overburdened by applicants who are less likely to adjust in Canada.
Who wants to be an immigrant?
The new regulations make a direct connection between the needs of the labour markets and the skill sets of aspiring immigrants. The government has made the task rather simple for applicants to determine the labour market needs in Canada. The aspirants must visit the Canada job bank to learn about the vacancies.
Most readers of this blog will be up for a surprise. Canada is not particularly looking for engineers, doctors, research scientists, or journalists. In fact, the largest number of vacancies are for retail sales clerks (5,572 openings), followed by cooks.
For South Asian men with higher qualifications this may not sound very appetising: Canada needs caregivers (nannies), cashiers, and cooks – not computer scientists.
Canada’s higher education system produces enough highly educated and trained professionals to fill the entry level positions in engineering and applied sciences. The Canadian labour markets demand skilled trades (plumbers, electricians, and truck drivers), retail sector workers, and obviously caregivers to look after the very young and the very old.
The engineers and doctors who immigrated in the past 20 years learned this bitter lesson after they landed in Canada. The new immigration system now links the aspirants to jobs, thus minimising the risk of a mismatch between immigrants’ skills and labour market needs.
Over the past 20 years, I have met with numerous Canadian immigrants from Africa, Eastern Europe, and South Asia who claim to have been duped into immigrating to Canada. They were surprised at how hard it was to find a job, let alone pursue careers as immigrants. In fact, recent immigrants are the new face of urban poverty in Canada, which I reported on earlier in 2012.
The immigrants have, to a large extent, themselves to blame.
They applied to immigrate to Canada without researching their odds for employment. Doctors, for instance, arrived without exploring the licensing requirements to practice medicine in Canada. They are the most vocal group among the disgruntled immigrants.
The Canadian government also shares the blame for the archaic point system it used to qualify applicants for immigration. Even when Canada faced serious shortages for truck drivers (the most common profession among Canadian males), the government was busy admitting doctors and engineers.
Instead of prioritising younger applicants, the system brought in middle-aged workers, who were schooled before computers became ubiquitous. The older workers were educated, but not necessarily skilled for Canadian needs. In addition, they were set in their ways and found it hard to change habits and work ethics. The result was obvious:
Canada has the most educated cab drivers and security guards in the world.
The new regulations are not without risks and inherent shortcomings.
For instance, the aspirants with a job offer from Canada will be given priority to apply for permanent residency. The invitees will have up to two months to send in their formal application, which the Canadian government promises to process within six months. The process may take up to eight months before the worker with a job offer is allowed entry into Canada.
What employer will be willing to hold a vacancy for eight months for a worker living thousands of miles away?
Still, the new system does a better job of setting expectations for aspiring immigrants and Canadian employers. Though the critics of the system are wary of the discretionary powers assumed by the government, they must realise that when immigrant workers fail to adjust in Canada, the governments have to bear the burden of supporting the families of unemployed workers.
By prioritising those applicants whose skills are more in demand, the system improves the odds for new immigrants to succeed in Canada and not be a burden on the taxpayers.