Canadian immigration minister Chris Alexander has outlined his goals for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in 2014, including improved services for prospective immigrants, and shorter waiting times for visas.
Continued focus on skill-based immigration
Mr. Alexander’s plans follow the policy changes of the previous minister, Jason Kenney. Between 2008 and 2013, Kenney re-directed the focus of Canadian immigration from family-stream to skill- and employment-based applicants, while updating the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), which furnishes skilled migrants with permanent resident visas. Kenney also established the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) to facilitate immigration for tradespeople, and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) visa to make available permanent resident status to those who have worked in Canada for at least one year.
Alexander has praised Kenney’s “record of achievement,” stating in a recent interview that it was “a pleasure to step into his shoes.” Alexander will work to maintain the success of his predecessor’s changes, while enhancing and accelerating services for potential immigrants and visitors.
New ‘Expression of Interest’ system to follow Australian model
In one new initiative, Alexander is laying the groundwork for the ‘Expression of Interest’ (EOI) system, scheduled to launch on 1st January, 2015. The EOI will resemble Australia’s SkillSelect system, under which potential migrants submit their expressions of interest to Canadian immigration officials, including details of their education, training, skills, and health, so that employers can browse the submissions to select candidates they would be willing to hire. Chosen candidates can then formally apply for a Canada permanent resident visa.
Canada’s EOI system will differ from the Australian model, in that Canadian employers will not review submissions directly, but instead liaise with CIC, which will send them details of suitable candidates. This proposed model has drawn criticisms from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which has requested CIC to allow Canadian companies to select candidates directly, as in the Australian system.
Faster service and shorter waiting times
Alexander will also expedite procedures for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the largest existing Canada visa program for skilled immigrants, which issues close to 55,000 permanent resident visas per year. Currently, the average FSWP application is resolved within 12 months, which Alexander plans to reduce to six — a significant improvement over the turnaround time in mid-2012, when some applicants waited up to eight years or longer.
With these proposals, Alexander aims to decrease Canadian immigration application backlogs, which have been an issue in recent years. In a controversial decision in 2012, Kenney terminated all FSWP applications made before February 28th, 2008. The terminations numbered close to 250,000, some of whom unsuccessfully sought legal retribution in the Federal Court.
Visitor visas for parents and grandparents
In addition to developing skill-streamed immigration, Alexander has revived a program enabling parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to be sponsored. Canada will accept 5,000 applicants annually for grandparent and parent visa sponsorship.
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