Express Entry

On January 1 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC“) is expected to overhaul its economic immigration programs with the launch of Express Entry.  On December 1, 2014, the Government of Canada released detailed Ministerial Instructions regarding Express Entry.  In this post I hope to provide an easy to read overview of the new program.

Express Entry will significantly alter every economic immigration program, including the Federal Skilled Worker Program (“FSWP“), the Canadian Experience Class (“CEC“), the Federal Skilled Trades Program (“FSTP“), and the Provincial Nominee Program (“PNP“).

Rather than first in, first processed for permanent residence applications Express Entry will feature a “selection” of candidates who the Government of Canada believes is most likely to succeed in Canada.

Express Entry will consist of two steps for potential applicants:

  1. Completing an Online Express Entry Profile
  2. Receiving a Letter of Invitation

CIC is touting that Express Entry is not a new immigration per se, but rather a way for CIC to manage economic immigration applications online.  However, a quick review of Express Entry suggests that who will be eligible to immigrate to Canada under Express Entry will fundamentally change.

Continue reading “Express Entry”


CIC Caps CEC, Eliminates Eligible Occupations

On November 8, 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) announced significant changes to the Canadian Experience Class (“CEC”).

The CEC is a very popular program for immigrating to Canada.  Subject to narrow exceptions, individuals qualify for the CEC if:

  1. they plan to live outside of Quebec;
  2. they have at least 12 months of full-time skilled work experience in Canada during the three-year period before they apply;
  3. they gained their skilled work experience in Canada with the proper authorization;
  4. they were not self employed when they gained their skilled work experience; and
  5. they meet required language levels (which vary according to occupation).

Qualifying skilled work experience is work experience in one or more National Occupational Classification (“NOC”) Skill Type 0, or Skill Level A or B, occupations.  The NOC is a Ministry of Economic and Social Development initiative which categorizes all occupations in Canada.  It can be found here.

The November 8 changes introduce an annual cap on the number of CEC applications that CIC will accept each year, introduce a further sub-cap for NOC Skill Level B occupations, and eliminate certain NOC Skill Level B occupations from being eligible for the CEC.

The above changes took affect on November 9, 2013.  They only apply to applications which CIC receives after that date.

Caps

CIC will consider a maximum of 12,000 completed CEC applications each year. Within the overall 12,000 application cap, CIC will process a maximum of 200 new CEC applications per NOC Skill Level B occupation each year.

While there is no sub-cap on CEC applications in NOC Skill Type 0 or NOC Skill Level A occupations, these occupations are subject to the overall cap of 12,000 new applications.

The cap period began on November 9, 2013, and will end on October 31, 2014.

Ineligible Occupations

Effective November 9, 2013 work experience in the following six occupations no longer qualifies for the CEC:

  1. NOC 1221 – Administrative Officer
  2. NOC 1241 – Administrative Assistants
  3. NOC 1311 – Accounting Technicians and Bookkeepers
  4. NOC 6211 – Retail Sales Supervisors
  5. NOC 6311 – Food Service Supervisors
  6. NOC 6322 – Cooks

It is important to note that the above NOCs are very broad.  NOC 1221, for example, includes administration analyst, admissions officers, budget analysts, financial aid officers, management planning officers, office managers, and similar positions).  NOC 1241 includes almost all secretarial positions (except legal and medical).  Individuals who are unsure what NOC their position falls under should consult the 2011 National Occupational Classification website.

The elimination of these six occupations from being eligible for the CEC is having a significant affect on many individuals.  In the two weeks since the November 8 announcement, Larlee Rosenberg has provided consultations (and explored alternative programs) to several individuals who had several months experience (in one case 11.5 months) in an occupation which is now no longer eligible under the CEC. It is imperative that foreign workers and recent international graduates working in these occupations be made aware of the change.

Procedural Fairness

On the same day that CIC announced the above changes, it issued an Operational Bulletin to its immigration officers stating that “[i]f, after considering all other skilled NOC occupations specified in the application, the officer determines that the applicant does not have the qualifying work experience, they must return to the occupation and claimed work experience about which they have concerns and that was subject to the final determination of eligibility at the [office doing the preliminary review of the application].  In accordance with the principles of procedural fairness, the officer must afford the applicant the opportunity to respond to any concerns related to the occupation and work experience in question.”

This new, explicit requirement for immigration officers to provide visa applicants with the opportunity to address visa officers’ concerns about their work experience is a very welcome development.  It introduces a strong measure of certainty and confidence in applying to the CEC.

Wages and the CEC

We are often asked whether there is a minimum wage (or prevailing wage) requirement for CEC applicants.

On November 19, 2013, the Federal Court of Appeal has released its decision in Qin v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration Canada), 2013 FCA 263.  There, the Court confirmed that it is not a statutory criterion that an applicant for permanent residence as a member of the CEC be paid wages that are consistent with the Ministry of Economic and Social Development’s prevailing wage rates for a position.  While immigration officers may consider wages as a factor in determining what duties applicants performed, if there is satisfactory evidence from an employer that a CEC applicant has the required Canadian work experience, the applicant may be granted a permanent resident visa even though her wages are below prevailing wage rates.

More information about the changes to the CEC can be found here:

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about these changes.


PSLRB Rules CIC Bargaining with PAFSO in Bad Faith

As the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (“PAFSO”) strike enters its fifth month, the Public Service Labour Relations Board (“PSLRB”) has ruled that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) is bargaining with PAFSO in bad faith.  The PSLRB decision can be found here.

CIC has filed a judicial review application of the PSLRB decision.

There appears to be no end in sight to the PAFSO strike.  However, by now most individuals who frequently interact with CIC have likely realized that many applications are continuing to be processed, and that there are certain steps that can be taken to minimize the impact of the PAFSO job action.  Indeed, as the University of Toronto’s Varsity Newspaper reported:

For students, the PAFSO strike practically seems to have caused, at most, a limited problem. Visas, while sometimes delayed, are not being withheld with any significant regularity, and in fact seem to be getting processed more efficiently than ever.


PAFSO Strike Jeopardizing CIC Client Services

As many people know, the Professional Association of Foreign Services Officers (“PAFSO“) is currently taking strike action. According to the PAFSO Facebook page:

[As of July 10] members who have not been identified as essential have withdrawn services in San Juan, Costa Rica,Sao Paulo. Guatemala, Brasilia, Moscow, Warsaw, Singapore,Manila, Islamabad,Chandigarh,Ankara, Hong Kong, and Delhi. Some instances involve trade and political officers as well. While this action does not mean that the entire visa office is closed, it does mean a significant increase in processing times.

It is true that there is some processing going on at Canadian missions abroad. Yesterday, an immigration lawyer shared a letter which he had received from the Canadian High Commission in Istanbul. He has given me permission to reproduce it below.

cicislamabad

I have never seen a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada which contained as many typos as this. I don’t know if a PAFSO member wrote this, or if someone who is filling in for a PAFSO member did. What I do know is that this is embarrassing for Canada.


Spousal Sponsorships where the Sponsor Does not Live in Canada

Section 133(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (the “Regulations”) provides that:

A sponsor who is a Canadian citizen and does not reside in Canada may sponsor a foreign national who makes [an application to sponsor a member of the Family Class] and is the sponsor’s spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner or dependent child who has no dependent children, if the sponsor will reside in Canada when the foreign national becomes a permanent resident.

(Emphasis Added)

I have dealt with this issue on numerous occasions, and, depending on the visa post, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC“) may scrutinize in some detail the sponsor’s intention to actually reside in Canada with their spouse, or to simply get the principal applicant permanent resident status without actually immigrating to Canada.

The Embassy of Canada in the United Arab Emirates asks applicants to complete a Residency Questionnaire for their sponsors if they reside outside of Canada, and I have reproduced the questions below.  These questions can serve as a useful guide to anyone submitting a family class application where s. 133(2) of the Regulations applies.

  1. Is your sponsor currently a Canadian citizen or a Permanent Resident? 
  2. Is your sponsor currently in Canada?
    1. If yes, then how long has the sponsor been physically residing in Canada?
    2. If yes, then when did you last see your sponsor?
    3. If no, then how long has the sponsor been living outside of Canada?
  3. If your sponsor is not living in Canada, then please explain why and when he/she intends to return to reside in Canada once your visa is issued.  Please provide as many details as possible.
  4. What preparations have you and/or your sponsor made for your move to Canada?  Please provide documentary proof if possible.
  5. If you have school aged children, have you made enquiries with the local school board? If yes, which school? If no, why not?
  6. Has the school, where your school-aged child(ren) is currently attending issued a transfer certificate?
  7. Will you and your spouse be both moving to Canada and reside together permanently?
  8. Will you, the principal applicant, cancel the Gulf residence visa? Why or why not?
  9. Does your sponsor own any of the following assets in Canada? Bank account, apartment, house, business, other..
  10. Has your sponsor filed the most recent annual tax filing with the Canada Revenue Agency as a factual resident of Canada?
  11. Is your sponsor currently employed in a permanent full-time position in Canada? Please provide details if yes.

The final two questions retain to changes in circumstance post-submitting the application, and I have not reproduced them here because my hope is that by providing answers and context to the eleven questions above, you will avoid delays in processing by having status update requests.


Santa is Canadian, and He’s Already Employed

In 2010 Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”), reaffirmed that Santa Clause is a Canadian citizen.

This year, CIC doesn’t  want us to forget, and they’ve displayed the “fact” that Santa is a Canadian on their front page.

cicsanta

Of course, we here in British Columbia already know that.  In fact, when he’s not delivering presents on December 25th, Santa is gainfully employed in the City of Abbotsford.

 

abbotsfordsanta


Canadian Visa Requirements for Lithuania and Poland

On July 19, 2010, Citizenship and Immigration Canada released Operational Bulletin 221 – Passport Requirements for Citizens of Lithuania and Poland. The bulletin addresses the acceptability of non e-passports issued by the Governments of Lithuania and Poland.

On January 1, 2009, Canada introduced a regulatory amendment for nationals of Lithuania and Poland as a requirement to benefit from a visa exemption for individuals traveling to Canada on an e-passport.  People traveling on an e-passport would not require a visa, while those who did not would.

Electronic Passport

Canada also indicated that effective January 1, 2011, it would restrict all travel to Canada so that only Lithuanians and Poles who possessed e-passports would be admissible.

Operational Bulletin 221 seems to cancel the January 1, 2011, proposed restriction. Nationals that hold e-passports will continue to enjoy visa-free access to Canada, however, those that don’t hold electronic passports will be able to apply for a temporary resident visa.