Bridging Open Work Permits

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (“CIC“) International Mobility Program containing an bridging open work permit program for temporary foreign workers currently working in Canada who have submitted permanent residence applications under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (“FSWP“), the Canadian Experience Class (“CEC“), the Provincial Nominee Program (“PNP“), or the Federal Skilled Trades Program (“FSTP“).

Bridging open work permits are a huge and positive development for Canadian employers with employees who have filed permanent residence applications under one of Canada’s economic programs.  CIC’s introduction of bridging work permits removes a significant issue which many temporary foreign workers previously encountered, namely that they were unable to extend their work permits during CIC’s processing of their permanent resident applications without their employers first having to obtain positive Labour Market Impact Assessments, an uncertain process which often takes months.

Eligibility

Temporary foreign workers currently working in Canada are eligible to apply for a bridging work permit if they:

  • are a foreign national in Canada;
  • have valid status on a work permit that is due to expire within 4 months;
  • received a positive eligibility decision on their permanent residence application under either the FSWP, the CEC, the PNP, or the FSTP; and
  • they have applied for an open work permit.

The following individuals are not eligible for open bridging work permits:

  • foreign nationals in Canada working in Canada who are work permit exempt;
  • foreign nationals who have let their status expire and must apply for restoration in order to return to temporary resident status;
  • foreign nationals whose work permits are valid for longer than four months and/or who already have a new Labour Market Impact Assessment that can be used as the basis for a new work permit application;
  • foreign nationals applying for a bridging work permit at the port of entry;
  • spouse and dependants of the principal permanent resident applicant; and
  • provincial nominees who have not submitted a copy of their nomination letter with the application for a bridging work permit, or whose nomination letter specifically indicates employment restrictions.

That last point is an important one for provincial nominees.  Provincial nominees whose nomination certificates stipulate conditions or restrictions indicating that they must work for a specific employer, or work under a specific NOC code, will not be eligible for bridging open work permits.

For the purpose of determining whether a positive eligibility decision has been made, the following must have occurred:

  • For FSWP applicants,  CIC must have sent a positive Final Determination of Eligibility Letter, or set the “Ministerial Instructions” status to “Met.”
  • For PNP applicants, the Central Intake Office must have sent the applicant an Acknowledgement of Receipt Letter, or changed the “Eligibility EC-QC/PNP” status to “Passed.”
  • For CEC applicants, the Central Intake Office must have sent the applicant an Acknowledgement of Receipt Letter, or changed the “Eligibility CEC” decision to “Passed.”
  • For FSTP applicants, the Central Intake Office must have sent the applicant an Acknowledgement of Receipt Letter.

Although no guidelines have been posted regarding Express Entry, CIC has indicated on numerous occasions that the Express Entry “Acknowledgement of Receipt” which says that CIC is performing a completeness check does not make an individual eligible for an open bridging work permit.  Rather, it is when CIC’s Global Case Management System is updated to indicate that the Express Entry application is complete.

Applicants will be issued open work permits valid for a duration of one year.  They can be renewed on a case-by-case basis if the permanent residence application has not been processed within that time.

FSWP, CEC, and FSTP applicants’ work permits will be valid for work in any province.  PNP applicants’ bridging work permits will be limited to the applicant’s nominating province.

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Learn the Language

The following blog post appeared in the June 2012 edition of Canadian Immigrant Magazine.

It is generally recognized that proficiency in either English or French is essential if newcomers to Canada wish to be economically successful here.  While immigrants who cannot converse in one of Canada’s official languages may find some employers who are willing to hire them, their career mobility is limited relative to those who can.  Indeed, numerous recent studies reveal that an immigrant’s language proficiency is perhaps the most important indicator of economic success.

The Government of Canada has taken note of these studies, and has begun implanting language requirements for numerous immigration programs.

The Canadian Language Benchmark

The Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) is the national standard used in Canada for measuring the English language proficiency of adult immigrants and prospective immigrants. It covers four skill areas: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.  Individuals are ranked in these areas on a scale of 1-12.

The Canadian government generally recognizes two tests for measuring an applicant’s CLB level; the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP).  While both use different scales than the CLB (the IELTS runs on a scale of 1-9, and the CELPIP runs on a scale of 0 – 6), their test scores correspond to CLB levels.

Current Immigration Programs With Language Testing

The Canadian Experience Class is the main immigration program that currently requires language testing.  For English speaking applicants, the IELTS is the only test that is accepted in this program.  There are numerous combinations of IELTS scores that applicants can obtain to meet the program’s requirements.  While these vary depending on work experience, a good rule of thumb is that individuals with work experience in management occupations or occupations which require a university degree should score 7 or above in each of speaking, listening, reading, and writing, while those with experience in other skilled occupations should score 5 or above.

There is no minimum language threshold for Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), also known as the points system.  However, individuals who wish to receive points for English language ability must provide either IELTS or CELPIP results.  Most FSWP applicants submit test results as the 67 point threshold required to immigrate under the program much makes it difficult to qualify without points for language proficiency.

Individuals applying in the Investor, Entrepreneur, or Self-Employed category who wish to receive points for English language ability also need to submit IELTS or CELPIP results.  However, as the point threshold to immigrate under these programs is only 35, most applicants don’t.

New Language Testing Requirements

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) has traditionally been exempted from language testing requirements.  However, starting July 1, 2012, PNP applicants with work experience in semi- or low-skilled professions will have to meet minimum language requirements.  Applicants taking the IELTS will be required to obtain a minimum of 4 in each of speaking, listening, reading, and writing.  Applicants taking the CELPIP will be required to obtain a minimum of 2H.  It is important to note that any temporary foreign worker who arrives in Canada on or before July 1, 2012, and who subsequently gets nominated by a province no later than July 1, 2013, will be exempted from this change.

The other area soon to have mandatory language testing is citizenship.  Traditionally, the government tested language ability through the Citizenship Exam.  However, it will soon require that citizenship applicants submit proof of proficiency in either English or French with their applications. For English speakers, acceptable means of proof will include IELTS or CELPIP results (with the same threshold as the above-mentioned PNP applicants), evidence of completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English, or evidence of completion, and achievement of a certain level, in a government-funded language training program.

Learn English or French

For a long while now I have recommended to clients that they endeavor to learn English or French.  Many ignored my suggestion as they were able to immigrate to Canada without submitting proof of language proficiency.  The ability to do this is gradually diminishing.  The Canadian government has already announced that language testing will soon be required for all PNP applicants.  It has also raised concerns regarding foreign workers being unable to communicate with emergency response providers, and I would not be surprised if language standards were soon implemented in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  I would be astonished if language testing was introduced in the Family Class or for refugees, however, considering that the UK government recently introduced language requirements in its spousal-sponsorship program, you never know.

So please, if you want to immigrate to Canada, the best thing that you can do to increase your chances is to learn either English or French.


Alberta Suspends US Visa Holder and Family Stream Categories

Effective August 23, 2010, the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program is no longer accepting applications under either the AINP U.S. Visa Holder Category or the Family Stream. Any applications that were postmarked before August 23rd will continue to be accepted.
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Permanent Residency for Low-Skilled Workers

In addition to the family class stream and the availability of an exemption to a visa requirement based on humanitarian & compassionate grounds, it is possible for low-skilled workers to immigrate under provincial programs designed to facilitate permanent residency for people in certain “low-skilled or semi-skilled” occupations. In British Columbia, this program is known as the “Entry-Level and Semi-Skilled Pilot Project”.
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