The CEC Has Changed, What to do Now

[Editor’s note: The following appeared in the December edition of The Canadian Immigrant Magazine]

On Nov. 8, 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) introduced significant changes to the Canadian experience class (CEC), which limited eligibility to the popular program. The changes took effect the next day. Hundreds (if not thousands) of foreign workers in Canada who were gaining work experience that previously qualified for the CEC suddenly learned that it did not.

For some of these individuals, many of whom are post-graduate work permit holders, career changes will be necessary if they wish to immigrate to Canada.

However, in the month following CIC’s announcement, many people researched their options and discovered to their surprise that they qualified for other Canadian immigration programs. Indeed, some even learned that they could have submitted permanent residence applications many months prior to Nov. 8.

The CEC changes

The changes that CIC introduced to the CEC are significant. First, the program now features annual application caps. From Nov. 9, 2013, to Oct. 31, 2014, CIC will accept 12,000 completed applications to the program. Within the overall 12,000 application cap, CIC will process a maximum of 200 new CEC applications each year per each National Occupational Classification (NOC) Skill Level B occupation. While NOC Skill Type 0 and NOC Skill Level A occupations are not individually sub-capped, applicants with such work experience are subject to the overall 12,000 application cap.

The second change — and for many people the much more devastating one — was CIC’s decision that work experience gained in six proscribed NOC Skill Level B occupations would no longer count toward the CEC work experience requirement. The six occupations are administrative officers, administrative assistants, accounting technicians and bookkeepers, retail sales supervisors, food service supervisors and cooks.

Alternative programs

Before abruptly changing careers, foreign workers whose work experience no longer qualifies for the CEC should determine whether they qualify for other similar economic immigration programs. Indeed, the abrupt CIC change is a useful reminder to all foreign workers that they need to be up to date on all possible immigration options.

All of the now disqualified NOC Skill Level B occupations mentioned are still eligible for the federal skilled worker program (FSWP) if applicants have arranged employment, and also meet a minimum number of points based on their education, language ability, adaptability, age and work experience. The key is that the arranged employment generally must be confirmed by a positive Labour Market Opinion. However, this should normally not be a barrier, especially for positions where recruitment requirements are waived, as is the case with LMOs for post-graduate work permit holders.

As well, most provincial nomination programs still welcome foreign workers employed in any NOC Skill Level B occupation. In British Columbia, for example, anyone with several years of directly related work experience currently employed by a qualifying British Columbia employer can apply for nomination. For B.C. international graduates applying within two years of graduation, applicants do not even need previous work experience.

The biggest issue most skilled foreign workers face when immigrating to Canada is timing. For understandable reasons, many people wait until a few months before their work permits expire to explore permanent resident options. However, given that processing times are often lengthy, they simply often do not have sufficient time before their work permits expire.

Understand all your options

Canada’s immigration system features a myriad of often seemingly competing programs. All have their own unique requirements. In an immigration system that increasingly features abrupt changes in the rules, application caps and ever-fluctuating processing times, it is imperative that prospective immigrants understand all of their potential avenues to immigrate, and start the processes as soon as possible.


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