Last Updated on July 18, 2012 by Steven Meurrens

The start of summer has seen Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) make numerous changes to Canadian immigration programs.  Many application classes have been modified for new applicants, if not outright suspended.   The changes include:

  • “Pausing” the acceptance of new Federal Skilled Worker Program and Federal Investor Applications;
  • Prohibiting certain businesses from participating in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program;
  • Restricting the availability of humanitarian & compassionate considerations and Pre-Removal Risk Assessments; and
  • Mandatory language testing for lower-skilled provincial nominees.

Fifth Set of Ministerial Instructions Results in Suspension of New Federal Skilled Worker Program and Federal Investor Applications

On June 29, 2012, Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (the “Minister”) introduced the fifth set of Ministerial Instructions (“MI-5”).  Ministerial Instructions allow the Minister to unilaterally make operational changes to how CIC manages application intake.

As a result of MI-5, CIC is no longer accepting new applications under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, except for those applications made under the PhD eligibility stream and those with qualifying offers of Arranged Employment.  As well, CIC is no longer accepting new Federal Immigrant Investor Class applications.  The temporary “pauses” in accepting new applications for these programs will remain in effect until otherwise indicated in future Ministerial Instructions.

The “temporary pause” for new applications in the Federal Entrepreneur Class that was introduced on July 1, 2011, and the temporary pause on parent and grandparent sponsorship applications that came into effect on November 5, 2011, remain in effect.

Accordingly, individuals who are eligible to immigrate to Canada under any of the above-mentioned programs should understand that the programs are effectively suspended, and that they cannot apply. 

Certain Businesses No Longer Able to Participate in Temporary Foreign Worker Program

On July 14, 2012, the Minister introduced Ministerial Instructions that will prohibit individuals from applying for work permits if the individuals intend to work for any business that are “related to the sex trade”, including strip clubs, escort services, or massage parlours.  The prohibition applies to all occupations where the prospective foreign worker will either work directly for the business or on its premises.

As well, irregardless of the nature of the business, CIC will not issue a work permit to an exotic dancer who intends to perform.

CIC will not refuse applications for businesses where employees have qualifications and credentials that are regulated and certified by provincial authorities, such as massage therapy clinics.

Open work permits will explicitly state that the holders of such permits cannot work for “businesses related to the sex trade such as strip clubs, massage parlours, or escort services.”  If an employer operating a business in any of these sectors hires an open work permit holder, it will have committed an offence punishiable by a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment of up to two years.

Some Bill C-31 Changes to H&C Applications and PRRAs Take Effect

Bill C-31, also titled the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, introduced significant changes to Canada’s immigration and refugee system.  It received Royal Assent on June 29, 2012.

The following Bill C-31 changes impacting humanitarian & compassionate considerations (“H&C”) in visa applications have taken effect:
  • Persons with a pending refugee claim are prohibited from filing an H&C application;
  • People whose refugee claims at the Refugee Protection Division or the Refugee Appeal Division are prohibited from submitting an H&C application for 12 months;
  • The exceptions to the above-mentioned probhitions will include where the best interest of the child are impacted as well as life-threatening medical conditions; and
  • Requests for H&C considerations may now only be made in the context of an application for permanent residence or for a permanent resident visa.
As well, there is now a 12-month bar on submitting a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment following a rejected refugee claim.

BC PNP Introduces Language Testing for Entry-Level Workers

CIC’s mandatory language testing requirements for provincial nominees in low-skilled positions have now taken effect. 

The British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program has accordingly updated its Entry-Level and Semi-Skilled Program (“ELSS”).

ELSS applicants accordingly must now meet the following minimum language test scores.

Equivalency Scores
Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 4.5 3.5 4.0 4.0
TEF 145 233 349 181

There is a time limited exemption for applicants who arrived in Canada on or before July 1, 2012, and who submitted their applications to the BC PNP on or before May 1, 2013.

More information on MI-5 can be found here.

More information about the prohibition of certain businesses in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program can be found here.

More information about the Bill C-31 changes can be found here.

More information about the changes to the ELSS can be found here.